Belmont Park Notes • Songbird confirmed for G1 Coaching Club American Oaks
ELMONT, N.Y. - Fox Hill Farm's Songbird will soon be heading to Saratoga Race Course, now that the undefeated star filly has been confirmed to target the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday, July 24.
"We plan on flying in five or six days before the race," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said by phone Friday morning.
The Hall of Famer added that Songbird will keep to a light routine after her New York arrival, allowing the Eclipse Award winner time to adjust to her new surroundings.
"[Usually] I stand them in the gate and school them, he said. "Let them look around and get over the racetrack a few times."
This will be the first Saratoga starter for the West Coast-based Hollendorfer since shipping east with Sweet Lulu to win the 2013 Grade 1 Test.
As announced by the New York Racing Association this week, the purse for the Coaching Club American Oaks will be increased to $500,000 from $300,000, contingent upon Songbird's participation in the prestigious race. Under the new pay scale, the winner's award will be raised to $300,000 from the current guarantee of $180,000. The sliding scale of awards will increase for the remainder of the field, with $100,000 awarded for second place, $50,000 to third, $25,000 to fourth, $15,000 to fifth place and $10,000 divided equally among the remaining finishers.
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Trainer Mark Hennig said Strike Charmer has been looking good as she prepares for the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana on July 23 at Saratoga Race Course. The 6-year-old bay mare won the Grade 3 Beaugay on May 14 at Belmont Park before finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Just a Game last out.
Strike Charmer breezed four furlongs in 49.55 seconds on July 3 on Belmont's inner turf. Hennig said she will breeze again Sunday morning, weather permitting, and is scheduled to depart Belmont for Saratoga on July 19.
"She's worked well and she's still on course for the Diana," Hennig said.
The daughter of Smart Strike is 5-4-3 in 19 career starts and will be looking for her first career Grade 1 victory. Despite going three-wide, Strike Charmer never was able to make a strong push in the one-mile Just a Game, but her connections are hopeful the 1 1/8-mile Diana will lead to better results.
"More distance will help her and hopefully she gets a cleaner trip," Hennig said.
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Robert E. Masterson's Champion Turf Mare Tepin is set to depart from trainer Mark Casse's Churchill Downs base midweek to settle into her summer digs at Saratoga Race Course, according to Norm Casse, the head assistant for his father Mark, on Friday.
The next goal for the 5-year-old superstar remains the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in Ontario on September 17, although her connections have been cautiously mulling a start at the Spa, where she could possibly take on males in the newly upgraded Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 12, or stay with the female division in the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa on Travers Day on August 27.
"We're just going to take it easy with her when she gets there," said Casse. "[We'll] let her kind of dictate what's going on and when we start breezing her, we'll see where we're at with her. There's still an outside chance that she'll run at Saratoga, either in the Fourstardave or the Ballston Spa, depending on how she's training. There's really no timetable."
Tepin, who is 4-for-4 in graded stakes this year, including last month's historic victory in the Group 1 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, suffered her only two defeats in 2015 at the famed "Graveyard of Champions," with agonizingly close seconds in both the Grade 1 Diana and Ballston Spa last summer.
Also set to join Casse's Saratoga string this summer is John Oxley's Sky My Sky, who breezed five furlongs in 1:00 flat on Friday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake George on opening day. Coming off a sixth-place finish in the Sanibel Island at Gulfstream Park this spring, the 3-year-old Bernardini filly proved an easy winner of a turf allowance at Churchill in her most recent start on June 9.
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Shadwell Stable's Mohaymen stretched his legs over the Saratoga main track for the first time since returning to the work tab in late June. Working solo, the gray colt breezed a half-mile in 48.87 seconds ahead of his expected comeback in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 30.
The 3-year-old son of Tapit turned in a pair of official workouts over Greentree Training Center's synthetic Tapeta surface, breezing three furlongs in 36.40 on June 23 and 47.60 on July 2, his first serious moves since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 7.
"He's been working at Greentree the last couple of times, so it was nice to get him on the main track," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "[It was] just a routine work. Hopefully, we'll continue working weekly and get back in the starting gate July 30."
Also working for McLaughlin is Grade 1 Ogden Phipps winner Cavorting, who breezed a half-mile over Belmont Park's training track in 47.77, the second-fastest of 66 at the distance.
Cavorting is targeting the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on August 27 at Saratoga for her next start.