Bird Song (Unbridled’s Song) wins The Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs on 5.5.2017. Julien Leparoux up, Ian Wilkes trainer, Marylou Whitney owner.
Marylou Whitney’s Bird Song led gate-to-wire in Friday’s Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes, holding off a very game Honorable Duty to win by just over a length at the wire. The 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song was winning just his second graded stakes effort, and appears to be getting better with age as he has not finished off the board this season. Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Ian Wilkes, the colt covered 1 1/16 miles over Churchill Downs’ sloppy main track in 1:44.34.
“The horse has got a world of talent,” Wilkes said. “He has a high cruising speed and last time the track just played against him but they have to be able to overcome that. Today the speed’s been pretty generous and that helped him a little bit. I thought there was a ton of speed. I was really concerned. I told Julien (Leparoux), ‘You’ve got to ride your race. There’s a ton of speed in here and I don’t know what’s going to happen, you’ve just got to ride.’”
Bird Song was a bit slow out of the gates, out-sprinted by Honorable Duty when crossing under the wire for the first time, but Leparoux allowed him to gun up the rail heading into the first turn to take the lead. Post-time favorite American Freedom also broke well from near the outside of the pack, and took up second position as Bird Song sprinted away to a two-length advantage. Honorable Duty settle in third, with Noble Bird and El Huerfano right in behind.
After early fractions of :23.23 and :46.78, Bird Song showed no signs of tiring heading into the clubhouse turn, still moving easily with his ears pricked and Leparoux riding high in the saddle. By contrast, the jockeys on American Freedom and Honorable Duty were already asking their mounts for more run at the three-eighths pole and were not making up any ground on the leader.
A quick flick of the reins sent Bird Song sprinting away from the challengers by two lengths at the head of the lane, and he stayed strong under a confident ride from Leparoux all the way down the stretch. Honorable Duty was only able to cut Bird Song’s lead to 1 1/4 lengths at the wire, and had to settle for second. International Star was the only horse to make up any significant ground down the lane, closing to get in front of American Freedom for third.
“He had shown speed before,” said Leparoux. “I just wanted to break good and get a good position. I was expecting three or four other horses to go with me, but I got myself in a good spot on the lead. I was pretty much by myself until the end. He kept going until the end.”
Bred in Kentucky by his owner, Bird Song is out of the Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly of 2003, Bird Town (Cape Town). The colt took three starts to break his maiden, then immediately came back to win an allowance race at Saratoga. Stepped up into G1 company he was over-matched at that point, after which he required a pair of allowance races to regain his confidence. Stepped back into graded company more slowly, Bird Song won the G3 Fred W. Hooper in March, and hasn’t finished off the board this year. Overall, his record stands at five wins from 11 starts for earnings of just under $ 500,000.
“I don’t think he’ll be a mile-and-a-quarter horse but I think we can get a good mile-and-an-eighth,” Wilkes continued. “I’ll look at the Stephen Foster. The Grade One would be important. He likes this track, he runs good here. And then we’ll look at the next one (referring to the Whitney, named for the family of Bird Song’s owner and breeder).”
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