Champion Songbird Retired from Racing Print E-mail

Pennsylvania Equestrian

October 2017

Where have you gone, Songbird? That was the tune the two-time champion's legion of fans were singing throughout her 4-year old campaign. The power and acceleration Songbird displayed the past two seasons where she dominated her competition just wasn't there.Songbird Oct1

After a pair of narrow one-length victories early this summer the dark bay filly was run down in the deep stretch by multiple Grade-1 winner Forever Unbridled in the $700,000 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 26. Afterwards owner Rick Porter had seen enough.

“Of course, it's frustrating, very disappointing, I knew we had a decent field to run against," said a clearly discouraged Porter. "Something's not right. She is just not right, and I will get her checked out. She doesn't let horses pass her, that was probably part of it. I am not comfortable that she is 100 percent healthy. Anyway, this is not the Songbird we have been seeing the last three races, just doesn't seem to be the same Songbird, it's only right to have her checked out.

“I thought we would see the real Songbird today, but we didn't see it. I just want to make sure it is not something physical which I would do with any good horse. I always do that.”

Songbird was scheduled to fly out of Saratoga, switch planes in Louisville, Ky. and then fly on to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's barn in southern California. It never happened. Porter insisted Songbird be directly vanned to Lexington and undergo a full evaluation and testing by Dr. Larry Bramlage at Rood & Riddle Hospital.

 
Irish War Cry Captures Wood, One of the Favorites for Kentucky Derby Print E-mail

 PA Equestrian

May 2017

Faugh a Ballagh is a 19th century Irish battle cry meaning "clear the way."Derby 3

Even mild-mannered trainer Graham Motion must have been tempted to shout that command watching his 3-year old colt Irish War Cry storm down the stretch in the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct racetrack on April 8. The New Jersey bred son of Curlin now has 110 qualifying points which punches his ticket to the seemingly wide open Kentucky Derby on May 6.

With new jockey Rajiv Maragh in the irons, Irish War Cry was content to sit patiently behind Battalion Runner down the backstretch. When Maragh asked the colt to go, he blew by his rival just inside the eighth pole and drew off to win by 3 1/2-lengths striding out beautifully at the wire. Racing in the gold and maroon stripes of Isabelle de Tomaso, he recorded a big 101 Beyers Speed Figure in the 1 1/8-mile race.

The victory enabled the handsome chestnut to rebound from a head-scratching seventh place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes in early March.

 
Songbird: Miss Perfecto Print E-mail

PA Equestrian

October 2016

Race after race she is marching her way into the ranks of female racing royalty. Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra. Royal Delta. Rags to Riches. All thoroughbred magnets that have connected so passionately with racing fans. Now it's Songbird's time.Songbird 3A

Facing her stiffest competition yet in the $1 million Cotillion Stakes (Grade-1) Songbird took command at the top of the stretch without any urging from jockey Mike Smith and roared down the stretch gliding to yet another easy victory. A perfect 11-for-11 in her racing career, Songbird hit the wire by 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Carina Mia at Parx racetrack, outside Philadelphia on the first Saturday of autumn.

Bred in Kentucky, Songbird was purchased by Rick Porter for $400,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, The filly has dominated her competition in all 11 of her career starts, winning by a combined 60 lengths. The fifth her narrowest margin of victory recorded as 3 3/4 lengths. She has captured seven Grade 1 races for earnings of nearly $3.5 million.

"When I talked with Mike about the race, we just wanted to jump (out of there) and see where we were," Hollendorfer said. "I didn't know what (Cathryn Sophia) was going to do. I thought she was capable of showing some speed. Songbird laid off the pace a little and ran when Mike asked her to. I'm very grateful for her and very pleased with the way that she did that today. I thought she was going great down the backside."

 
Songbird Dazzles in the Coaching Club American Oaks Print E-mail

 PA Equestrian

August 2016

Race after race she is marching her way into the ranks of female racing royalty. Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra. Royal Delta. Rags to Riches. All were thoroughbred magnets that connected so passionately with racing fans. Now it's Songbird's time.Songbird Aug

A perfect 8 for 8, Songbird faced her toughest foe yet in Carina Mia in the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on July 24th. Bolting out of post 1, Songbird shot to the lead carving out swift fractions of 23.86 for the opening quarter, the half in 47.52 with Grade-1 Acorn winner Carina Mia a length back. Heading into the far turn Carina Mia made her move matching strides with Songbird to the top of the stretch. Jockey Mike Smith tapped her twice to open up in the stretch, hitting the wire in 1:49.56 for the 1 1/8 mile race. It was yet another dominating performance with 5 ¼ lengths back to Carina Mia.

“She has such a big, beautiful stride,” Smith said. “When Carina Mia got on top of her, the more it made her aggressive. It was a good test for her, made her do something she had never done before. If this race moves her up like I think it will, there’s no telling how good this filly is.”

 
Mohaymen Looks to Bounce Back in Kentucky Derby Print E-mail

 PA Equestrian

May 2016

The most highly touted Derby prep matchup in years took place in the $1 million Florida Derby. A clash of the titans: an East vs. West showdown of unbeaten colts. It never happened.Mohay 1

Undefeated 2015 juvenile Eclipse Award-winning Nyquist rolled to an easy victory, stamping himself as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby on May 7. Geared down by jockey Junior Alvarado in the stretch, Mohaymen (4-5 favorite) wound up beaten by 8 ¼ lengths finishing fourth.

“We feel like it was a perfect storm of unfortunate things that happened with the track, raining earlier and then later," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin from his barn office at the Palm Meadows training facility. 

"Basically it was a very wet (track) and we were very wide. We ran 54 feet further than the winner, but congratulations to Nyquist and their team. They had to run over the same racetrack under the same conditions and they did it better than us. Hopefully we can turn the tables on May 7."

 
Upstart a Prime Derby Contender for Violette Print E-mail

PA Equestrian
May 2015                                                                                                                   

When you've just won a $400,000 Derby prep race and you're headed to the winner's circle, it's never good to see a flashing inquiry sign. Trainer Rick Violette, Jr. was getting ready to celebrate after watching his talented three-old Upstart roll to a 2 3/4 length victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 21.PAE 0415 Upstart

After a lengthy review, the 4-5 favorite Upstart was disqualified and placed second behind the stakes debuting Todd Pletcher trainee Itsaknockout. Violette and Upstart's owner Ralph Evans quickly departed the winner’s circle.

"Bad call," said a clearly upset Violette after the race. "They (stewards) have to understand that when the horse gets hit behind the girth (by a tiring and drifting-out Frosted), the only place the horse can go is to the right. It's disappointing. The horse ran great, we just don't get credit for it."

With Jose Ortiz in the irons, the New York-bred Upstart closed steadily in the 1 1/16-mile Derby prep to take control from 7-2 second choice Frosted in the final sixteenth. But Upstart bore out under steady left-handed urging from Ortiz against Starlight Racing's Itsaknockout in the deep stretch. Upstart raced wide throughout and the Trakus measurement system showed that he covered 20 feet more than Itsaknockout and 54 feet more than third place finisher Framment.

 
PA-Bred Mor Spirit a Top West Coast Derby Contender Print E-mail

 Pennsylvania Equestrian

April 2016

 Stuart Grant likes to tell folks that he spent time around horses growing up in Brooklyn, N. Y.  Thing is, the horses all had cops on their backs.

Grant is the proud breeder of Pennsylvania-bred colt Mor Spirit who was born at Derry Meeting Farm. The dark bay colt is considered one of the top West Coast contenders for the Kentucky Derby.Mor S01

Mor Spirit made his 3-year-old debut with an impressive win in the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (Grade-3) at Santa Anita on Feb. 6. The victory stamped the colt as the dominant 3-year-old in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

In the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (Grade-2) on March 12, Mor Spirit uncorked his patented late run closing strongly in mid-stretch, but couldn't quite get to Danzing Candy who won by two lengths. Mor Spirit earned 20 Derby points to give the colt a total of 44 which should put him into the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 7.

Stevens was encouraged and optimistic despite the loss.

 
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