It was like Fox Hill Farm's Songbird had never left.
The morning of April 9, the often crowded Santa Anita Park main track cleared for a moment during the 6:30 a.m. workout session, seemingly in deference to the two-time champion filly.
Looking through his binoculars from the grandstand, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer gave the head's up to the small group surrounding him.
"OK boys, get ready," the Hall of Fame conditioner said.
After her trainer's cue, the 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly breezed through the turn and into the stretch for her first timed workout of 2017 and covered three furlongs in the easiest :35 4/5. Hollendorfer timed her a little slower—in :36.22—and Santa Anita's clockers timed her first quarter in :24 and her gallop out to four furlongs in :48 2/5.
"It was very nice and smooth, and she galloped out nicely," Hollendorfer said of Songbird's first drill since running second by half a nostril to Beholder in the Nov. 4 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1).
A minor leg injury delayed Songbird's training earlier in 2017, but Hollendorfer expressed confidence Sunday morning that his filly's talent has not taken a step back.
"She's the same. Believe me," he said.
Although the Distaff was her first loss following 11 straight wins to start her career, digging in to just miss against the older and more experienced champion Beholder in a stretch run to remember likely flattered Songbird more than any of her previous victories.
Fox Hill owner Rick Porter laid out ambitious plans earlier in the year—which included a possible run against males in the TVG Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar during the summer—but her immediate race target with her revised training plan remains unclear.
Sunday's breeze was simply a welcome starting point for the champion's return.
"It's the same with all horses—you take one step at a time," Hollendorfer said after the workout.