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Songbird might be Derby-bound after Juvenile Fillies win

Jockey Mike Smith rides Songbird to the win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland Racecourse on Saturday.
Jockey Mike Smith rides Songbird to the win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland Racecourse on Saturday. (Rob Carr / Getty Images)

Mike Smith has found another girlfriend. To say that he is smitten is an understatement.

Smith is the winningest jockey in Breeders' Cup history. He just keeps building on his record, and victory No. 22 came here Saturday, in the $2-million Juvenile Fillies.

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He won aboard Songbird, moving smoothly from the No. 10 post position to the front and never looking back. He crossed the finish line 5 3/4 lengths ahead and wasn't even cooled down before the talk begun.

Was this the best filly since Rachel Alexandra, who won the 2009 Preakness?

Should we find extra significance in the fact that Rachel Alexandra's daughter, Rachel's Valentina, was Songbird's main challenger and couldn't get any closer than the 5 3/4-length place spot?

And the inevitable: Should we all start pressing trainer Jerry Hollendorfer on whether he will consider going for the whole enchilada by putting her in against the boys in the Kentucky Derby the first Saturday in May?

When that sort of buzz begins in horse racing, especially in a year when a dominant male 2-year-old has yet to emerge, there is no stopping it.

That's especially true because Songbird ran 1.06 seconds faster than the winner later in the day of $2-million Juvenile. Both races were a mile and 1/16th. Songbird ran 1:36.33. Doug O'Neill's Juvenile winner, Nyquist, ran 1:37.39.

In Smith's 22 Breeders' Cup wins, five have been in the Distaff (top female horses), plus one Filly and Mare Sprint and, now, two Juvenile Fillies. That's 36%. Fair to say, Smith has a way with the ladies.

Has he fallen again?

"Yup, all over again," he said.

Friday night, Smith tweeted that the love of his life is now Songbird.

Songbird owner Richard Porter said afterward that the ongoing feedback from Hall of Famer Smith about the quality of this filly helped keep the team focused.

"If Mike Smith likes a horse this much," Porter said, "that's all you need to know."

There was even the theory put forth in the news conference that Smith, who turned 50 in August, had been considering retirement next year until he started riding Songbird.

Later, Smith grinned about that.

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"I think they exaggerated a little there," he said.

Songbird has a tendency to literally jump out of the starting gate, and she did so Saturday.

"Once she made the jump and I was still on her," Smith said, "I knew we were fine. Jerry did a great job with her and I'm happy to be part of this team."

Veteran trainer Hollendorfer will now face fielding all the questions about the Kentucky Derby. Being somewhat less than bubbly when it comes to dealing with the media, this will not make him happy.

"This was very nice," Hollendorfer said, of Songbird's dominant run. "I'm looking forward to next year. We'll see what happens."

Songbird has yet to lose. She broke her maiden in mid-July at Del Mar and then followed that with two victories in Grade I's, including the Del Mar Debutante. Rachel's Valentina had also come in unbeaten, two for two.

The Derby questions will come nonstop now, assuming Songbird stays healthy. And owner Porter did little to discourage that.

"We're a long ways away from making that decision," he said, "but she's big enough, and showed she is talented enough."

So, be looking for the lovebirds in 2016: Smith and Songbird.

Twitter: @DwyreLATimes

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