Champion Songbird had to work for the win in Saturday’s $750,000 Delaware Handicap (G1) under jockey Mike Smith, digging deep in the lane to repel a sustained challenge from Martini Glass.
The prohibitive 1-20 favorite headed for the front when the gates opened on the 1 1/4-mile affair, easing over to the inside from her far outside post. Smith sitting chilly while Songbird loped along under her own power through :24.26, :48.36 and 1:12.63 fractions.
Martini Glass finished a neck second in the local prep for this contest, the June 10 Obeah Stakes, and tracked in second throughout on Saturday. She closed ground on Songbird rounding the turn, forcing Smith to get after his mount.
Martini Glass kept on motoring just behind and to the outside. She gave it her best shot but came up a length short as Songbird proved too tough, stopping the clock in 2:03.96 over Delaware Park’s fast main track.
“We were a little nervous at the eighth-pole, but we won and that is all that matters,” winning owner Rick Porter said.
“I feel great, we pulled it off,” Smith remarked. “There is always a little pressure and if there is not, there is something wrong. I take this very seriously. These races are not easy. These are the kind of races you get beat in. If she did not run there would have been a whole lot of doubt, but she responded.”
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer simply said, “We are happy that we won and we are happy we could win this race for Rick Porter.”
Line of Best Fit followed another two lengths behind in third and was easily best of the rest, 10 1/2 lengths up on Miss Mo Kelly. Weep No More trailed throughout and finished last.
Songbird paid $2.10 for this win, her ninth at the Grade 1 level. The Delaware ‘Cap joins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Chandelier Stakes (G1) and Del Mar Debutante (G1) from her juvenile season, Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), Alabama Stakes (G1) and Cotillion Stakes (G1) from her sophomore campaign, and the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1), which kicked off her four-year-old campaign last out on June 10.
The dark bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has suffered only one loss in her career, just missing by a nose to fellow multiple Eclipse Award winner Beholder in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). The Fox Hill Farms colorbearer has banked $4.562 million to go along with her 14-13-1-0 scorecard.
“I’m not sure where she will go next,” Hollendorfer said. “There are races all over the country for this filly. Saratoga is definitely a target. We will see how she comes out of this race. It is a tough race going a mile and quarter.”
Bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli, Songbird is out of the Grade 2-winning West Acre mare Ivanavinalot, making her a half-sister to the dam of Grade 3 victor Mico Margarita. This is the same female family as Hall of Famer Gallant Bloom.
One race before the Del ‘Cap, trainer Christophe Clement saddled Frostmourne to a romping six-length victory in the $200,125 Kent Stakes (G3) under jockey Joel Rosario.
The duo tracked in second as The Tortoise set the pace through splits of :24.90, :48.43 and 1:12.86. Frostmourne took over at the top of the stretch and pulled away to finish 1 1/8 miles over the good turf in 1:49.95.
“He settled down nicely,” Rosario said. “The horse pulled away a little bit, but I took my time and I got into his stride. He relaxed and when I asked he responded.”
Master Plan followed in second while completing the order of finish were Adonis Creed, Lunaire, Zinger and The Tortoise.
Frostmourne entered the Kent off a 1 1/4-length score in the Penn Mile (G2) on June 3, and opened 2017 with a close half-length second in the April 22 Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct.
The lightly raced son of Speightstown competed three times as a juvenile in 2016, breaking his maiden at Saratoga last September before moving to Belmont Park to be fourth in the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) and captured the Awad Stakes, both in October.
The Green Lantern Stables Kentucky-homebred improved his career line to 6-4-1-0 and has now earned $537,800.
Out of the Theatrical mare Leaning Tower, Frostmourne is a half-brother to Grade 1 hero Karelian, Grade 2-placed Colgan’s Chip and stakes-placed Mint Chip. Leaning Tower is herself a half-sister to Canadian champion Basqueian.