Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer sent out multiple champion Songbird to breeze over Del Mar’s main track Sunday morning, and owner Fox Hill Farm announced following the move that the once-beaten filly is headed to the $700,000 Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 26.
Songbird took to the fast dirt around 5 a.m. (PT) Sunday morning with exercise rider Fred Rodriguez holding the reins. The Medaglia d’Oro four-year-old was caught in splits of :25.80, :37.80 and :49 by the Del Mar clockers and finished up her five-eighths move in 1:01, breezing.
“Fantastic, but when is she not,” said Dan Ward, chief assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “She goes a little faster the first part when (regular rider) Mike (Smith) works her, but I prefer a little slower and then a strong finish. Those numbers are just beautiful.”
“A very nice work and very inspiring to me,” Hollendorfer added.
Fox Hill Farm announced via Facebook that Songbird is targeting the 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign.
“We are definitely running,” owner Rick Porter said by phone. “I want to run at Saratoga. It’s my favorite track to run at and I think it’s the right race for her anyway: the timing is right, the purse is right, and she’s run well there.”
Songbird is no stranger to the Spa, recording a 5 1/4-length, gate-to-wire victory in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) prior to a seven-length romp in the Alabama Stakes (G1) last year as a sophomore. She would go on to score in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) and finish the year suffering her first career loss when, following an epic duel, she lost by a nose to multiple champion Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
Among those she’ll likely face in the Personal Ensign are Forever Unbridled and Carina Mia. Forever Unbridled enters the race off a season-debut win in the June 17 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) after closing out 2016 running 1 1/4 lengths behind Songbird when third in the Distaff. She also just missed when third by three parts of a length in last year’s Personal Ensign.
Grade 1 winner Carina Mia captured the Shine Again Stakes last out by a neck, but has been no match when coming up against Songbird in last year’s CCA Oaks and Cotillion or this season’s Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1).
“We’re going to hook Forever Unbridled, Carina Mia, and whoever else is coming, so it’s not going to be a pushover race,” Porter said. “But according to Mr. Hollendorfer, she couldn’t be doing any better. She worked in 1:01 and they gave her a ‘breezing,’ which is pretty hard to get at Del Mar. Jerry said she went around the track like she was just jogging around.
In addition to the Ogden Phipps, Songbird also recorded perhaps her toughest win to date, having to dig down to take the Delaware Handicap (G1) last out on July 15.
“I asked Jerry the other day to compare her to how she was a week or two before the Breeders’ Cup and he said, ‘I got to tell you, Rick, she is better than she’s ever been. These two races have just got her in the position where she couldn’t be more fit,'” Porter noted. “If it weren’t for that whisker, she’d be undefeated, but she’s still something special.”