Just seconds after the undefeated Songbird crossed the wire 6 ½ lengths in front in the $300,000 La Virgenes (G2) on Saturday at Santa Anita, the question we all have asked got louder: “Why the heck is this filly not headed to the Kentucky Derby?”
Songbird was the champion juvenile filly of 2015 and ran faster than her male counterparts. She won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) with a 99 Beyer Speed Figure. Nyquist won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) with a Beyer of 89.
On Saturday the filly earned an 87 Beyer, but she was never asked by jockey Mike Smith. She has now won five races in a row without being tested.
With such a brilliant filly you would think the temptation to take on the boys would be hard to resist. Apparently not for owner Rick Porter.
“It would be nice to win the Kentucky Derby, but I’d like to do it with a nice colt,” Porter said after the race. “I don’t like the (Kentucky Derby) point system. We’d have to run in the Santa Anita Derby with her. I think it’d be great for your ego, but the smart move is to stay on the path we’re on to the (Kentucky) Oaks.”
In 2008 Porter’s Fox Hill Farm sent out the brilliant filly Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby where she finished second behind Big Brown.
However, tragedy struck just shortly after the wire when the filly collapsed, suffering compound fractures of both front ankles and was euthanized.
PETA jumped in, calling for the suspension of jockey Gabriel Saez, claiming the filly was “doubtlessly injured before the finish.”
“What we really want to know, did he feel anything along the way?” PETA spokeswoman Kathy Guillermo said. “If he didn’t then we can probably blame the fact that they’re allowed to whip the horses mercilessly.”
It was a tough time for Saez, who was riding in his first Kentucky Derby, and trainer Larry Jones, and for the horse racing industry in general. It happened just two years after Barbaro’s injury in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
If Porter has Eight Belles in the back of his mind when deciding about Songbird’s future, he is not tipping his hand. For now at least, she will stay facing the fillies, with the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and then the Kentucky Oaks (G1) her next goals followed by the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) this fall.
Perhaps she will take the route of Zenyatta, who won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2008 and then beat the boys in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
It would really add some spice to this year’s Derby if Songbird took on the boys. After all, it is going to be tough to top last year’s Triple Crown run by American Pharoah.
However, there is plenty at stake within her own division this year, so I’m not going to be too disappointed and will just enjoy this superstar’s 2016 campaign.
2016 Las Virgenes Replay
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