In a contest that will assuredly be one of the most replayed races on YouTube this summer, undefeated three-year-old champion filly Songbird came into Saratoga on a lark and soared down the stretch an eagle– upsetting the upset history of the Spa in an authoritative five-length win in the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (I) for three-year-old fillies.
Sitting at 1-5 odds just moments from post time, Songbird broke alertly from her rail post to jet off to her usual early lead, followed hotly by Acorn Stakes (I) winner and main foe Carina Mia. From there, as many bettors and fans suspected, it was a two-horse race as the two fillies were within two lengths of each other throughout the majority of their nine-furlong match. After setting respectable early fractions of :23.86 and :47.52, Carina Mia launched her bid on the far turn, drawing even with the reigning champion juvenile filly to the roar of the Saratoga crowd. Heads and noses apart throughout the turn with the three-quarter mark up in 1:11.63, Songbird was asked the question and broke away from Carina Mia, who had no response to return. Into the stretch Songbird soared after a few taps from jockey Mike Smith, who then put away his stick and settled in for an awe-inspiring hand ride, guiding the champion home to victory by 5 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:49.56.
Still undefeated with nine wins in as many starts, Songbird netted her fifth Grade 1 win in the renewal of the Coaching Club American Oaks (I) while keeping the cursed “Graveyard of Champions” as well as her fellow three-year-old fillies at bay.
After missing the Kentucky Oaks (I) due to a low-grade fever in weeks prior, champion Songbird has had some fences to mend as other top three-year-old fillies– Carina Mia included– have emerged as sporting rivals in her absence. Following an easy win in the Summertime Oaks (II) at her home base of Santa Anita Park in California, Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer had been tempted to the Spa with an inflated purse for the CCA Oaks, which ballooned from $300,000 to $500,000 if Songbird started.
“I asked her for more than I’ve ever had to,” Smith said. “I take my hat off to Carina Mia, she made her run a little bit. She made Songbird do something she never did before. But Songbird’s got a big, beautiful stride. I didn’t panic.”
The race, while worthwhile, served as a proper test to the filly’s greatness, as she will stick around upstate New York to train for the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (I) for three-year-old fillies going 1 1/4 miles on August 20.
Paying just $2.60 for a $2 win bet, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro continued her unstoppable roll of great victory at a short price. Following the champion filly in order of finish was Carina Mia, 63-1 longshot Flora Dora, Mo d’Amour, and Ashland (I) winner Weep No More.