USA: Unbeaten Songbird ready to soar after illness

Songbird - Mike Smith, Santa Anita Oaks

Songbird missed out on the Kentucky Oaks due to illness

  PICTURE: Benoit  

Preview: USA, Sunday 11.18pm BST (live on ATR)

Saratoga: Coaching Club American Oaks (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo fillies

AFTER illness derailed her Kentucky Oaks ambitions, brilliant three-year-old filly Songbird (Jerry Hollendorfer/Mike Smith) gets back into Grade 1 action with a visit to Saratoga for the CCA Oaks, where she will bid to take her unbeaten record from eight-out-of-eight to nine-out-of-nine.

Songbird’s unbeaten two-year-old season ended in a near-six-length victory at the Breeders’ Cup, and she added another Grade 1 success, her fourth altogether, to her CV in the Santa Anita Oaks in April before a fever ruled her out of the Kentucky Oaks.

The daughter of Medaglia D’Oro returned to the track with yet another emphatic victory against overmatched rivals in a Grade 2 contest at Santa Anita five weeks ago. Now she breaks from the rail in a CCA Oaks in which she appears the only proper front-runner – in which case, her rivals may well never get within hailing distance.

Connections also report Songbird to have been working well. “If you watch her work, it’s just unbelievable,” said Rick Porter of owners Fox Hill Farm. “Mike never sat down on her, he let her do the work the way she wanted to do it and it looks like she’s just floating in an open gallop, and then those times come up – it’s just shocking. She’s doing fantastic considering all the travel she’s had.”

Yet while her presence has pumped up the purse from $300,000 to $500,000, Songbird is racing for the first time at Saratoga – notorious as the ‘Graveyard of Champions’ – and she faces arguably the toughest opponent she has ever encountered in the shape of Acorn Stakes winner Carina Mia (Bill Mott/Julien Leparoux).

Although she was beaten behind Saturday’s rival Weep No More in the Grade 1 Ashland, Carina Mia was involved in a battle foe the lead that day with subsequent Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia.

On her two subsequent outings, she has rallied from off the pace to enormous effect, taking a Grade 2 event at Churchill Downs before catapulting herself to the top end of the east-coast fillies’ division with another come-from-behind victory in last month’s Acorn Stakes at Belmont.

Todd Pletcher saddles Mo D’Amour (John Velazquez) as he bids to win the race for the fourth time in a row. She was fifth in the Kentucky Oaks, two places in front of Ashland Stakes winner Weep No More (Rusty Arnold/Javier Castellano).

Ladbrokes: 4-6 Songbird, 13-8 Carina Mia, 14 Weep No More, 25 Mo d’Amour, 50 Flora Dora

 

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