By Laura Pugh
A filly born in April has won the Kentucky Derby.
This is a fact.
All three filles that have won the Kentucky Derby — Regret, Genuine Risk and Winning Colors — won against males prior to the Kentucky Derby.
This is another fact.
Why are these facts so important? Songbird.
Fox Hill Farms owner Rick Porter, has cited several reasons in defense of his adamant refusal to consider running Songbird in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. Some of the main reasons include her age — she was born on April 30 — and the revamped Kentucky Derby qualifying system.
The new Kentucky Derby qualifying system relies on points won in races at a mile and over. There are three rounds of preps, with each presenting more points the closer they are to the Kentucky Derby. Points are not awarded to races run under a mile, and any points that a filly may accumulate for the Kentucky Oaks do not apply to the Kentucky Derby, thus requiring fillies to run against males prior to the Kentucky Derby should their connections wish to enter.
Porter is not a fan of the current system — and he has made some statements that are simply false in regards to it. In fact, Porter said this after Songbird won her 2016 debut, the Las Virgenes, with devastating ease: “I don’t think I’ve ever had one that’s so dominating and does things so easily. It would be nice to win the Kentucky Derby, but I’d like to do it with a nice colt… I don’t like the point system. We’d have to run in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) with her.”
The latter comment, claiming they’d need to run in the Santa Anita Derby to qualify, is exaggerated. Songbird does need to run against males, but she could do that in the upcoming San Felipe, which offers 50 points to the winner. If she were to win, with that amount of points, she’d be practically guaranteed a spot in the Derby starting gate, barring injury or illness.
The timing for the race is perfect, especially since trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has told Daily Racing Form that he is considering another prep before the Santa Anita Oaks, run on April 9. Apparently, the way Songbird has been training has given Hollendorfer the impression that that she may too fresh if she goes into to the Santa Anita Oaks without a prep. The race currently being considered is the Santa Ysabel Stakes, which is run one week before the San Felipe. The San Felipe would probably provide Songbird with a bit more of a challenge than another walkover against her own gender.
Porter’s second cited reason for ruling out the Kentucky Derby is the filly’s age. He believes that because she was born in late April that it would be too stressful to run her in the Kentucky Derby. Here is the problem with his logic, most of the top colts that Songbird would face were born at a similar time or even later, e.g. Mohaymen (May 2), Mo Tom (May 6) and Greenpointcrusader (May 14). By comparison, most top fillies she’ll face in the Oaks are older, e.g. Cathryn Sophia (April 2), Carina Mia (Jan. 27) and Rachel’s Valentina (Feb. 12).
Based on these facts, wouldn’t it be more stressful to run Songbird against her own gender?
In case you thought that last comment was serious, it wasn’t. I say it to demonstrate how ridiculous Porter’s stated reasons for not running Songbird against the boys are. His comment that racing her against colts, before the Kentucky Derby, is too stressful is unfounded. I say again: Every filly to win the Kentucky Derby had faced males prior to their victory in Louisville. And, the comment on her age ends up backfiring, seeing that she is actually older than many top Kentucky Derby prospects.
Let me be clear: I do not mind Porter’s stance. Songbird is his filly and if he doesn’t want to run her in the Kentucky Derby that is his prerogative. What I mind is being patronized with reasons that have been historically disproven, that involve exaggerating the truth, or that involve omitting key facts. The fans deserve better than to be spoonfed half-truths.
If Porter doesn’t want to run, he should leave it at that; if he doesn’t want to do something that promotes the sport, he should just say so.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Pugh has been in love with horses since age five, when she took her first ride as a birthday gift. When she was nine years old she began to take riding lessons as a hunter/jumper. Her first introduction to racing was watching War Emblem’s Triple Crown attempt and, from there, she was hooked. Her knowledge of the sport was self-learned as she took to reading ever book on the topic that she could lay hands on.
In 2009 she began her own blog named Horsin’ Around, where she earned a reputation for her passionate and fiery articles. It was that recognition that soon landed her a position as author of Dead Heat Debates, one of Horse Racing Nation’s many blogs. Since then she has written for other publications such as TwinSpires.com and Lady and the Track, always demonstrating the same fiery passion that her followers have come to expect.