Now that we are deep in the throws of summer, let’s think about a couple of the best things we may encounter. It’s a time when females can look really pretty. And it is certainly good to hear those birds singing their summer song. Good news is we have a Thoroughbred race horse that is giving us both right now.
Songbird is a four-year old filly that has been simply brilliant during her career. In thirteen lifetime starts this daughter of Medaglio d’Oro has pranced to the winner’s circle an incredible twelve times. To say this bay colored Kentucky-bred is something special is a bit of an understatement.
“Horses like her just don’t come along that often,” says her hall of fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “She is an amazing athlete and we feel very lucky to have a horse of her caliber in our barn. “
Obviously the numbers for her are very impressive at first glance. A deeper look tells us just how shapely Songbird really is. Of those twelve wins, eight have come in grade 1 races which represents top competition. She has accumulated her $3.8 million in earnings at six different tracks which have literally been from sea to shining sea. Based on the West coast, Santa Anita and Del Mar have heard the magical music of her hoof beats. Equipped with more than a carry on, she has traveled and dominated at Saratoga, Keeneland, and Belmont Park. Injury caused her to miss the three-year old filly races of the Triple Tierra in 2016, but her magnificent performances allowed her to be named as champion three-year old female one year after being named as champion two-year old.
Interestingly enough, as sweet as the sound of Songbird’s gallop to the winner’s circle has been, her lone defeat might have gotten her even more respect. The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff featured one of the epic stretch battles of all-time. Leading the pack into the far turn under hall of fame rider Mike Smith, the daughter of Ivanavinalot was engaged by champion older mare Beholder. The two battled to the wire with Songbird refusing to yield. The photo at the finish may have shown Beholder by a flaring nostril, but everyone knew they both had the heart of a real champion.
“She still thinks she won and I am not telling her any different,” smiles Mike Smith. “Her courage was just incredible that day. She certainly showed what she is made of. Her body was in front, just her nose was not long enough. That was one of the greatest races ever, and I am not saying that just because I was riding one of the runners. The Distaff told everybody what type of competitor Songbird truly is.”
As is the case with any athlete, questions always arise between seasons. Can they continue to produce year after year. Following her battle with Beholder, Songbird took a long break and did not toe the track until June 10 of this year. Shipping to Belmont Park for the grade 1 Ogden Phipps, intrigue ran rampant in anticipation of her four-year old debut. Things can change, so we had to wonder which way she was moving, forward or backward. When the gates opened we got our answer.
Breaking alertly in her normal fashion, Songbird took early command as has been customary. She cruised to the lead, then turning for home and with only a slight urging from her boyfriend in the saddle, Songbird was looking as pretty as ever as she sang to the winner’s circle…again.
“I think she is bigger, stronger, and more mature,” says Smith. “Believe it or not that is going to move her even more forward, which is incredible. I was very confident going into the gate, but you are always nervous because this is racing. Being nervous keeps you focused on doing all the little things right. If you don’t do the little things you get beat. We knew there was lots of talent going against her, but there always is. Our goal was just go in and do what we do best which is run fast and run straight. She may have gotten a little tired at the end, but that is natural for the first race back and we achieved our goal. We are still looking to get better and the amazing thing is I think she can.”
Songbird has solidified the thinking of her rider with some recent works. Following the Phipps, she turned in one of the smoothest and easiest half miles ever according to her jock. Continued strong works means she might just be better than ever as her conditioner maps out the next move.
“We want to take our time and make sure we are doing what is best for her,” says Hollendorfer. “The mile and a quarter Delaware Handicap (July 15) is a possibility because it has a nice purse. The distance may be a little more than we want for her second start Another option is to stay home and run in the mile and a sixteenth Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar (July 30).”
Regardless of the decision, odds are Songbird will give us a couple of those summertime delights!