The hum of nearby Interstate 210 was all that was audible from the Santa Anita Park grandstand before trainer Jerry Hollendorfer broke the silence with the sharp "beep" of his stopwatch as Songbird began her workout from the half-mile pole Oct. 6.
With Hollendorfer, assistant trainer Dan Ward, and regular jockey Mike Smith huddled together looking on, the sound of the stopwatch cut through the crisp, early-morning air at every furlong pole.
The trio watched without uttering a word until Fox Hill Farms' Medaglia d'Oro filly hit the top of the stretch. Smith exhaled a soft "Wow" as he watched her go by, but that was it until she continued galloping out.
As usual, it wasn't hard to spot the undefeated champion breezing. Visually, the 3-year-old filly just moves differently than other horses, seemingly floating over the track as others comparatively labor. Southern California workout sessions are often as cluttered with traffic as the 210, but Songbird—unlike many others—never seems to encounter company. Thursday morning was no different. As if the rest of the horses were showing deference, she again encountered a clear path throughout.
The Santa Anita clockers timed Songbird in :46 4/5 for a half-mile, with a first quarter-mile fraction of :23 2/5, and gave her the rare—although not rare for her—Southern California "breezing" tag. Songbird galloped out to five furlongs in :59 1/5 and six furlongs in 1:12 2/5, although Hollendorfer clocked her slightly slower (:47 1/5, :59 4/5, 1:12 3/5, and 1:26 3/5).
"It was just a maintenance work—getting her back into action," Hollendorfer said of the breeze, which was Songbird's first since her 11th straight victory Sept. 24 in the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I). "We've got plenty of foundation in her, so we'll just keep her maintained until the Breeders' Cup."
Songbird is expected to encounter fellow champions Beholder and Stellar Wind in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), which will be her first start against older fillies and mares. Hollendorfer reported Thursday that she came back from Parx Racing in good shape and should get three more timed workouts before the Distaff.
"We had been on the East Coast, shipped back, then shipped back to the East Coast, so we gave her a little more time," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "I'm appreciative that she hasn't lost any weight. When she came back from Saratoga (after wins in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama Stakes, both gr.I), she hadn't lost any weight, then going out (to Parx for the Cotillion) she looked good, and coming back she looked good."
Songbird's four-furlong time was the fastest of 31 drills at the distance on the main track Thursday. To put the drill into further context, 25 horses went onto the Santa Anita work tab for five furlongs and none had a time faster than 1:00 flat, four-fifths off Songbird's gallop-out time. Her gallop out time also bested grade I winner Masochistic's six-furlong bullet work, which was 1:12 3/5.