The Graveyard of Champions had nothing on the champ that took to the track July 24.
Fox Hill Farms' undefeated Songbird, as if she wanted to toy with onlookers and viewers across the nation to build the drama, took Carina Mia's best shot during the final turn in the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) and the challenger moved onto even terms turning for home, but the indefatigable daughter of Medaglia d'Oro was still able to win in her signature fashion.
From the three-sixteenths pole to the wire at Saratoga Race Course, Carina Mia was no match despite her best efforts, and Songbird went on to win by open lengths yet again.
"I asked her more than I've ever had to," said jockey Mike Smith, who gave Songbird three strikes with the whip early in the stretch, but only had to show the whip to the filly once she put Carina Mia away. "I take my hat off to Carina Mia. She made her run a little bit. But once I got going, I was comfortable.
"This is a tough place to just step into town—especially when you're coming from the West Coast. The humidity factor is what it is. The air is so much thicker here. It gets to me as a rider, so I can't imagine a horse."
The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 2-year-old champion filly of 2015 went right to the front from post 1, with Carina Mia applying pressure throughout, and set fractions of :23.86, :47.52, and 1:11.63 through six furlongs. She absorbed the challenge in the turn and into the stretch, then finished off the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.56.
"We thought we were going to get tested and we thought (jockey) Julien (Leparoux) would send (Carina Mia) at us early, which he did," Hollendorfer said. "We got a chance to test our filly and she dug in."
"At the quarter pole I thought that I might win the race, but I was second best today," Leparoux said. "At that one point, I thought I got her but (Songbird) switched on again. Songbird is a champion. Champions are supposed to do that."
Carina Mia's trainer, Bill Mott, shared his rider's sentiment.
"I don't think it's any disgrace or embarrassment to run second to Songbird," Mott said. "We tried her and we had our chance, and we have no excuse."
Songbird has a perfect record from nine starts, with five grade I victories and earnings exceeding $2.4 million.