A low-grade fever may have knocked Fox Hill Farms' undefeated champion Songbird out of the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), but her 3-year-old campaign will restart June 18 in the $200,000 Summertime Oaks (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park.
Almost two months to the day after she was officially taken off the Kentucky Oaks trail, the 1 1/16-mile Summertime Oaks will present a three-pronged challenge for the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro from the barn of Santa Anita leading trainer Phil D'Amato, who has also entered an undefeated filly of his own.
"She's ready," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said after Songbird's last work June 11.
Although she's also undefeated, Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino's Coppa, trained by D'Amato, has a résumé that pales in comparison to the 2015 Eclipse Award winner.
That's not to say the Florida-bred Yesbyjimminy filly has done anything wrong in her two-race career. Coppa has won both of her starts—a maiden special weight race in November and an optional-claiming allowance May 21—by 3 1/4 lengths, but each race was at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Coppa may lack experience at two turns, but she doesn't lack speed. That early quickness might be enough to challenge Songbird, who only has trailed—by a head—at one point of call in her seven-race career. In her May 21 victory at Santa Anita, Coppa set the pace with fractions of :21.69 and :44.46 through a half-mile and was able to pull away from the field late.
Her presence, along with that of last-out Angels Flight Stakes winner Bellamentary—who has also shown significant early speed from the D'Amato barn—may have pushed Hollendorfer to make an effort to prepare for such a pace scenario. In her work last Saturday, Hollendorfer started Songbird five lengths behind a pair of workmates and had her split the two in the stretch.
"We wanted to make sure she could wait," Fox Hill owner Rick Porter said. "She did it all on her own. She stayed about three lengths behind them, got asked at the quarter pole, and split the horses. (Hollendorfer) wanted to get that in her, not so much for this race, but for the future."
D'Amato also entered graded stakes-placed Sutton's Smile, who has made six of her eight starts on turf, but spoke to his reasoning for enterenig Coppa and Bellamentary a week ahead of the Summertime Oaks.
"There aren't many options and they're both doing good," said D'Amato, who has a dominating lead atop the trainer's standings with 18 wins, double the total of John Sadler and Mike Puype, who are tied for second with nine victories apiece. "It's really the only option. We'll give it a shot."
Santa Anita Park, Saturday, June 18, 2016, Race 8
- 1 1/16m
- 3 yo Fillies
- 5:03 PM (local)
|1||1That's a Lady (KY)||Santiago Gonzalez||120||John W. Sadler||20/1|
|2||2Bellamentary (KY)||Martin Garcia||120||Philip D'Amato||6/1|
|98||3Not Now Carolyn (KY)||SCRATCHED||0||UNKNOWN||-|
|3||4Songbird (KY)||Mike E. Smith||124||Jerry Hollendorfer||1/5|
|4||5Coppa (FL)||Joseph Talamo||120||Philip D'Amato||5/1|
|5||6Kay Kay (KY)||Alonso Quinonez||120||Vladimir Cerin||30/1|
|6||7Sutton's Smile (KY)||Flavien Prat||120||Philip D'Amato||20/1|