03/06/2016 11:39AM

Watchmaker: Songbird remains in league of her own

Shigeki Kikkawa
Songbird provided further evidence she's by far the best 3-year-old filly in the nation in the Santa Ysabel.

It’s amazing the perspective just one week can give you.

Last week at this time, we were appreciating, among other things, the very impressive stakes victories at Gulfstream Park by a pair of highly talented 3-year-old fillies – Cathryn Sophia and Catch a Glimpse. Cathryn Sophia’s demolition of her Davona Dale field, and Catch a Glimpse’s turn of foot in the Herecomesthebride Stakes were displays of high class, and still remain so.

But then Songbird raced again on Saturday in the Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita and reminded everyone that, as much quality as there is near the top of this year’s 3-year-old filly division, this much remains the same as it ever was: There is Songbird, and then everyone else.

Songbird was supposed to win the Santa Ysabel, and win it easily. Last year’s champion 2-year-old filly was 1-10 Saturday because she was unbeaten and not even remotely tested in her five previous starts. So even with the strong impression that if Mike Smith let her run through the stretch just a little bit, Songbird could have won by triple the 3 3/4-length margin she officially scored by, or, in this particular case, could have run significantly faster than the 1:43.02 for the 1 1/16 miles she was timed in, we’re not getting new insight.

But there were a couple of things about Songbird’s Santa Ysabel that are noteworthy. For one, the mid-race pace she set of 46.02 seconds to the half and 1:09.98 to the three-quarters was much faster than the day’s other two main-track routes, both at the same distance. Older first-level allowance fillies and mares in the very next race went in 46.88 and 1:11.53 before stopping the timer in 1:44.30. And older male conditioned claimers in the finale went in 47.23 and 1:12.08 before completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.99.

Also – and I’m not suggesting anything about this, simply noting a fact – Songbird was the only front-running winner in Saturday’s six main-track races at Santa Anita.

Cathryn Sophia and Catch a Glimpse are really, really good 3-year-old fillies. I also think Carina Mia, who has yet to start this year, is, too. But Songbird offered us a gentle reminder Saturday that she continues to be in a league of her own.

Other Saturday notes:

I wish I could be as enthusiastic about Shagaf’s victory in the Gotham at Aqueduct, but I can’t.

The Gotham, like last month’s Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, was significantly affected by a profound track bias that favored inside runners, and thus carried speed.

(As an aside, it is important to note once again that what many consider speed biases are actually inside biases. Speed horses naturally gravitate toward the rail once they clear their opponents. In doing so, they often force the closers to make their moves on the outside, moves that become ineffective because those closers are racing on the worst part of the track.)

Shagaf raced close up early and, most notably, on the inside. Shagaf didn’t vacate the rail until the stretch, when he moved out to make a successful, grinding late run to best the maiden Laoban, who was only as tough as he was because he was the loose inside speed.

But not only was Shagaf helped by running on the best part of the track for about three-quarters of the Gotham, his final time also was lacking, resulting in an 87 Beyer Figure that I think was a bit generous.

The good news for Shagaf is he handled the jump to two turns and to the stakes level Saturday, is now 3 for 3, and still has every right to improve. He’ll have to, however. Shagaf’s two wins this year were just plain slow.

A couple of other Gotham thoughts:

I’m reluctant to put too much into this because I don’t believe there are legitimately bad trips in slow races. But Adventist and Sunny Ridge, who both ran reasonably well finishing third and fourth in the Gotham, should have their performances moved up. Both ran against the grain of the strong track bias.

As one Twitter user noted to me after the Gotham, Laoban picked up 20 Derby points for his bias-aided second-place finish. That might be enough to get him into the Derby starting gate should more than 20 enter. But if Laoban finishes only fourth in one of the major final Derby preps, then he will have 30 Derby points. That will almost certainly be enough to get him into the Derby. As a maiden.

For what it’s worth, Conquest Big E was my lead pick in the Gotham in my Weekend Warrior column, a pick made days before Saturday’s powerful track bias was known. That’s the bane of the public handicapper’s existence. Conquest Big E did not run well finishing fifth, but he lost whatever chance he had with the way the track played. And for the record, entirely because of the compelling way the track was playing, I bet Laoban. So …

I’m going to be skeptical of the Gulfstream Park Handicap result until I see reason to reassess. Valid was making a menacing move when he was almost dropped in the stretch, Stanford lost a race he had no business losing after Valid’s trouble, and Blofeld, who had been in the witness protection program for the last 16 months, got up in time. Yeah, I need to see more from this crew.

Local sharpies have been insisting that Gulfstream’s turf course, currently dry and hard, has been carrying speed. So take that into account when you assess the results of the Mac Diarmida, won by Grand Tito (who pressed the pace from the start), and The Very One, won by Olorda (who went wire to wire).

My thoughts are Dacita, who finished a narrowly beaten second in the The Very One as the 3-5 favorite, might be at her best in this country going less than the 1 3/16 miles she had to go Saturday. And I’m not giving up on Mr Maybe, who came from last to finish third as the favorite in the Mac Diarmida. He will win at least one big turf stakes this year.




Frank More than 1 year ago
love the way she is being handled -- great job! Take care of her and save her for the big ones! You people that think you can just blow a thoroughbred out against top company race after race are all idiots -- You must also by Lukas fans and we know how he butchers horses.
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
As I said in another blog, Cathryn and those other two good fillies from the east side of the Mississippi, should go in the Kentucky Derby, and miss the Songbird. Those four fillies seem to be as fast or faster than the top boys in the three year old division
Troy Kelm More than 1 year ago
Watched and wagered on SONGBIRD on Saturday and her other start this year. Very impressive with both starts. Gets out of the gate and is lengths ahead easy. Hope they keep her against the fillies.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Not impressed. When a filly that is actually good comes around, she runs against farm animals. Her winning these races with the jockey standing in the irons the whole time shows how PITIFUL the horses she is running against. I need to see this horse turn away an animal in a stretch duel. Get her out of these pathetic filly races and running with the boys. This isn't proving anything right now. If she's good, go the Rachel Alexandra route, NOW.
Dahorsecapper More than 1 year ago
exactly. beating the same claimers at sa over the same track just does not do it anymore
Frank More than 1 year ago
What an idiot -- yea Grade 1 and Grade 2 races are against farm animals. Dont you realize idiot -- she makes them look like farm animals because she is so good. If you want to talk about pathetic -- AP road to the grand slam was pathetic and scripted....
Anthony Mario More than 1 year ago
So ridiculous to down play the horse because of the races she races in. She beat Rachel and the best in the BC I'm sure you thought the same thing about Zenyatta.
Dahorsecapper More than 1 year ago
Polar River
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Todays track super create track biases for the big event favorite, usually. The tracks make more money with the favorite winning. Last year, favorites dominated the derby trail races and triple crown. If mo tom didnt have trouble, it would be 3 for 3 this year with derby prep favorites. It makes the stars shine brighter than they should be. Thats sports these days...business
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
The tracks make more money when the favorite Wins???? Maybe you can explain that.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Did american pharoah bring in higher attendence and tv ratings ? When monmouth allows baffert to win every haskell, does attendence increase at monmouth when baffert shows up ? When a show bet should pay $2.38, it only pays off at $2.20. Who gets the extra 18 cents for every $2 show bet ? Isnt there many more $2 show bets on favorites ? Is the nba making record sales in merchandise with the success of the warriors ? How many new fans are created with huge stars ? Make stars bigger than they really are, creates more money.
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Gimme Cathryn Sophia....and I have all the respect in the world for Songbird....
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
You can't be talking about a horserace.An MMA fight maybe?
Keith More than 1 year ago
Good. I'll take the latter.
Steve Burns More than 1 year ago
Wow! That's all I have. You must have missed Songbird Saturday.
Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago
Cathryn Sophia didn't really beat anyone did she? Songbird won as a 2 year old (from the #10 hole in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies.... easily. Mike is saying that Songbird easily went :46, 1:09.98, 1:36.04, and waltzed home. This was faster than any of the other races at that distance that day. It is only fair for Mike to make the point about how Public Handicappers have to make their picks BEFORE any of the races are run. there is always a bias that makes them look less "lucky." What you don't get to see are their late Pick 4 tickets AFTER they've figured out the bias and what horses "moved-up," or; "moved-down." I saw the same thing as he did and my $.20 Super of 2,3 w/All w/2,3 w/All was my best "get out" in a long time. I wished I would have hit "Repeat." The #4 in the last race went wire-to-wire (Ortiz) and was on the rail almost from moment he broke. While that Pick 4 wasn't more than $90.00 bucks, it sure helped to pay attention to the bias... as Mike points out. I just wish I had paid more attention on that #6 horse who went wire-to-wire as well (@ 62-1). If you look, he had the DNA and had flashed speed before. The best bias at Aqueduct was still the late Pick 4. For $4.00, you could've played the Ortiz brothers: Jose, Jose, Irad, Jose (Irad didn't have a mount in the #10th.. I was surprised that I they gave me $89.00 for my $18.00 bet. Now that I've said it, I won't remember to ever try this for $8.00 when they BOTH have mounts.