Last week we saw one of the early Kentucky Derby favorites solidify his status as well as the emergence of two talented Kentucky Oaks hopefuls. If you missed any of the action, check last week’s edition for replays, links to recaps and Brisnet charts.
This week features the freakishly talented 2-year-old champion filly Songbird in the Santa Ysabel. In her 3-year-old debut in the Las Virgenes, she cruised to an easy win by 6+ lengths without being asked–be sure to check it out if you haven’t seen it already. Like many fans, you may be wondering if her connections would consider the Kentucky Derby instead of the Oaks. The current answer is no, but if all goes well she could take on males later in the year. Fingers crossed!
News About the Contenders
Aqueduct: Racetrack Notes (updates about several on the Derby trail)
Blood-Horse: Songbird ‘Perfect’ After Santa Ysabel Score
Blood-Horse: Shagaf Doing Well After Gotham Win
Blood-Horse: Sunland Park Cancels Derby, Oaks
Blood-Horse: Toews On Ice Back Sprinting in San Pedro
Courier Journal: Talented probables for San Felipe, Tampa Derby
Courier Journal: Jet Black Magic a possibility for Oaks trail
DRF: Watchmaker: Songbird remains in league of her own (Gotham & Santa Ysabel post-race analysis)
DRF: Privman: Road to the Derby: Gotham Stakes (post-race analysis)
Santa Anita: STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN – SUNDAY MARCH 6, 2016
Twinspires: Sunland Derby, Oaks canceled: the effect on Kentucky Derby & Oaks points picture
Blood-Horse: Suddenbreakingnews, American Dubai Work
Blood-Horse: Derby Hopefuls Top Full Santa Anita Work Tab
DRF: Jet Black Magic wins Azalea Stakes
TDN: Unbeaten Filly Could be Sunland Derby Bound
Blood-Horse: O’Neill Moves Up Nyquist’s Workout
Blood-Horse: Haskin’s Derby Dozen – March 1, 2016
Blood-Horse: Gotham No Sure Derby Path for Sunny Ridge
Blood-Horse: Undefeated Off the Tracks Now With Pletcher
Courier Journal: Polar River rolls in UAE Oaks; Kentucky bound?
Courier Journal: Awesome Banner to get another 2-turn start
DRF: Songbird the latest beauty in Hollendorfer’s harem
DRF: Sunny Ridge born to run in Haskell
DRF: Mo money, Mohaymen could be mo problems
DRF: Derby Watch: Shagaf is Shadwell’s Kentucky Derby homeboy
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s hot, who’s not for March 2
DRF: Derby Watch pedigree profile: Shagaf
DRF: Mohaymen not a typical Tapit
TDN: Congrats’s Polar River Wins Again At Meydan
TDN: Cathryn Sophia Continues Street Cry’s Legacy
TDN: Songbird Tops Kentucky Oaks Nominations
TDN: Florida Derby Showdown Looms
TDN: Unbeaten ‘Cathryn’ Doing “Awesome”
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
2016 Gotham Replay
While the winter races for fillies at Aqueduct have often yielded winners who go on to success in big races the rest of the year, it’s become a commonplace to dismiss the winners of the Kentucky Derby prep races at the Big A in light of their recent history of futility in the spring classics. The last Gotham graduate to capture the run for the roses? Secretariat, way back in 1973.
Trainer Chad Brown hopes to break that record with his highly regarded Shagaf, a Shadwell Stable homebred by 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini. Lightly raced and making his stakes debut, Shagaf ships up from Florida with a two-for-two record, including a win over rival here Rally Cry in a maiden race at Aqueduct last fall. A speedy sort, he’s been done no favors by his #2 post position, but his pedigree, record, and connections combine for a blue-blooded trifecta that’s not necessarily a common sight in Queens in March, and Shagaf will try to run to a reputation that arrived on the Derby trail before he’s earned a single qualifying point.
The winner of the Grade 3 Withers here a month ago, Sunny Ridge returns to Aqueduct in an official Derby prep despite his connections maintaining that the Preakness en route to the Haskell Invitational, and not the Kentucky Derby, is the spring classic goal this year. The horse likely to vie for the lead with Shagaf has been worse than second only once in six starts and is one of only two starters with a win at the Gotham’s 1 1/16-miles distance, and the only one at that distance over Aqueduct’s inner track. With 18 points in the Kentucky Derby qualifying points bank, he can likely assure himself a place in the gate with a finish anywhere in the top four—just in case owner Dennis Drazin and trainer John Servis change their minds.
The crafty Cajun Eric Guillot isn’t often seen in these parts when the mercury dips below 50 degrees, but he scratched Laoban from last month’s Southwest at Oaklawn Park for this spot and shipped from his Los Alamitos base to Aqueduct to get a breeze over the inner last weekend. Well-traveled, Laoban has run at Del Mar, Laurel, and Santa Anita, but he’s still a maiden, last out finishing third in the Grade 3 Sham in early January. “A method to his madness” may be a phrase coined with Guillot in mind, but Laoban’s presence here seems a bit of a head-scratcher, which may be exactly what the trainer has in mind.
Mo Power (SCRATCHED) is a son of 2010 champion 2-year-old and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo, one of three progeny of that hot sire entered here. After closing to finish second by a neck in his debut at Gulfstream in February, he raced near the lead to break his maiden at that Florida track a month later and ships in here to see if trainer Todd Pletcher can give owner Mike Repole another shot at the Kentucky Derby. In 2011, Repole’s Uncle Mo was forced to scratch from the race the day before.
A half-brother to millionaire Dads Caps and graded stakes winner Paulassilverlining, homebred Vincento was a well-beaten fourth in the state-restricted Gander most recently and has done his best running at shorter distances, but sire Include was a multiple graded stakes winner in routes, with victories in both the Massachusetts Handicap and the Pimlico Special. He’s the longest shot on the morning line at 20-1, but he intrigues at a price.
Rally Cry is the third Uncle Mo colt here, also trained by Pletcher, also shipping from Florida, also going for his second win, also making his stakes debut. Conquest Big E ran into the Mohaymen juggernaut down south in January’s Grade 2 Holy Bull and ships north for trainer Mark Casse, who’s got two wins, a second, and two third from seven starters at this meet. Adventist was a respectable third in the Withers for trainer Leah Gyarmati and owner Jeff Treadway, familiar Aqueduct faces who have parlayed winter preps into spring time success.
Santa Ysabel Stakes
1 1/16th miles (8.5 furlongs)
2016 Santa Ysabel Replay
2016 Santa Ysabel News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Songbird Dominates Santa Ysabel
DRF: Songbird remains undefeated by taking Santa Ysabel
TDN: Songbird Soars Again in Santa Ysabel
Santa Anita: SANTA YSABEL STAKES QUOTES – SATURDAY MARCH 5, 2016
The only thing more surprising than Songbird’s rerouting to the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park is that the track attracted nine other 3-year-old fillies to face the undefeated champion.
Songbird’s connections—owner Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm and Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer—had been clear following her Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies victory to cap her 2-year-old season that they would point their Medaglia d’Oro filly to the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks—not the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby (against males)—and prep twice for the first Friday in May: in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. Medaglia d’Oro also sired 2009 Kentucky Oaks winner (and eventual Preakness winner and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra).
All went according to plan early in Songbird’s 3-year-old season when she won the Las Virgenes a week after Triple Crown nominations did not include her name, but her workouts since that race convinced Hollendorfer that she should race more before the Oaks, not less.
“There are a progression of races that you run in to get to the [Kentucky] Oaks,” Hollendorfer said following Songbird’s February 28 workout. “You have the [Las Virgenes], then [the Santa Ysabel], then the Santa Anita Oaks. If you’re lucky enough after that, you can try a bigger race. Although these are plenty big enough for us right now.”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith says Songbird is ready for the added race.
Songbird figures to be an overwhelming favorite in the Santa Ysabel, as her top Brisnet Speed Ratings—102 figures in both the Grade 1 Chandelier and aforementioned Breeders’ Cup—are five points higher than the rest of the field’s best lifetime rating and 11 points higher than the rest of the field’s best last-out rating. Songbird has won her five career starts by a combined 28 1/2 lengths.
Still, given that the Santa Ysabel is worth $100,000 and 85 Kentucky Oaks points, even if Songbird rolls and collects the $60,000 and 50 points that will go to the winner, that still leaves $40,000 and 35 points for the rest of the field, which has some laurels on which to rest hopes for a minor placing.
Street Fancy (SCRATCHED) is the field’s only other Grade 1 winner, having won the Grade 1 Starlet last year to close out her 2-year-old season before finishing sixth behind Songbird in the Las Virgenes. The field’s other stakes winner is Code Warrior, who won her first three races at Golden Gate Fields before a second in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez and a fourth in the California Oaks.
The other top stakes performer in the group is Land Over Sea, who has finished second in a pair of graded stakes races. However, both of those seconds were behind Songbird. In fact, Songbird has beaten Land Over Sea in their last four races.
The only other filly coming into the race off a win is Not Now Carolyn, who won her first career race on January 28 at Santa Anita in her third career start but first for trainer Keith Desormeaux.
Other stakes-placed entrants include My Dynamo, second last out in the California Oaks but ninth behind Songbird in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, and Grade 3 Jimmy Durante runner-up Mokat.
Rounding out the field are allowance winner Jade Princess and maiden winners Pageant Material and Meriosvo. Songbird has defeated both Jade Princess and Meriosvo by double digit lengths already.
Signup for a TwinSpires account! (promo code: helloracefans)