LOUISVILLE, KY – Marylou Whitney Stables’ Bird Song won the chase to the first turn and never surrendered the lead, giving trainer Ian Wilkes a 1 1/2-length win in the 14th running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Alysheba presented by Big Fish Casino.
“The horse has got a world of talent,” Wilkes said. “He has a high cruising speed. 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.”
Under rider Julien Leparoux, Bird Song covered the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:44.34. It was the second victory in the Alysheba for Leparoux, who won the 2012 renewal on Successful Dan.
Bird Song opened a daylight advantage entering the backstretch, with American Freedom in closest pursuit and Honorable Duty racing third. The top three remained unchanged until the top of the stretch, when Honorable Duty moved to second but never threatened the winner.
“I wanted to break good and get a good position,” Leparoux said. “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.”
International Star got up late for third. The betting favorite American Freedom finished another 1 1/4 lengths back in fourth and was followed in order by Breaking Lucky, December Seven, Noble Bird, Behesht, El Huerfano, and Fish Trappe Road.
“He didn’t like this track,” said Rafael Bejarano, American Freedom’s jockey. “We were afraid of that. He didn’t run well here last year (in the Pat Day Mile). He just didn’t fire late today.”
The victory was worth $235,600 and increased Bird Song’s earnings to $484,207 with a record of 11-5-2-1. Bird Song is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Unbridled’s Song out of 2003 Kentucky Oaks winner Bird Town.
Bird Song returned $15.20, $7, and $5. Honorable Duty brought back $4.60 and $3.60, while International Star paid $7.40 to show.
ADDITIONAL RACE QUOTES
Trainer Ian Wilkes, Bird Song – “I thought there was a ton of speed. I was really concerned. I told Julien, ‘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.’
“I don’t think he’ll be a 1 1/4 mile horse, but I think we can get a good 1 1/8. I’ll look at the Stephen Foster. The Grade 1 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).”