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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The search for superlatives to describe Songbird goes on after the undefeated champion stretched her winning streak to 10 with a dominant performance in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama at Saratoga Race Course.
The 136th running of the summer’s signature event for 3-year-old fillies produced an early test for the popular favorite, as second choice Go Maggie Go threw down the gauntlet and sped to the lead with Luis Saez. Songbird broke alertly as well, and in a flash she was perched on the pacesetter’s outside flank with Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
The battle was joined and the pair opened daylight on their five pursuers, going head-and-head for the entire run down the backstretch and into the far turn. But just as a six-furlong split of 1:11.13 was posted, Go Maggie Go began to weaken and Songbird began moving away with every stride coming to the quarter-pole. From there it was just a matter of how far, and Songbird’s final margin over second finisher Going for Broke was seven lengths – the largest since Questing won by nine lengths in 2012.
After running the Alabama’s demanding 1 ¼ miles in 2:03 flat, Songbird’s combined margin of victory through 10 wins is 54 ¾ lengths.
“She is just amazing,” said Smith, who won his fifth Alabama and first since 2000 with Jostle, also for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm. “We were running along a pretty good clip and I was kind of surprised that someone was going with her, which was fine. We can’t always get an easy lead and she was comfortable going along down the backside and well within herself. They can come at her early, come at her late, and so far, she has shown she can put them all away. I knew she was going to run well. Today was just more of an emotional day for the whole team, with Mr. Porter being ill and having to go to the hospital. I pray he got to watch this and lift his spirits.”
Songbird earned $360,000 for her sixth Grade 1 triumph, and the daughter of 2002 Travers winner Medaglia d’Oro has now amassed a total of $2,762,000.
She returned $2.40 for a $2 win bet to her many backers in the crowd of 40,329.
“I never like to say it’s easy, but she’s just got a lot of talent,” said Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who beat Fox Hill’s Havre de Grace by a head with Blind Luck in the 2010 Alabama. “She makes it look easy but it’s not easy. First time going a mile and a quarter and you always think you can do it, but you never know until you actually do it. It’s very gratifying to have a horse like this and see what she can do. I think Mr. Rick [Porter] is looking at the Cotillion…so we’ll look at that.”
Going for Broke, next-to-last to the stretch, rallied inside to overtake Family Tree for second by 1 ¾ lengths in her stakes debut for Chad Brown.
“I thought she ran terrific,” said Brown. “Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] gave her a patient ride. I knew she could get the distance. In the end, Songbird showed her class.”
The order of finish was completed by Weep No More, Flora Dora, Go Maggie Go and Dark Nile.
Jerry Hollendorfer, winning trainer of Songbird (No. 6): “I was just happy to see her out there and rating nicely, Mike looked pretty confident on her. I thought she would run well down the lane and she did. I never like to say it’s easy but she’s just got a lot of talent. She makes it looks easy but it’s not easy. I just take every race as it comes up and do my best and she does her best.”
“I think Mr. Rick [Porter] is looking at the Cotillion in his home state of Delaware so we’ll look at that.”
“This win was real gratifying. First time going a mile and quarter and you always think you can do it but you never know until you actually do it. She responded fine today and I’m very pleased with her. She wanted to go out there and she was free and easy so I wasn’t worried about him trying to take her back. It looked like Mike was comfortable the whole race.”
“We’re happy that people like Songbird and hopefully they like her as much as we do. It’s very gratifying to have a horse like this and see what she can do.”
Mike Smith, winning jockey aboard Songbird (No. 6): “She is just amazing, and she keeps on getting better and better.”
“We were running along a pretty good clip and I was kind of surprised that someone was going with her [Go Maggie Go] which was fine. We can’t always get an easy lead and she was comfortable going along down the backside and well within in herself. I knew she going to run well. Today was just more of an emotional day for the whole team with Mr. [Rick] Porter being ill and having to go to the hospital. I pray he got to watch this and lift his spirits.
Was it as easy as it looked?: “She drew away from them pretty handily. I tried to take a peek on the TV screen [tote board] but my eyes were full of sweat so I couldn’t see anything. I really wasn’t riding her hard, just coaxing her, trying to keep the same rhythm, same momentum, that we had just to get to the wire. I really wanted to win this one for Mr. Porter.”
Compared to the Coaching Club American Oaks?: “Only that the attack came from the inside early and not late. They can come at her early, come at her late and so far, she has shown she can put them all away.”
What makes her so special?: “Everything. She’s got it all. She’s got the ‘it’ factor. Not only can she run, she is extremely intelligent, her mechanics are incredible and her balance is impeccable. You feel like you are lying on a big king-sized bed, that’s how smooth she is.”
Concern about the :11 and change?: “Never grabbed a hold of her. I’d rather go a little faster than slower with her. I could see shadows all around me and the whole field is running with me and [if] I’m running fast, then so are they.”
Chad Brown, trainer of runner-up Going for Broke (No. 3): “I thought she ran terrific. Irad gave her a patient ride. I knew she could get the distance. In the end, Songbird showed her class.”
“I think we have a really exciting filly moving forward. If we avoid Songbird, I think we’ll win lots of big races. She’s a lightly raced horse and her best days are yet to come.”
“From the half-mile to the three-eighths pole, I said, ‘we’re really winding up and these horses are coming back to us fast. Maybe we have a shot in the lane if Songbird gets a little leg weary.’ But she showed her class and kicked again. It was a very easy work for Songbird. It was an honor to run second to her.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr., jockey aboard runner-up Going for Broke (No. 3): “We tried to beat her, but we got beat by the best filly in the nation. I said, ‘If we get beat by Songbird and we hit the board, it will be all right,’ and we finished second.”
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