Songbird (Medaglia d’Oro) and jockey Mike Smith win the Ogden Phipps (Gr I) at Belmont Park 6/10/17. Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer. Owner: Fox Hill Farm
Rick Porter’s champion 2-year-old and 3-year-old filly Songbird demonstrated her class on Saturday, winning the G1 Ogden Phipps off a long layoff for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was faced with late pressure from Paid Up Subscriber on her inside, but jockey Mike Smith just shook his reins at the filly and she powered clear to win by a length at the wire. It made Smith’s third win on the card, as he rode Songbird to cover 1 1/16 miles over one turn on the Belmont Park main track in 1:42.24.
“She is so good out of the gate and God willing she’ll continue to do so,” Smith gushed. “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 inside so that I could wait and keep my position. That part worked out and after that, I hand rode her home. She got a little tired but she is supposed to.”
The heavily favored Songbird broke very quickly from near the center of the seven-horse field, immediately gaining a half-length advantage over her rivals in the first 50 yards. Smith just let the champion filly dictate her own pace, and she placed herself on the lead, three-quarters of a length in front of second-choice Carina Mia. Paid Up Subscriber kept close tabs on the leader from the inside, and Bar of Gold was three-wide in fourth on the outside.
Songbird drew out to a full-length lead through mild fractions of :23.99 and :47.27, while Paid Up Subscriber drew even with Carina Mia in second. Smith never moved aboard the dark bay filly as the field entered the far turn, but Javier Castellano moved Paid Up Subscriber into position to draw even with Songbird on the far turn. Those two made the turn for home on even terms, with Castellano riding Paid Up Subscriber full force as Smith sat chilly.
Finally, at the head of the lane Smith shook the reins at his filly and she dropped her head to engage Paid Up Subscriber. The rival proved more dogged than perhaps Smith expected, but Songbird was never truly threatened as she continued to inch away down the lane, crossing under the wire a length on front. Paid Up Subscriber had to settle for second, with New York-bred Highway Star up late for third. Carina Mia was fourth.
“A good horse takes to all the tracks, it seems like, and she’s a good one,” Hollendorfer said. “We’re blessed to have her. I didn’t have any second thoughts during the week about keeping her at home 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.”
Bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli, Songbird was a $ 400,000 yearling purchase at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga. She won on debut for Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, reeling off 11 straight victories until she lost by a short nose to Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last fall. Though her 2017 debut was delayed for small issues earlier this spring, Songbird appears to have maintained her form into her 4-year-old season. Overall, Songbird has an impressive record of 12 wins from 13 starts, and she has earned more than $ 4.1 million.
“There might be some kind of chance that we might see her at Saratoga this summer but don’t forget we have the Breeders’ Cup on the West Coast this year,” Hollendorfer continued. “That’s an important consideration. We talked a little bit about running her in the Delaware [Handicap] but I’m not real sure about that. We’re going to talk some more about those kinds of plans.”
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