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Mike Smith Reflects on Songbird & Other Fantastic Fillies

Mike Smith Wins Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies on SongbirdMike Smith let the question dangle, let it roll around in his head, let it swim like a whiskey over ice. Over the phone, it’s hard to see, but there’s no doubt, Smith looked up at the sky, squinted his eyes like mail slots and blew a kiss in the air.

Royal Delta, Zenyatta, Azeri, Sky Beauty, Inside Information, Heavenly Prize…

“As far as the ones I’ve ridden, I’d say, she’s probably most like Inside Information, high cruising speed, gears, well balanced,” Smith said. “In saying that, it’s hard to compare any of them, they’re all so good in their own ways. She’s done absolutely nothing wrong, hope we can continue to grow and get better and see where it takes us.”

Yes, Songbird belongs in Smith’s Distaff Hall of Fame (he’s got a separate roll call for the boys). Four-for-four last year, resounding Eclipse Award winner, she returned for her 3-year-old debut, taking on five overmatched rivals last Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro picked up where she left off, with a stroll in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes. Using his natural light touch, Smith perches over Songbird’s withers like he’s doing another photo shoot for ESPN, she does the rest. Saturday, she opened up 2 lengths, then 2 1/2, then 6, then 10, then dropped it back down to 6 1/2 lengths after a mile in a geared down 1:36.84. Geared down, as in, weighed-in-saddle-cleaned-on-the-way-to-dinner geared down.

“It was just as it looked, literally, a public exhibition, she just went around there cruising on her own, I never even got down to really ask her,” Smith said. “She’s bigger, mentally she’s so much stronger and sure of herself and so confident, she was having a good time out in the post parade. When she first started running she’d get a little nervous, a little hot and washy, she was as cool as could be.”

After four wins by a combined 22 lengths, it was hard to imagine the dark bay filly getting better. And then she went out and looked better.

“It’s scary, the sky’s the limit for her. She has such a high cruising speed, man, I’ve never even had to ask her for everything yet,” Smith said. “So far I haven’t had to worry, just slowing her down, like, ‘Hey, let’s not do too much.’ She’s very well balanced, both leads, she’ll fall into a turn and, man, whoosh, she’ll hit a gear, wow, you look back and you’ve opened up six, seven on them, like, ‘where the heck did that come from?’ It’s crazy.”

As for the list of greats, she’s on it. And climbing.

“With so much more time left in her career, look at what she’s already done, she’s put herself up there with some of the best of them, we’ve just barely started her 3-year-old year, who knows when this year is over and her 4-year-old year,” Smith said. “I’ve been blessed to have ridden so many good horses, each one took me to a new level. Holy Bull, Lure, Thirty Six Red was really my first graded stakes horse. Zenyatta, Azeri, Inside Information…the list seems to go on and on and it hasn’t stopped yet. I hope it doesn’t stop. Each one takes you somewhere higher and higher.”


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