SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Two top-class females made Saturday’s Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign Stakes a stellar start to Travers Day, with Charles Fipke’s homebred Forever Unbridled charging late to outlast Songbird.
The Personal Ensign was a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race, giving Forever Unbridled an all-fees-waived entry into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 3 at Del Mar.
The four-horse contingent broke cleanly and immediately fell single-file in line behind Songbird. She and jockey Mike Smith set early splits of :24.14, :47.91, 1:12.29, and 1:36.96 while Forever Unbridled sat off the pace under Joel Rosario.
Rounding off the corner, Smith set Songbird down for the drive as the Dallas Stewart-trained mare swung wide and began to close. Just past the 1/8 pole, Forever Unbridled caught and passed last year’s 3-year-old champion filly, completing the 1 1/8-mile main track race in 1:49.16 by a neck under a vigorous hand ride.
“You knew (Songbird on the lead) was going to happen, you just had to go find her at the 1/4 pole,” Stewart said. “I just let Rosario do his thing. I was hoping she’d get there, but you never know when you’re trying to run down a champion. She kept coming back on and coming back on. It wasn’t easy, but she did it. It’s not easy to win a race like this against a champion.”
For Songbird, it was her third straight race in which she didn’t seem to be at her absolute best, though her previous two starts – the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps and the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap – were still wins.
“This horse has been getting better and better,” Smith said. “Her numbers are better than last year. The first race back was a big number. I bet this race will be a big number, I bet you this race will be one of her best numbers, maybe she just can’t get any better. In saying that, she’s a Grade 1 winner, only been beat twice just by narrow margins. I think we don’t give her enough credit, to be honest.
“I’m very competitive, but in saying that, all I can do is my best, ask her for hers, and we just got run today. Got to take the good with the bad, you can’t always win.”
Eskenformoney and Going for Broke completed the order of finish. Flora Dora was scratched.
With the win, Forever Unbridled eclipsed the $2 million mark, upping her career earnings to $2,086,880 with a record of 16-7-3-4.
“She’ll likely go to the Beldame at Belmont next,” Stewart said. “It’s the most logical choice for her next race, especially since she won it last year.”
Forever Unbridled returned $6.20 to win and $2.10 to place, while Songbird paid $2.10 to place. There was no show betting.