November 30, 2023

Songbird controlling speed in five-horse Personal Ensign

Songbird winning the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 10, 2017 (Melanie Martines photo)

With an overwhelming tactical advantage on paper, Songbird looks more than capable of leading all the way in Saturday’s $700,000 Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga. She may not face any pace pressure in the “Win & You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Her main rival, Forever Unbridled, lacks early speed. And so do the other three entrants. Songbird figures to be controlling the action from the start with regular rider Mike Smith.

The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro dominated last year’s CCA Oaks (G1) and Alabama (G1) at Saratoga on the front end and the classy 4-year-old will be seeking her 13th overall stakes tally for owner Fox Hill Farm and Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Since sustaining her lone career defeat to the mighty Beholder in the 2016 Distaff, coming out on the wrong end of the bob in a gallant nose second, Songbird has opened this season with a pair of victories in the Ogden Phipps (G1) and Delaware H. (G1).

She has faced some criticism this year for failing to display the same brilliance, recording a workmanlike one-length triumph most recently against undistinguished rivals at Delaware Park, but the dark bay is winning. And Songbird remains eligible to keep moving forward in the third start off the layoff as Hollendorfer continues to prepare his star pupil for the fall.

It’s easy to envision Songbird proving impossible to catch from post 2 Saturday.

Forever Unbridled just missed when finishing third by less than a length in last year’s Personal Ensign and followed with a convincing win in the Beldame (G1). A rallying third in the Distaff, winding up 1 ¼ lengths behind the top pair, the Dallas Stewart trainee came back to mown down opponents in her 2017 debut last time, taking the June 17 Fleur De Lis (G2) at Churchill Downs with little urging.

Her BRIS Late Pace Ratings are superb (112-115-106-102 last four starts) and Forever Unbridled figures to be making up ground in the stretch with jockey Joel Rosario. But the expected lack of pace pressure makes it a very demanding task for the confirmed closer.

Going for Broke is a promising sort for Chad Brown. A non-threatening second when making her first stakes attempt in the 2016 Alabama, she concluded her sophomore campaign with a third in the Comely (G3) and posted a rallying second in the 7-furlong Shine Again when returning from an eight-month layoff earlier in the meet. Going for Broke, who is still relatively lightly-raced, has the potential to develop into a quality stakes performer, but she’s facing an extreme class check in this spot against the likes of Songbird and Forever Unbridled.

Eskenformoney exits a pair of stakes placings at Monmouth and has dropped all five starts this year for Todd Pletcher. Flora Dora probably needs an easier spot to be competitive.