Songbird headed to East Coast for three stakes

ARCADIA, Calif.-The champion Songbird will spend the summer and early fall racing on the road.

A day after Songbird extended her unbeaten streak to eight races in the $200,000 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said three Grade 1 races at Saratoga in July and August and Parx Racing in Pennsylvania in September are goals for the California-based filly.

The $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on July 24 and the $600,000 Alabama Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 20, both at Saratoga, are summer goals, followed by the $1 million Cotillion Stakes at 1 1/16 miles at Parx on Sept. 24.

Those races are designed to have Songbird ready for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.

“I think we’re going to run in three races,” Hollendorfer said of Songbird pre-Breeders’ Cup schedule.

Hollendorfer described the Coaching Club American Oaks as “a very logical race to run. The New York races are prestigious races,” he said.

Hollendorfer said there are no plans to start Songbird against males this season.

“That’s what other people want,” Hollendorfer said. “This is not the right time to do that. We’ve hoping to run her next year if she can stay sound.”

Songbird was the easy winner of the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks at 1 1/16 miles, drawing away from four overmatched rivals to win by 6 1/2 lengths. She was timed in 1:42.63 and earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. Owned by Rick Porter, Songbird has won eight races by a combined 42 1/2 lengths. She was the champion 2-year-old filly of 2015.

The Summertime Oaks was Songbird’s first start since a win in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on April 9. A scheduled start in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6 was abandoned in mid-April after Songbird was diagnosed with a fever.

Songbird resumed workouts in late May and showed steady progress in advance of the Summertime Oaks. Songbird has led in most of her starts, but in the Summertime Oaks she stalked pacesetter Bellamentary to the end of the backstretch before jockey Mike Smith guided her to the lead.

“I felt like I was galloping,” Smith recalled on Sunday morning. “She got into a comfortable stride. The filly next to her was running and she was comfortable. I thought, I couldn’t believe this.”

Hollendorfer said the win erased any concern about how Songbird would return to racing after a two-month break.

“There’s always some apprehension when they come back,” he said. “You never know how they’ll react to a problem she had.”

Songbird has earned $2,102,000. She won the Summertime Oaks on Hollendorfer’s 70th birthday.

Smith was at Santa Anita early Sunday for workouts. He took time between rides to visit Songbird, who was at the front of her stall grateful for the carrots Smith brought. It was apparently not his first such visit in recent times.

Veterinarian Jennifer Finley was working nearby and noticed Smith was back visiting the filly, with edible gifts.

“You keep feeding her carrots and she’s going to turn orange,” Finley said.

Chances are there will plenty more stable visits by Smith in coming months, some at venues far from Santa Anita.

Tom Franklin is a senior contributor at US Racing.
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