By Andrew Morisch
The 2016 edition of the $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes (GIII) surprisingly drew a field of 10 as the featured race Saturday afternoon at beautiful Santa Anita Park. The undefeated Juvenile Filly Champion Songbird will be making her second start of the year in the Santa Ysabel. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is coming off of an overpowering performance on Feb. 6 in the $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (GII), a one mile event, also at Santa Anita Park.
Songbird broke alertly in the Las Virgenes and went right to the lead under jockey Mike Smith, carving out fractions of :23.63, :47.01, and 1:10.99 through six furlongs and finishing the mile in 1:36.84 while earning an 88 Beyer speed figure. She finished 6 1/2 lengths the best, but the margin of victory would have been significantly greater if Smith hadn’t geared her down at the top of the stretch.
She is the class of this race and the most likely winner on the card. Songbird owns the best last-race Beyer figure (88) and also owns the best median Beyer figure in her last three starts (90). Her lowest career Beyer figure is better than any of those her opponents have ever recorded (84). Assuming a clean break, Songbird should be counted on to be on or near the lead throughout and, at the head of the stretch, I expect her to be geared down yet again in what should be a cakewalk.
The second-place finisher in the Las Virgenes, Land Over Sea, has now been defeated by Songbird in four straight races. However, all is not doom and gloom for this young lass.
The Las Virgenes was Land Over Sea’s first start of the season and she has every right to improve. The daughter of Bellamy Road earned a 77 Beyer figure in her return to the races — tied for the third-best last-race Beyer number in the field. She has also posted 77, 77, 82 Beyer figures respectively in her last three starts. Her median figure of 77 in her last three races ties her for second in the field in that category and makes her a contender today based on that fact alone.
Code Warrior comes into this race as a relative unknown on the dirt. She has only one lifetime dirt start — at Santa Anita back in early January in the Santa Ynez Stakes (GII). She ran well that day finishing second, beaten only a half-length, behind Forever Darling, earning a 79 Beyer figure. Her last-race Beyer figure (77) and her median Beyer figures for her last three races (77) match that of Land Over Sea. This lass can get up for a share if you believe she can take her form to another level on the dirt.
Street Fancy was clearly outrun in her latest, getting trounced by Songbird by 28 lengths in the Las Virgenes. She earned a 41 Beyer figure in that race, which is unusual for a horse that was eased. The daughter of Street Sense looked like she was making a nice move around the far turn and put herself into a position to strike but something went awry and she plummeted backwards. The way she finished her last race is scary, no doubt, but she wasn’t going badly for most of the race and her previous form was actually pretty good. Two starts back, she won the Starlet Stakes (G1) at Los Alamitos in December. If you can forgive her last race, she is a horse that has a chance to finish in the money. Watch the tote board today and, if her price gets too high, she may be the value play in the race.
My Dynamo is coming off a second-place effort in the $50,000 California Oaks over the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate on February 6. She earned the second-highest last-race Beyer figure in that affair. She has finished behind both Code Warrior and Songbird in her previous races. My Dynamo lags a bit behind these in consistency and would need to run a race similar to her last to be relevant in this edition of the Santa Ysabel.
Bob Baffert has a regally-bred daughter of Tapit in here as well, Jade Princess. She has not shown anything on her form to suggest that she will be a major player on Saturday. You have to respect that Baffert is sending her in this one and, if she starts running to her pedigree, she will be one to watch down the line. As it stands now, she has a puncher’s chance of hitting the board, but you must respect Baffert this time of year. Leave off your tickets at your own risk.
Mokat has been highly respected by bettors in her last two disappointing outings. She is back on the dirt for this one where her best dirt Beyer figure is only a 64. She will need to improve leaps and bounds to contend here. Her sire, Uncle Mo, is red hot right now and anything is possible behind Songbird today, but she seems up against it.
Pageant Material, Merirosvo and Not Now Carolyn round out the field.
In my opinion, Songbird is not only the best horse racing on the card today, she is the best three-year-old in training. If you are one of the lucky five or six people who follow me on Twitter, I released my “Power 5” three-year-old rankings earlier in the week. Songbird topped my list, with the sensational Cathryn Sophia right behind her in second.
The word from trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s barn is that they have no interest in running Songbird in the Kentucky Derby. I guess time will tell on that opinion. For the time being, let’s just hope that both Songbird and Cathryn Sophia stay healthy and make it to Kentucky for the Kentucky Oaks. We were never blessed with a Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta showdown, so maybe the Racing Gods are looking to make up for past disappointments.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Drew Morisch, aka “Drew Mo” or the “Bloghorse,” has been an avid sports fan since he was born. Growing up in Nebraska, it was easy for him to fall in love with football and horse racing. He became a huge horse racing fan by attending Ak-Sar-Ben race track before its gates closed (sadly) for the last time in 1995.
Horses such as Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Black Tie Affair, Preakness winner Gate Dancer and local favorite Who Doctor Who all graced the dirt at Ak-Sar-Ben and helped power Drew’s passion for the Sport of Kings.
Drew has other passions to go along with horse racing. He is a big Nebraska Cornhuskers fan. You will usually find him tailgating at some undisclosed location on game days. Drew loves crunching numbers and analyzing data. Whether it’s PE ratios on stocks, speed figures in horse racing, or assist-to-turnover ratios in basketball, there is no such thing as too much information in his book. Drew also plays fantasy sports.
You can reach Drew at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @thebloghorse.