Songbird successfully tackled her first test at Saratoga Race Course, remaining unbeaten in nine career starts with a 5¼-length victory in the Grade I, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks Sunday at Saratoga Race Course in New York.
Under her regular rider, jockey Mike Smith, the reigning 2-year-old champion filly swept through the opening quarter-mile in 23.86 seconds and the half in 47.52 with Grade I Acorn winner Carina Mia a length back in second.
Carina Mia, ridden by Julien Leparoux and trained by Bill Mott, turned up the heat heading into the final turn, matching strides with the leader to the top of the stretch. Carina Mia proved no match for the superstar, however, as Songbird shook clear and opened up in the stretch, crossing the wire beneath a motionless Smith to complete the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.56.
“Songbird’s got a big, beautiful stride. I didn’t panic. The more [Carina Mia] got on top of her, the more it made her aggressive,” Smith said. “I got after her a couple times right then, and that was pretty much it. I was surprised at how at the end she was actually pulling away again. But I knew at some point that Carina Mia was going to give me a serious test, an acid test, and she did — she made her do something she never had to do before. We’ll see what happens. A lot of times, a true champion, this will move them up. This was the first time someone got inside of her gut. A lot of times it’ll really move them up, and if that happens, oh my. If this race moves her up like I think it will, there’s no telling how good this filly is.”
Favored at 3-10, the sophomore daughter of Medaglia d’Oro returned $2.60 for a $2 win wager. The $300,000 winner’s share boosts the Eclipse Award winner’s lifetime earnings to more than $2.4 million.
Songbird broke her maiden with ease last July at Del Mar and went on to post three more dominating victories last year, all against Grade I company and capped off with a 5¾-length score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, en route to earning the Eclipse Award for Champion Juvenile Filly.
As a 3-year-old, Songbird has improved to 5-for-5, including a quartet of victories at Santa Anita, topped by the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks in April and a 6½-length romp in the Grade II Summertime Oaks.
Carina Mia was well clear for second, four lengths ahead of Flora Dora in third, followed by Mo d’Amour and Weep No More to complete the order of finish.
“We thought we were going to get tested and we thought Julien would send [Carina Mia] at us early, which he did,” said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who saddled his first Saratoga starter since winning the Grade I Test with Sweet Lulu in 2013. “We got a chance to test our filly and she dug in. Great race from [trainer] Billy [Mott]’s filly, too.”
Rachel’s Valentina retired from racing
Grade I winner Rachel’s Valentina has been retired, trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed Sunday morning.
The lone daughter of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, Rachel’s Valentina won her 2-year-old debut by two lengths at Saratoga Race Course last summer before posting a one-length victory in the Grade I Spinaway. The Bernardini filly closed out her season with a runner-up finish to Songbird in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
As a 3-year-old, Rachel’s Valentina finished a close second in the Grade I Ashland in April at Keeneland and was sixth in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks and fifth in the Grade I Mother Goose on July 2 at Belmont Park. Rachel’s Valentina retired with two wins and two seconds from six lifetime starts and earnings of $738,800.