Saturday (Feb. 6, 2016) was a warm and sunny day full of Stakes racing at Santa Anita Park, with many young prospects being showcased on the road to various higher levels, like the Kentucky Derby. There were no major upsets but impressive performances were seen all around, with one particular standout in Songbird.
Carrie Lynn Barker
The day began with the Robert B. Lewis, a race for three year-olds with an eye on the Kentucky Derby and the coveted Triple Crown. Each horse in the race was a Triple Crown nominee but the betters were on par with putting Mor Spirit as the favorite. Mor Spirit and Gary Stevens towered over the competition and hit the wire first after stalking the pace. This gave Mor Spirit ten points toward the Derby, ranking him second in the running behind Nyquist. Who knows how Mor Spirit will fare against horses like Nyquist and Mohaymen, but it will certainly be interesting.
Start of the Robert B Lewis Stakes – Mor Spirit is #5
Hoppertunity finally snapped his slump in the San Antonio Stakes, the Seventh race on the card. Flavien Prat brought him to the wire against the hard running Imperative, and Hoppertunity got his nose in front to win the photo finish. Hoppertunity is always an elegant horse, moving like a dressage horse rather than a racer, and it was nice to see him in the winner’s circle. It seems Hoppertunity will be on his way to Dubai to challenge California Chrome and others in the Dubai World Cup. Not sure he has what it takes to beat Chrome but he has class and showed it in this race.
Mor Spirit and Gary Stevens – winner Robert B Lewis Stakes
Favorites fluctuated in the Eighth, the San Marcos Stakes, but Flamboyant, with some urging from jockey Brice Blanc, took the lead in the stretch and held it over Gaga A, the only mare in the field, and Mario Gutierrez. Other choice horses Hay Dude and Chiropractor just didn’t have it and finished well behind the winner. Can’t say if Brice Blanc’s silks with “WINNER” written on the back had anything to do with it but probably didn’t hurt.
Flamboyant – Brice Blanc – winner race 8 (6)
Speaking of winners, we may have seen the best three year-old in the country in the Las Virgenes Stakes with Songbird and Mike Smith. While her connections say she’ll aim for the Kentucky Oaks instead of the Derby, many fans want to see her run against the boys and think she’ll beat them. I happen to agree. Songbird took an early lead and dominated the field. Mike Smith’s love for her was evident in the hugs he gave her prior to entering the winner’s circle. Now Mike Smith has ridden some of the best females in recent history, including Azeri and Zenyatta, so he’s no stranger to a fantastic gal.
Love for Songbird from jockey, Mike Smith
I’ve heard fans compare Songbird to Zenyatta, however, Zenyatta was a closer and Songbird took the early lead and held it without looking back. She soars over the track and doesn’t seem to need any asking whereas Zenyatta was like a tank. I’m anxious to see what this filly can do with the rest of her three year-old season and we’ll see if the comparison to Zenyatta continues or if Songbird is something different.
— By Carrie Lynn Barker, who shares her thoughts, observations and photos of the horse-related activities from her near-weekly visits to Santa Anita Park on Saturdays during racing season (all photos by Carrie). Carrie is a photographer who lives in Monrovia with her screenwriter husband Brandon and is Chief Member Concierge at the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce. Carrie has written seven stories published as ebooks and has produced several films. She has also been Operation Manager of Barfly Staff Monitoring Services since 2010.