Will we ever know how good she is?

By Art Parker

Songbird Santa Ysabel March2016The best three year old filly in North America, and perhaps the world, waltzed around Santa Anita last week to claim her sixth career victory from six career starts. Songbird, a good looking filly from the expensive sire Medaglia d’Oro, easily won the Grade Three Santa Ysabel by 3 ½ lengths after showing off in what was just another public workout. The margin of victory is not indicative of how easy she won without being asked to show her best stuff.

Her victories are all the same. Songbird gets a quick lead without much trouble, builds an insurmountable advantage without breaking a sweat, and then glides to the wire as rider Mike Smith starts to apply the brakes. The other thing one notices while watching her embarrass opponents is her beautiful motion and her attention to business. She doesn’t intend to take prisoners when the gates open, and she doesn’t.

It looks like trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and owner Fox Hill Farms will keep the champ in California and run her in the Santa Anita Oaks before proceeding to Louisville for the Kentucky Oaks. So far Songbird’s connections have been opposed to trying the boys and possibly going for the Derby.

The way the Derby points system works Songbird would need to beat the boys in a big Derby prep race to secure the points to get into the Derby. Under the old system she would already have enough graded earnings to run for the roses.

It is easy to see Songbird winning the Santa Anita Oaks, the Kentucky Oaks before taking another rest. After a reasonable break she could run once or twice before the Breeders’ Cup in early November. A couple of preps in late summer or early fall will have her poised to win the BC Distaff, which by the way will be at her home base of Santa Anita.

And if the connections avoid the colts altogether then Songbird will cruise to another undefeated season, another Eclipse Award and possibly Horse of the Year. A non-stress schedule between now and the BC will probably assure her of being a cash machine with a big residual value as a broodmare.

I’m afraid this is what will happen and we will never really know how good she is. And that’s a shame because this young lady could offer as much to racing as American Pharoah did.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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