It finally happened. Someone took the lead early from Songbird.
The result, however, was the same.
Bellamentary, who broke just to the inside of the undefeated champion 2-year-old filly in the $200,000 Summertime Oaks (gr. II) June 18 at Santa Anita Park, assumed command in the 1 1/16-mile race entering the first turn, but the lead was short-lived.
Fox Hill Farms' Songbird tracked in second, something she has never done in her seven prior starts, moved alongside and put a head in front midway through the backstretch, and left her competitors in the dust the rest of the way without any asking from jockey Mike Smith.
“It scares me to think of how good she is," Smith said. "I try not to think of it."
The winning margin was 6 1/2 lengths—Bellamentary just held on for second, a nose ahead of closing Kay Kay—but it might as well have been 20 for the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee. After racing a length off Bellamentary through a first quarter in :22.97, Songbird pulled within a head after a half in :45.95. The champ had a two-length lead as six furlongs went in 1:10.28, and Smith sat unmoving in the saddle through a mile in 1:35.71 and hit the wire in 1:42.63.
"She stayed in the spot that she wanted to be, cruising alongside of her and it’s just amazing, her cruising speed," Smith said. "She started lengthening her stride on the backside, and I looked over at Bellamentary and I knew we were comfortable, but that she was having trouble keeping up."
In her first start since a low-grade fever knocked her out of consideration for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), Songbird paid $2.10 across the board. Bellamentary brought $2.40 and $2.10, and Kay Kay delivered $3.40 to show. That's a Lady finished an even fourth, followed by Sutton's Smile, to complete the order of finish. Coppa and Not Now Carolyn were scratched.
"It was beautiful the way she just settled in. I was very happy with the way she looked going down the backside," Hollendorfer said on his 70th birthday. "She was very comfortable, with her ears up, looking for something. The opportunity presented itself to be just a little off the pace and now we’ve shown everyone that we can do that.
“We thought she could do that before, but you never know until you try. We’ll try to keep her doing bigger and better things."
Santa Anita and other wagering interests lost $201,400.83 because of a negative show pool—$1,017,594 of the $1,081,223 pool was wagered on Songbird.
The Medaglia d'Oro filly now has an unblemished record in eight starts, including seven straight victories in graded stakes and $2.1 million in earnings, but a test against males does not appear to be in her immediate future.
"I think we’ll stick with the girls for now and see what happens," Hollendorfer said.