Bird Song rode the prevailing speed bias to victory in the $400,000 Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs on Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) undercard while providing a fitting tribute to his dam, champion Bird Town, who won the Oaks for owner Marylou Whitney 14 years ago.
Over sloppy going that had been kind to speed throughout the early part of the card, Bird Song was rushed to take the lead from post 1 by Julien Leparoux and, surprisingly, did not encounter much resistance in a race seemingly filled with pace types.
Maintaining a stead lead of 1 1/2-2 1/2 lengths through fractions of :23.23, :46.78, and 1:11.11, Bird Song had plenty left in reserve to fend off New Orleans H. (G2) winner Honorable Duty through the stretch. The Ian Wilkes trainee crossed the wire 1 1/2 lengths ahead in a time of 1:44.34. He paid $15.20 as the 6-1 fifth choice in a field of 10.
“The horse has got a world of talent. He has a high cruising speed and last time the track (at Keeneland) just played against him but they have to be able to overcome that,” Wilkes said. “Today the speed’s been pretty generous and that helped him a little bit.”
Honorable Duty was a length ahead of 20-1 chance International Star, with 3-2 favorite American Freedom 1 1/4 lengths farther back. The order of finish was rounded out by Breaking Lucky, December Seven, Noble Bird, Behesht, El Huerfano, and Fish Trappe Road.
Unplaced in his initial stakes attempt last summer in the King’s Bishop (G1), Bird Song has come to hand since. Ending his three-year-old campaign on a high note with an allowance win at Churchill in November, the gray finished second in the Hal’s Hope (G3) in his seasonal bow, then took the Fred W. Hooper (G3) by 1 1/4 lengths. Both tries were over a one-turn mile at Gulfstream.
Last time, Bird Song faded to third in the Ben Ali (G3) after pressing the pace. His record now stands at 11-5-2-1, $484,207, with summertime goals of the Stephen Foster H. (G1) and Whitney H. (G1) ahead of him.
“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 said. “I’ll look at the Stephen Foster. He likes this track, he runs good here. And then we’ll look at [the Whitney].”
By Unbridled’s Song, Bird Song is the only stakes winner produced thus far by Bird Town, a Cape Town half-sister to 2004 Belmont S. (G1) hero Birdstone.