Songbird, a Bird of a Different Feather

Events / Travel

Songbird remains undefeated through seven starts. (Photos courtesy of Cynthia Holt unless noted)

In the often ironic jargon of horse racing, she is described as a “freak,” a title which raises eyebrows among those not well-versed in the vernacular of the sport. But Songbird is a textbook definition of the word as racing knows it: brilliant, with capabilities far outside the parameters of the norm. From the start, this dark bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of Ivanavinalot by West Acre has moved like a symphonic poem across the track. Since her debut in a maiden special weight at Del Mar on July 26, 2015, she has won seven straight races, six of them graded stakes, by a combined winning margin of 36 lengths.

Soaring out of her maiden win directly into the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (Grade 1) on Sept. 5, Songbird winged away from a field of impressive fillies to win by 5 ¼ lengths.

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

She then flew into the Chandelier Stakes (Grade 1), a major Breeders’ Cup prep, on Sept. 26 at Santa Anita Park, and won going around two turns for the first time, remaining unruffled despite having been bumped between two rivals at the start.

SONGBIRD "DANCING" IN THE SADDLING BARN SCHOOLING FOR THE CHANDELIER STAKES- NOTE HER ZENYATTA-LIKE EARS

SONGBIRD IS LED INTO THE WINNER'S CIRCLE AFTER THE RACE

On the wings of man, Songbird migrated to Keeneland for her first race outside California, competing against the best of her age and sex in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade 1) on Oct. 31, while eclipsing Nyquist’s winning time in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in the process.

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

On the basis of her superlative Breeders’ Cup win and all of her other high-flying accomplishments during the course of 2015, Songbird was voted Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old filly.

Turning the page on a new year, Songbird continued her winning ways with a 6 ½-length score in the Las Virgenes Stakes (Grade 2) at Santa Anita on Feb. 6.

CALM AND COLLECTED SONGBIRD APPROACHES THE SADDLING BARN FEB. 6

A mockingbird is spotted perched atop one of Santa Anita's garden statues prior to Songbird's paddock entrance. Coincidence or not?

MIKE SMITH HAS BEEN SONGBIRD'S RIDER FOR ALL SEVEN OF HER RACES

SONGBIRD IN THE WINNER'S CIRCLE

Songbird’s team chose to use the Santa Ysabel Stakes (Grade 3) on March 5 as their practice flight for the Santa Anita Oaks. The Oaks had been paramount on Songbird’s schedule, with only four weeks between it and the primary target of the Kentucky Oaks on May 6. 

Mike Smith exits the jockeys' room to watch Songbird schooling in the saddling barn in preparation for the Santa Ysabel Stakes. Mike has been looking moon-struck these days, full of ardor for his new equine princess.


PUMPED AND PRANCING IN THE PADDOCK, SHE'S READY TO FIRE

ANOTHER EASY WIN UNDER A LOOSE REIN!

THE THRILL OF VICTORY!

SONGBIRD ENJOYS A COOL-DOWN FOLLOWING THE RACE

Having run all six of her previous races over a fast track, the forecast of a string of storms during Oaks week and on the day itself loomed large. On Thursday and Friday prior to the Oaks, Songbird was schooled in the saddling barn and paddock areas, where she entranced onlookers with her spirited yet kind manner.

On Santa Anita Oaks Saturday, the threatening skies finally fulfilled their promise, and rain fell sporadically throughout the day. For the first time in her career, Songbird would experience what it is like to run on a sloppy sealed track. Would the weather condition clip her wings? This was the question which stalked bird-watchers as post-time approached.

THE PLAYING FIELD THAT GREETED THE HORSES ON SATURDAY!

A brilliant hat brightens a gray day.  A Songbird devotee shows off her amazing creativity!

SONGBIRD APPROACHES THE RECEIVING BARN

The horseshoe identifier makes sure that everything checks out.

ON THE WAY TO THE PADDOCK!

The crowd is eager and waiting!

The fans seem more excited than Songbird, who takes all of the saddling barn commotion in stride.

Mike is all smiles in the paddock.  He's ready for the big dance!

SHE HAS HER GAME FACE ON!

ON THE TRACK

Songbird breaks well and is in front as the field thunders by the grandstand!

At the wire she's in front by 3 3/4 lengths, and the joint is jumping!

Into the Winner's Circle they go!

The warrior heroine heads home. What a rainbow memory for all of those rain-drenched fans who braved the weather!

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and owner Rick Porter remain to talk about the race ... perhaps marvel at their incredibly good fortune ... and make plans!

Meanwhile, Songbird is leaving her last stop after a long day, after having been tested at the receiving barn.

HOME!

Beneath the victories and the words-upon-words of praise trumpeting Songbird’s wonderfulness, there is a coda of quiet redemption underscoring her triumphs. With an iron fist, fate snatched Shared Belief from Hollendorfer’s barn even as he was training splendidly for his much anticipated comeback. With an open hand, fate has given him Songbird. With an iron first, fate took owner Rick Porter’s Eight Belles following her courageous second-place finish in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. With an open hand, fate has given him Songbird. With an iron fist, fate scrambled the ground beneath the gallant Zenyatta, denying her a perfect record of 20-for-20, and crushing Mike Smith's heart. With an open hand, fate has given him Songbird.

Fate has given Songbird to all of us, too. Let's listen to her song, and revel in the joy of her magnificence for as long as fate allows — hopefully next door to forever!

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