Multiple grade I winner Songbird could clinch a divisional championship Oct. 31 with a win in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and become the winter favorite for next year's Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Fox Hill Farms owner Rick Porter admits to dreaming of next year with the divisional championship possibly already secured, even if she doesn't win at Keeneland.
"But I hate to dream too early because I don't want to jinx myself with an injury," Porter said.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer says he's focusing mostly on the Breeders' Cup as well.
"I'm for the business at hand, and those other things... playing it for the Oaks or something like that, you know, you might think about those things in the back of your mind. But, I mean, it's important to stay sound and be good on race day here," the Hall of Fame trainer said.
Having done that in her three prior races, the undefeated Songbird likely will be one of the heaviest favorites of the two-day Breeders' Cup.
The biggest challenge for the 7-5 morning-line favorite might be the outside post position—although she won from the outside post in her first graded stakes win, the Sept. 5 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I). But that was a seven-furlong, one-turn race. The Juvenile Fillies features a fairly short run to the first turn and then a short stretch, as the start and finish are at the same spot of the 1 1/16-mile Keeneland oval.
BALAN: Songbird Dazzles in Del Mar Debutante
But Hollendorfer, who has one Breeders' Cup win (2010 Dirt Mile winner Dakota Phone), said he wouldn't "necessarily" have wanted a post position closer to the rail.
"The 10 post is a little more difficult than being inside, but, I mean, that gives (jockey) Mike Smith a lot more options as to what he wants to do once he breaks from the gate," Hollendorfer said. "She can be on the front end. She can rate off the pace. She can do just about anything, and we have confidence that she would be able to face any scenario that there is."
So far she's handled every scenario she's faced—with ease.
Her other grade I win was the Chandelier Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, and the average margin for her three wins is more than five lengths.
NOVAK: Songbird Soars to Chandelier Victory
"We've liked her from the very beginning," Hollendorfer said. "You know you don't really expect to get horses that win easily, or that win by a lot, but in this case we did. And we're just going with her, and she's given us her best. And they're all going to have to step it up a notch to win that filly race, so we have to step up too. We hope that we can."
The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro out of the West Acre mare Ivanavinalot was purchased for $400,000 for Porter's Fox Hill Farm at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August yearling sale. She enters the race with $402,000 in career earnings already and could give Fox Hill its second Breeders' Cup win, following Round Pond in the 2006 Distaff (gr. I).
"I wasn't going much more than that," Porter said of the purchase price. "She was definitely a horse we needed to have. I'm lucky she turned out as good as she did. I mean, you couldn't ask for much more."
Porter said on his website that the filly is named in honor of the late singer Eva Cassidy, a cancer victim who achieved fame after death with her rendition of "Over the Rainbow" and had a compilation album titled "Songbird," with the Fleetwood Mac song of the same name.
"She can really sing," Porter said. "I love her voice."
Porter said he started using Hollendorfer as a trainer last year.
"I like Jerry," Porter said. "He's a Hall of Famer. He's the real deal. His whole life is the horse."
Hollendorfer credited Porter's agent Tom McGreevy for picking the filly out of the sale. The trainer isn't quite sure how Songbird ended up being sent his way.
"I looked at all the horses before they decided which ones were going where, and, not only did I think she was special, but about seven or eight other ones (too)," Hollendorfer said. "I'm grateful they picked (me). I don't know if they flipped any coins or anything. But I'm glad we got her."
Hollendorfer said Songbird is doing well at Keeneland.
"We need to walk over there with confidence knowing that we have a really good filly," he said, "and respecting everybody else because they think they do too and they think they can win or they wouldn't enter up."