Songbird towers over Delaware Handicap competition

July 15, 2017 02:12pm
Songbird Cotillion 615 X 400 Averie
Photo: Averie Levanti

Someone is going to earn good money for running second to Songbird in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap. Eighty years in, the 2017 edition of the $750,000 classic at Delaware Park did not draw much in the form of competition for the future Hall of Fame filly. The two-time champion looms a prohibitive favorite against five others in the mile-and-a-quarter test, Saturday at Delaware Park

Owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm, the sensational daughter of Medaglia d'Oro has been about as close to perfection as a racehorse can come without an unbeaten record. The winner of 12 races, 11 of which were graded stakes, has only one defeat on her record, falling an eyelash short to Beholder in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Porter has felt the sting of such heartbreaking defeats before, as the Delaware native watched his champion filly Havre de Grace go down in an epic battle to Blind Luck in the 2011 edition of the Del Cap. The passionate horse owner has no mare like Blind Luck to worry about this time around.

In her only start so far this season, Songbird scored a facile one-length victory in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park over Paid Up Subscriber. That race, on June 10, was at 8 1/2 furlongs, and marked her first outing in more than seven months. On Saturday, she will stretch her vast talents over the classic distance of ten furlongs.

In her only previous try at the distance, the Jerry Hollendorfer trained miss toyed with her competition in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, last summer at Saratoga.

In a slightly ironic twist, it was Hollendorfer who trained Blind Luck to edge Porter's future Horse of the Year in that classic edition of the Delaware Handicap six years ago. In his typical understated fashion, the veteran trainer expressed confidence in Songbird's ability to succeed in what will be her first career go at Delaware Park.

“I have run at Delaware before in a few races and I have been real fortunate in that most of my horses have gotten over the racetrack,” remarked Hollendorfer.  “Songbird is training really well right now and we are hopeful she can come in there and have a good start.”

While Songbird, and regular rider, Mike Smith, seem a mortal lock to add the lion's share of the purse to her already impressive career total of $4,112,000, there will be five others to enter the starting gate, hoping to pull off a monumental upset -- or at least collect that solid second-place check.

Chief among her competition is the Grade 1 winner, Weep No More. You'll remember the pretty daughter of Mineshaft as the filly who came from well back to surprise in Keeneland's Ashland Stakes in the spring of 2016. Unfortunately for her chances against Songbird, she has yet to duplicate that effort while losing her last five. Still, she has back class and enters the Del Cap still relatively lightly raced. Her crafty conditioner believes she deserves a shot.

“She is doing really well,” said her trainer Rusty Arnold. “We were hoping that her last race would have been a little bit better, but it was only her second race of the year and she had a few issues down the lane. We really like the mile and a quarter for her. We like everything about the race, except that Songbird is in the race.” 

Another filly who would rate a real shot without the presence of Songbird, is 

Martini Glass. The local filly comes in off a good second in the Obeah Stakes, and sports a lifetime record of 7-for-14. She also has never faced anything like what she will see on Saturday, though.  

The Delaware Handicap field will be rounded out by Line of Best Fit, Miss Mo Kelly, and Hone In. Good luck to them all.


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Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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