Songbird was forced to miss the Kentucky Oaks with a fever
PICTURE: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport)
By Nicholas Godfrey 6:45PM 17 JUN 2016
Preview: USA, Saturday 1am (Sun) BST
Santa Anita: Summertime Oaks (Grade 2) 1m1/2f, dirt, 3yo fillies
THE unbeaten Songbird (Jerry Hollendorfer/Mike Smith), forced to miss the Kentucky Oaks with a fever, gets back on track in a $ 200,000 contest that is full of tactical intrigue.
Rated by many experts as the best three-year-old of either sex in the States, Songbird has won all seven career starts – by a cumulative 36 lengths – the last six of which have been in Graded stakes, three of them Grade 1s including a brilliant all-the-way victory in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Last time out she continued on her winning streak in the Santa Anita Oaks two months ago and is sure to start a heavy favourite in a seven-strong field which feature no other Graded-stakes winners.
However, rival trainer Phil D’Amato has trhown down the gauntlet with three runners, headed by the speedy Coppa (Joe Talamo), whose form at shorter trips suggests Songbird will not be given anything like an easy time on the lead.
D’Amato-trained stablemate Bellamentary (Martin Garcia) has also shown early speed – and Songbird’s trainer Jerry Hollendorfer tried her out behind horses in her final workout in a bid to prepare her for any fun and games from the D’Amato triumvirate, which also includes Sutton’s Smile (Flavien Prat), Grade 1-placed as a two-year-old.
Also on Saturday
Churchill Downs: Stephen Foster Hcap (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo+ (Sun 2.39am, BST)
Although he carries top-weight, Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Effinex (Jimmy Jerkens/Gary Stevens) still looks favoured by the weights as he returns to the scene of his victory in last year’s Grade 1 Clark Handicap.
Belmont Park: Poker Hcap (Grade 3) 1m, turf, 4yo+ (8.04pm BST, live on ATR)
Last year’s winner King Kreesa (David Donk/Irad Ortiz) faces three Grade 1 winners in Grand Arch (Erin Cotterill/Luis Saez), Force The Pass (Alan Goldberg/Jose Ortiz) andObviously (Phil d’Amato/Jose Lezcano). Top-weight, though, is rising turf star Takeover Target (Chad Brown/Joel Rosario).
Churchill Downs: Fleur de Lis Hcap (Grade 2) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo+ (Sun 1.30am BST)
Untapable (Steve Asmussen/Florent Geroux), untouchable two seasons ago when she won the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff, attempts to arrest her evident decline. The five-year-old hasn’t won for 14 months.
Churchill Downs: Wise Dan Stakes (Grade 2) 1m1/2f, turf, 3yo+ (Sun 2.05am BST)
The race formerly known as the Firecracker has been renamed to honour one of Kentucky’s most popular US turf specialists of recent seasons – and in The Pizza Man (Roger Brueggemann/Florent Geroux), the $ 200,000 contest features one of the most popular US turf specialists currently in training.
Dual Breeders’ Cup winner Wise Dan, US Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013, will parade in the paddock before the race.