The heat couldn’t stop her. The humidity couldn’t stop her. Carina Mia, despite her best efforts, couldn’t stop her. Not even the Graveyard of Champions could stop her.
Songbird came to the East; she saw; and she conquered.
The Coaching Club American Oaks was to be Songbird’s toughest test to date… and it was. After loping along though a comfortable opening quarter in :23.86 and a slick half in :47.52, Carina Mia began to crank up the pressure on the undefeated champion.
Six furlongs went in a solid 1:11.63 and now Carina Mia was doing the unthinkable, she was drawing even with Songbird on the far turn. Typically, Songbird would begin to distance herself from the field making her way around the far turn, continuing to decimate the field through the stretch.
That was not the case in the Coaching Club American Oaks. Around the far bend Carina Mia unleashed a powerful burst of speed that landed her in an all-out battle, nose to nose, with Songbird.
For a moment it looked as though Carina Mia had Songbird’s measure. As she sidled up alongside, jockey Mike Smith began to ask his filly and for a moment there was no response. Was she confused by the presence of a challenger so late in the race? Was she playing cat and mouse? For whatever the reason, Songbird looked prime to become the “Graveyard’s” next victim.
As they entered the final furlong, however, Songbird dug back in, refusing to be denied. At first she was only inching away from the ultra-game Carina Mia, but then she began to glide away. Effortlessly, she lengthened her stride and her advantage, winning on the wire by 5 ¼ lengths.
“I asked her more than I’ve ever had to,” said Smith. “I take my hat off to Carina Mia, she made [Songbird] run a little bit.
I didn’t panic. The more [Carina Mia] got on top of her, the more it made her aggressive. I got after her a couple times right then, and that was pretty much it.”
In the end, Smith couldn’t believe the ease in which Songbird won the race, but still gave credit to Carina Mia for being the first filly to every truly give Songbird a gut check.
“This was the first time someone got inside of her gut,” explained Smith. “A lot of times it’ll really move them up, and if that happens, oh my.”
Rick Porter couldn’t have been more pleased with the effort. Several have questioned the filly’s ability to duplicate her dominance versus better competition. She found that competition in the Coaching Club American Oaks better, but the result remained the same.
“This is where we needed to go,” stated a very enthusiastic Porter. “I love Saratoga, number one; and, number two, we needed to face the best fillies in the country.”
In defeating Carina Mia, who last out defeated Kentucky Oaks Champion Cathryn Sophia, Songbird not only beat the best, she dominated them.
The connections of Carina Mia believe their filly lost nothing in defeat.
“We took it to her leaving the three-eighths pole,” explained trainer Bill Mott. “It looked like when they turned from home we were in for the shot, but the other filly had a little too much left.
She’s a top filly and I’m definitely impressed. I don’t think it’s any disgrace or embarrassment to run second to Songbird.”
Mott is correct, there is no disgrace in losing to Songbird. Carina Mia went out and did the dirty work. She pressed Songbird, going outside of her element to do so, then went with her in a part of the race where no other horse has ever been able to. She even, at one point, looked as though she would get the best of Songbird.
Carina Mia ran her heart out in the Coaching Club. Finishing second to an undefeated and unchallenged champion bears no shame.
Like Smith said, she was the first horse to ever “get inside” Songbird’s gut.
Now the question is, how will this race affect Songbird? Will the effort make her even stronger? Mike Smith believes that it will.
“If this race moves her up like I think it will, there’s no telling how good this filly is.”
There was no telling how good she was before this effort. Just imagine how good she could become, if Smith is right. Imagine what she may become if she is able to improve off of Sunday’s stellar performance.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of US Racing.