July 2017 Issue - page 8

Page 8
July 2017
Songbird Returns to Win $750,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes
by Terry Conway
Welcome back!
Two-time champion filly
Songbird made her 2017 de-
but with another victory after
repelling a serious challenge from
Paid Up Subscriber to win the
$750,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes
at Belmont Park on June 10. The
final margin was only a length,
but she never appeared to be in
danger after a seven-month layoff.
It was her 12th victory from
13 career starts, returning to the
track after her only defeat, beaten
a short head by Beholder, in last
November's Breeders' Cup Dis-
taff at Santa Anita Park.
The 1-5 favorite broke like
a shot from post 4 in the sev-
en-horse field and grabbed the
lead in the first 50 yards. Jockey
Mike Smith kept Songbird off the
rail through fractions of 23.99
seconds for the quarter and 47.27
for the half. On the far turn Paid
Up Subscriber drew even as the
duo hit the top of the stretch
and stuck a nose in front. When
Smith shook the reins at his filly,
Songbird dropped her head and
edged away to the wire. Giving
six pounds to her challenger, the
daughter of Medaglia d'Oro's fi-
nal time for the 1 1/16-miles over
a fast track was 1:42.24.
“She is so good out of the
gate and God willing she'll con-
tinue to do so,” Smith raved. “She
jumped really, really well [out
of the gate] and I stayed off the
fence today, just because it's her
first race back. If someone wanted
to get brave and move early at
her, I'd rather move in [to] my in-
side so that I could wait and keep
my position. That part worked
out and after that, I hand rode
her home. She was getting a little
tired late but she is supposed to in
her first race of the year. I think
she will get better off this race."
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer
called it a great race off a layoff.
"I'm not sure she's at the top
of her game right now, but she did
very well today," said the trainer.
"A good horse takes to all the
tracks, it seems like, and she's a
good one. We're blessed to have
her. She's bigger and stronger this
year. I didn't have any second
thoughts during the week about
keeping her at Santa Anita and
running her in the Beholder
instead. I talked to (owner) Rick
Porter about that and we were
pretty much unanimous that we
should come here, not to duck
those two good fillies [Vale Dori
and Stellar Wind] on the West
Coast, but Rick likes to run for the
money and he likes to run in New
York. That's why we did that.”
The superstar filly helped
bring out a crowd of 57,729 under
bright blue skies on a day when
the temperature hit 90 degrees.
One person not in attendance
was Porter who has been battling
cancer the past two years. Porter
that he was
beginning a new experimental
cancer treatment at Massachusetts
General Hospital last week. The
treatment involves removing,
transforming and re-inserting cells
which has, in trials, resulted in 60
percent remission and 20 percent
partial remission.
Last May Porter underwent
treatment and was hospitalized
for 18 days. In August, just days
before Songbird was to compete
in the Grade-1 Alabama Stakes
at Saratoga, Porter was hospital-
ized due to an infection, forcing
him to miss the race. He spent 15
days in the hospital, but was able
to watch the Alabama from his
room in the intensive-care unit of
Christiana Hospital in Wilming-
ton, Delaware.
Porter's Fox Hill Farm is
known as one of the top stables in
thoroughbred racing. Since 2005,
he has campaigned one Horse of
the Year, four U.S. champions,
one Canadian champion, nine
Eclipse finalists, two Breeders’
Cup champions, and three colts
who were early or post-time Ken-
tucky Derby favorites.
Stabled at Hollendorfer's
Santa Anita barn, Songbird is a
perfect 5-for-5 when heading east
to compete. She has collected
impressive Grade-1 wins in the
2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fil-
lies at Keeneland, victories in the
Coaching Club American Oaks,
and Alabama last summer at Sara-
toga, and the $1 million Cotillion
Stakes at Parx last September.
With the Ogden Phipps added to
her resume she has now earned
$4,112,000. She was a $400,000
yearling purchase at Saratoga.
Songbird had her 2017 train-
ing delayed when she sustained
a minor leg injury in March after
she kicked her stall at Santa Ani-
ta. Smith has ridden Songbird in
all 13 of her starts—and to nine
Grade-1 wins.
"She's gotten older, and
smarter, and she's just calmer about
everything," Smith noted. "She
knows what's going on, and when
it's race day, she gets her game face
on. She is one of the most intelli-
gent horses you’ll ever be on. You
can ride her with your fingers.”
Hollendorfer said the Dela-
ware Handicap, on July 15 at Del-
aware Park, is among the possi-
bilities for her next start. He noted
that the Breeders’ Cup will be held
at Del Mar and said of plotting a
campaign with Porter, “That’s an
important consideration.”
More Spirit Roars
Mor Spirit was one of the top
contenders headed into the 2016
Kentucky Derby. However, the
Pennsylvania-bred colt fizzled,
finishing a disappointing tenth in
the Run for the Roses.
Afterwards trainer Bob Baf-
fert elected to keep the colt on the
sidelines for the balance of 2016.
After a layoff of nearly eight
months, Mor Spirit resurfaced on
December 26, finishing fourth
in the Malibu Stakes (Grade-1).
When the calendar flipped, Mor
Spirit stepped up his game to fin-
ish a close second to stablemate
Hopportunity in the San Antonio
Stakes. During the spring he
scored a pair of victories in the
Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star
Park and the Essex Handicap at
Oaklawn Park.
That set the stage for Mor
Spirit's cross-country trip to
Belmont Park where the dark
bay colt romped home by 6 1/4
lengths in the $1.2 million Met-
ropolitan Mile on a dazzling day
of Grade-1 races at the Belmont
Stakes Racing Festival. Breaking
from post 9 with Mike Smith
aboard, Mor Spirit settled in just
outside of Sharp Azteca who
covered the half-mile in 46.05.
On Smith's cue Mor Spirit took
command at the top of the stretch
and galloped away for the easy
victory as the 5-2 favorite, run-
ning a mile in a swift 1:33.71.
“The way he ran today, how
fast he ran it was incredible," said
Baffert. "He couldn't have looked
any better in the paddock. We
took a different route to get here,
sometimes it doesn't work out but
today it did."
Smith praised Baffert’s
horsemanship, who went 4-for-4
in top graded stakes during the
Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
“Bob is tremendous," said
Smith who rode four winners on
the day. "He is so good at analyz-
ing these horses, understanding
what they're best at, good at
cutting some back like American
Anthem (winning the Woody
Stephens Stakes) doing different
things with them. It’s amazing
and fun to watch."
Stuart Grant's Elkstone
Group bred Mor Spirit who was
foaled at Derry Meeting Farm.
The colt sold for $85,000 at the
Fasig-Tipton October yearling
and $650,000 at the Fasig-Tipton
March juvenile buy. Owned by
Pandora Jewelry magnate Mi-
chael Lund Petersen, Mor Spirit
is named after his mother, Mor.
"After the Derby, we fresh-
ened him up and said we’re going
to have fun with him. So far, he’s
been golden," Baffert said. "It's
funny, people were trying to buy
this horse earlier in the year and
I said no, he's worth a lot more
than that and actually when peo-
ple are trying to buy your horse
that's a good thing. That means
your horse is training well and
the word's out.”
Irish War Cry
Belmont Runner-up
Irish War Cry led every
step of the way in the 1 1/2-mile
Belmont Stakes, holding a one-
length lead through most of the
stretch before Tapwrit powered
past him at the sixteenth pole to
win by two lengths. Irish War
Cry, the 5-2 favorite, finished
nearly six lengths ahead of third-
place finisher Patch.
"We kind of hoped that
somebody else would go for (the
lead), but he had to go to plan 'B'
and (jockey) Rajiv (Maragh) did a
great job," trainer Graham Motion
said. "At the eighth pole, I thought
we might be home free, but it's the
Belmont. It's a tough race.
“I think he ran the hardest
race he's run. When he won his
other big races, he kind of won
for fun except perhaps the race
at Laurel where he had to run re-
ally hard. The Holy Bull and the
Wood were relatively comfort-
able wins for him. In the Belmont
he really had to lay it down and I
was very proud of him. It's very
vindicating—for the horse and
for me, and the owners and ev-
eryone. He'll go back to Fair Hill
and we'll get him in his round pen
and kind of rest him up and get
him ready for the Haskell (July
30). That's definitely what we'd
like to do, so fingers crossed,
that's where we'll be."
Ascend Triumphs at 27-1
Trainer Graham Motion just
had a feeling. He took a shot on
Ascend and came up a winner
by 1 1/4 lengths at the $1 million
Manhattan Stakes (Grade-1). In
his 13-race career he had never en-
tered a stakes race, but Motion was
impressed enough in his previous
two starts to pit him versus some of
the sport's top turf horses, including
highly touted Time Trial.
Owned by Stone Farm and
Madaket Stables, the gelding
closed out last season with an
allowance win on the Keeneland
turf. The homebred son of Candy
Ride launched his 5-year-old sea-
son with a victory in the Henry
S. Clark Stakes April 22 on the
Laurel Park turf.
"Jose (Ortiz) gave him a
beautiful ride, "Motion said. "It's
pretty much how we thought it'd
set up. He ran a great race, but
you don't expect to win at 25-1."
Ortiz felt Ascend was cranked
up the entire 1 1/4-mile race.
“By the three-eighths pole I
knew that Applicator was going
to pick them up so I wanted to be
close to him," Ortiz explained.
When I was ready to move, I
did and he responded very well.
When the horse switched leads,
I touched him on the back with
my whip and he took off. He
was very comfortable for the last
eighth of a mile."
Overall, Ascend has won six
of his 14 starts for earnings of
over $850,000.
“I think he's really improved
this year and grown up a lot,”
Motion noted. “He's just got a
really cool disposition, takes
everything in his stride and is
very talented to boot. I think
the Arlington Million (Aug. 12)
is going to end up being our
summer goal. That's what would
make sense to me, anyway.”
Contact Pennsylvania Eques-
trian racing writer Terry Conway
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