Songbird primed for Saratoga glory in CCA Oaks

The Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks is the centerpiece of this year’s opening Sunday card at Saratoga, and it does not lack star power. #1 SONGBIRD (4-5, morning-line favorite) is seeking her ninth straight win after starting her career 8-for-8 with seven stakes triumphs. Standing in her way are just four other fillies, headed by multiple stakes winner #2 CARINA MIA; arguably her toughest opponent to date. And if that isn’t enough to get you excited, be sure to try out FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

SONGBIRD, the undisputed leader of the three-year-old filly division, will race outside of California for the first time since taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland last fall. To date, she has hardly ever been asked to run by jockey Mike Smith. She’s seemingly scared off all competition on the west coast with her latest romps in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks and Grade II Summertime Oaks. The nine-furlong distance of the CCA Oaks is just a 1/16th longer than she’s ever run before, so she should have no problems on that front. She also projects to make the lead with ease, as the only real pace challenger to her might be CARINA MIA, who may be reluctant to go toe-to-toe with the champ too early. SONGBIRD also shows a sharp six-furlong tune-up for this at Del Mar.

CARINA MIA has been among the most impressive fillies on the east coast this year. She upset Cathryn Sophia in the Grade I Acorn last time out despite a 4-wide trip, and won the Grade II Eight Belles with authority earlier this year. CARINA MIA has also been training lights-out in the mornings for Bill Mott. Despite all this, I think that she and Julien Leparoux just aren’t up to the challenge that SONGBIRD poses.

Moving away from the top two runners, #4 WEEP NO MORE (10-1) has a very good chance to round out the trifecta. She won three straight races, including a dramatic last-to-first upset in the Grade I Ashland, before suffering a rough trip in the Kentucky Oaks last time out. She’ll get rider upgrade to Javier Castellano as she returns from a brief freshening.

The play: $10 trifecta 1/2/4

DFJ analysis: The wisest investment on Sunday may not even be in this race. Luis Saez may go unclaimed on many rosters as “big names” like Castellano, Velazquez and the Ortiz brothers will draw the attention of some less-savvy players. But Saez has some solid mounts on Sunday, including favorites in races 1 and 3, and second-choices in races 4 and 11. He also has a few live longshots in the middle portion of the card. I would give eight of his nine mounts on Sunday a good chance to hit the board.

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