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Glorious Song -- 1980 U.S. Champion Older Female & Canadian Horse of the Year
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Glorious Song -- 1980 U.S. Champion Older Female & Canadian Horse of the Year

by Kellie Reilly

Last weekend, Santa Anita held two premier events for older fillies and mares, the Santa Maria H. (G1) and La Canada S. (G2), so we'll take the opportunity to recall a top-class mare who captured both of those prizes during her distinguished career. Like other magnificent racemares, Glorious Song routinely campaigned against males and held her own, most notably when forcing the sensational Spectacular Bid to dig deep to beat her, but she may be even better remembered for her stellar career as a broodmare.

Glorious Song was bred in Canada by the renowned E. P. Taylor, who had already earned lasting fame for breeding the all-conquering Northern Dancer. Glorious Song was sired by United Nations H. (G1) winner Halo from the *Herbager mare Ballade. This proved to be an explosive genetic mixture, as later meetings between Halo and Ballade would result in two significant full brothers to Glorious Song -- Devil's Bag, 1983 champion two-year-old colt, and Saint Ballado, winner of the 1992 Arlington Classic S. (G2) who became an outstanding sire, responsible for 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam as well as two-time champion Ashado.

Taylor's Windfields Farm consigned Glorious Song to the 1977 Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society yearling sale at Woodbine, where Frank Stronach bought her for $36,000. It was an inspired purchase, for she became Stronach's first exceptional horse.

Originally trained in her homeland by F.H. Loschke, the rangy bay filly first stepped into the limelight in the summer and autumn of her three-year-old year. After finishing a solid second to subsequent champion Kamar (Key to the Mint) in the Duchess S., Glorious Song garnered three in a row in a virtuoso display of versatility -- the Ontario Damsel S., Belle Mahone S. and Wonder Where S. -- at distances from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, on both dirt and turf. Her streak ended in the Nettie S., when she faded to fourth, but she rebounded to end her year on a winning note in the Maple Leaf S. against her elders.

Not content with racking up success in Canada, Glorious Song took her act to California as a four-year-old. In the care of new conditioner Gerald Belanger Jr., she lined up in the three-race La Canada series with Chris McCarron in the irons. Rating behind a wicked pace in the series-opening La Brea S., she closed to within a half-length of the brilliantly fast Terlingua (Secretariat), but Terlingua held her at bay while finishing the seven furlongs in a snappy 1:20 4/5. The second leg of the series, the 1 1/16-mile El Encino S. (G3), was a messy affair, with Glorious Song suffering interference and crossing the wire in fourth. She was promptly promoted to third, as the stewards disqualified Terlingua for the infraction.

Glorious Song would not endure another loss to her own sex that year. For starters, she left no doubt about her superiority in the La Canada. Again reserved off the torrid early tempo, the Stronach colorbearer unleashed a powerful charge to sweep into the lead and drove to an unambiguous 1 3/4-length victory. In stopping the clock in a sharp final time of 1:47 3/5, she comprehensively defeated El Encino winner It's in the Air (Mr. Prospector), who wound up third. At this point, prominent owner Nelson Bunker Hunt was impressed enough to buy a half-interest in Glorious Song.

After wrapping up her California campaign in dashing style with another swoop-to-conquest in the Santa Margarita H. (G1) against older mares, she was clearly the best in the West. Just as she had left Canada to hunt for glory in California, she now headed East to attain stardom on the New York stage. Lagging behind the early pace in Aqueduct's Top Flight H. (G1), Glorious Song surged to take command in the stretch en route to a 1 3/4-length score over Misty Gallore, another daughter of Halo who had until then been the divisional leader in New York.

Having defeated the top females on both coasts, the big bay ventured into male company for new challenges. In the grassy Laurance Armour H. at Arlington Park, she closed to grab second but could not overtake her compatriot Overskate, a two-time Canadian Horse of the Year. She then won three in a row, fighting valiantly to secure victory by a nose in the Michigan Mile and One-Eighth H. (G2) with Overskate more than five lengths adrift in fourth. Making a triumphant return to Canada, she claimed the Dominion Day H. (G3) as the 123-pound highweight, spotting males between five and 12 pounds, and the 1 1/4-mile Canadian Maturity S. on the lawn in 2:01 3/5, just one tick off the Woodbine course record.

In perhaps her best-ever performance, Glorious Song boldly confronted Spectacular Bid in the Amory L. Haskell H. (G1) at Monmouth, then an event for three-year-olds and up. Bid was lugging 132 pounds to her impost of 117, but the filly was actually the second highweight, giving up to seven pounds to the other males in the field. Bid and the filly brushed near the half-mile pole before she launched into contention four-wide on the turn, with Bid ranging up just to her outside. Glorious Song struck the front, but Bid was breathing down her neck. In the words of famed turf writer Joe Hirsch in the American Racing Manual, she "closed briskly and gave 'Bid' a real test" before the mighty gray prevailed. Bid edged away from her under two cracks of the whip, but the Daily Racing Form chart gives the filly her due, noting that she "responded willingly" to Bid's challenge and "held on stubbornly" to go down by 1 3/4 lengths. To put Glorious Song's achievement into perspective, only one other horse (Flying Paster) had come this close to Spectacular Bid during his magical 1980 season.

She ran once more that year in the Marlboro Cup H. (G1), becoming the only Canadian-bred ever invited to that prestigious event at Belmont Park. "Closing fastest of all," in Joe Hirsch's estimation, she came from far back to get second but was no threat to the 4 1/2-length winner, Winter's Tale. Toiling behind her in fifth was Temperence Hill, hero of that year's Belmont S. (G1), Travers S. (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1).

In recognition of her tremendous season, with six wins, four seconds and a third from 11 starts in top company, Glorious Song was voted champion older female. Her homeland accorded her even greater honors, naming her Canadian Horse of the Year in addition to her divisional championship.

Brought back for a five-year-old campaign with trainer John Cairns, she did not enjoy the same degree of success, with three wins from 12 starts, but she did manage to turn in noteworthy performances that enabled her to repeat as Canada's champion older female. Glorious Song captured the Santa Maria H. (G2) toting 127 pounds, gearing down by two lengths. In scoring her second Dominion Day H. by 5 1/2 lengths under co-topweight of 125 pounds, she established a new Woodbine track record of 1:48 for 1 1/8 miles, and her winner's check made her the richest Canadian-bred up to her time.

Her last victory came in Keeneland's Spinster S. (G1). Although the classy three-year-old Truly Bound stole a march on her, opening up a two-length lead into the stretch, Glorious Song overhauled her younger foe to get up by a neck, with the rest of the field well behind. Among those in the top pair's wake were multiple Grade 2 victress Sweetest Chant (Mr. Leader) and champion Heavenly Cause (*Grey Dawn II).

In her swan song, the Silver Belles H. at Hollywood Park, she could manage only fourth. The $7,500 she pocketed for that effort, however, made her a millionaire, the first Canadian-bred to achieve that distinction. At her retirement, her career scorecard stood at 34-17-9-1, with 13 of those stakes victories, and a bankroll of  $1,004,534. Although Glorious Song has not made it into the Hall of Fame at Saratoga, she was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1995.

As a broodmare, Glorious Song has excelled, and her offspring are likely to figure as major pedigree influences for generations to come. Her most accomplished son, Singspiel (Ire) (In the Wings [GB]), was named champion turf horse in 1996, making Glorious Song one of an elite group of champion females to have produced a champion. Singspiel scored Group/Grade 1 wins on three continents, including the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1), Japan Cup (Jpn-G1), Coronation Cup (Eng-G1) and Canadian International S. (Can-G1). He has since become a successful sire.

Glorious Song's flashy chestnut colt by Blushing Groom (Fr), Rahy, won the 1989 Bel Air H. (G2) at Hollywood and, as a juvenile in Europe, had placed in the Middle Park S. (G1). Rahy has likewise gone onto a successful stud career, siring among others, 1995 champion three-year-old filly Serena's Song, who emulated Glorious Song by mixing it up successfully with males. He is also the broodmare sire of hot young stallion Giant's Causeway.

Another son of Glorious Song, Rakeen (Northern Dancer), was a South African Group 2 victor who has become a good sire in that country. Glorious Song's female line also holds promise. One of her daughters, Morn of Song (Blushing Groom), has produced 2003 Prix Vermeille (Fr-G1) heroine Mezzo Soprano (Darshaan).

After a couple of changes in ownership, Glorious Song was ultimately bought by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. At his Dalham Hall Stud in England, she was put down in July of 2003 when surgery failed to ameliorate intestinal problems.

Although Glorious Song is no longer with us, her refrain will echo through the ages through her illustrious descendants. Indeed, it is likely that breeders will inbreed to her by crossing her sons Rahy and Singspiel, creating the potent Rasmussen Factor of inbreeding to a superior female. Similarly, crossing Glorious Song's descendants with those of her full brothers Saint Ballado or Devil's Bag figures to hold significant appeal.

Interestingly, several of Glorious Song's old racetrack rivals have also proven outstanding broodmares. Her Canadian conqueror, Kamar, was Broodmare of the Year in 1990, and she is the granddam of 2001 European and American champion Fantastic Light (by none other than Glorious Song's son Rahy). Among Glorious Song's California foes, Terlingua produced the exceedingly influential sire Storm Cat, and It's in the Air became the granddam of top turf horse Storming Home (GB) and French classic winner Musical Chimes. Jameela (Rambunctious), who finished in a dead-heat for second with Glorious Song in the 1981 Beldame S. (G1), produced champion and excellent sire Gulch. Glorious Song's beaten Spinster rival Sweetest Chant is the granddam of noted sire Distorted Humor, and from that same race, Heavenly Cause is the dam of Two Punch, who in turn sired champion sprinter Smoke Glacken.

At the time Glorious Song and her rivals were slugging it out, would observers have expected all of these fillies to become stellar producers remembered more for their offspring than their exploits on the track? As fascinating as it is to explore the genetic ties that bind champions past and present, we know that thread reaches not only backward through time, but also forward into the future, and it's a challenging enterprise to forecast the twists and turns in that thread. Only time will tell whether our current crop of distaffers can conceivably approach this gold standard of broodmare excellence.

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