By Christie DeBernardis
Dual Eclipse winner and “TDN Rising Star” Songbird (Medaglia d'Oro–Ivanavinalot, by West Acre) has been retired from racing and will be offered at the upcoming Fasig-Tipton November sale, owner Rick Porter announced on the Fox Hill Farm Facebook page Thursday morning. Porter also posted the full vet report from Rood and Riddle, which included x-rays, ultra sound photos and a detailed diagnosis and recommendation from Dr. Larry Bramlage (click here to view).
Porter released the following statement explaining the reason for the 4-year-old filly's retirement, “There is an ancient proverb that says all good things must come to an end. Today, Fox Hill Farm announces that something that was very good for us, and very good for racing, has come to an end–the racing career of Songbird.
Over the winter, Songbird had bone bruising and a specific area was very slow to heal. She was finally cleared to return, but the three races from Songbird this year weren't what we expected from the bigger, stronger, and smarter Songbird. There were so many variables with her long layoff, shipping, tiring tracks, going 1 1/4 miles, and more, we were never sure which of the variables may explain what wasn't quite Songbird.
After this past race, we thought something seemed off in her hind end, so we sent her to Rood & Riddle for an evaluation. Her lameness was readily apparent to Dr. Bramlage, and ultrasounds proved both hind suspensories were enlarged. Since suspensories are usually the result of something else amiss and he knew of her history, Dr. Bramlage shot a set of x-rays of the area of bone Songbird had issues with over the winter. A distinct line on the bone was present. We followed up with a bone scan, and then an MRI.
Unfortunately, the results weren't what we wanted to see. We have a situation where it'd be dangerous for Songbird to continue training, and Dr. Bramlage isn't optimistic that the site will fully resolve even if given ample time.
So for this reason, we are retiring our lovely Songbird. She was an absolute joy to race, and we expect that she'll be as wonderful a broodmare as she was a racehorse. She took us on an incredible and unforgettable journey. While we're sad that we must retire her, we absolutely cannot risk having another Eight Belles kind of devastation and are ultimately happy that she is retiring in good health. May she soar to new heights in her future journey.
We'd like to publicly thank the incomparable Dr. Larry Bramlage, Dr. Katie Garrett, and the rest of the staff at Rood & Riddle.”
Tabbed a “TDN Rising Star” after her sparkling debut victory at Del Mar in July of 2015, Songbird followed suit with ultra impressive victories in that term's GI Del Mar Debutante, GI Chandelier S. and GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She won those four races by a combined 22 lengths and earned her first Eclipse award as top 2-year-old filly for her efforts.
Songbird was just as sensational at age three, kicking off her 2016 campaign with dominant victories in the GII Las Virgenes S., GIII Santa Ysabel S. and GI Santa Anita Oaks. She was the early favorite for the GI Kentucky Oaks, but was ruled out of the race after spiking a fever two weeks prior that caused her to miss training.
The bay returned better than ever, crushing a field of overmatched foes in last term's GII Summertime Oaks. She took her show on the road to Saratoga, where she proved equally dominant, besting GISW Carina Mia (Malibu Moon) by 5 1/4 lengths in the GI CCA Oaks before romping by seven lengths in the GI Alabama S.
Besting Carina Mia and Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia (Street Boss) with another decisive score in the GI Cotillion S., Songbird suffered her first defeat at the hooves of four-time champion and future Hall of Famer Beholder (Henny Hughes) in the GI Breeders' Cup Distaff, coming up a nose short after a gritty stretch battle. The Fox Hill runner lost nothing in defeat to her older rival and was granted her second Eclipse as the country's best 3-year-old filly.
Returning to winning ways in 2017, Songbird posted a one-length victory in Belmont's GI Ogden Phipps S. June 10 and wired the field to win the GI Delaware H. July 15 by a similar margin at her owner's hometrack. Making her final start at Saratoga this past Saturday in the GI Personal Ensign S., the $400,000 FTSAUG buy was run down late by MGISW Forever Unbridled (Unbridled's Song) to be second by a neck, after which Porter decided to send her to Rood and Riddle for a full evaluation.
“Songbird was probably the best horse I've ever had in many ways and I've had some good ones,” Porter told the TDN Thursday afternoon. “She was just so popular and exciting. It's hard to believe that she is retired. I've been talking to Dr. Larry Bramlage for three days about this. I'm just glad that I decided to pull the plug and get her down there and get her examined.”
Porter, who underwent a long battle with lymphoma during Songbird's campaign, but recently announced he is in remission, continued, “They mean a lot to you when you have them so it's hard to compare. If you had them all at once maybe you could compare them. I can't think of any horse that has given me more excitement, though I've had excitement from a lot of horses. She was something awful special. She obviously meant a lot to me and my family and we enjoyed racing her. She kept my mind off some things when I was going through my health issues. As a racehorse, she couldn't have meant more to me than anything.”
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Mike Smith for the entirety of her stellar career, Songbird won 13 of 15 races, with nine of those wins being Grade Is, and retires with earnings of $4,692,000.
“It is hard to see her go,” Hollendorfer told the TDN. “I've been blessed and grateful to train a horse like Songbird. No one in our barn or that has ever been around her will ever forget her. We wish her the best in her new future.”
Smith echoed similar sentiments, saying, “It is a bittersweet sad. Certainly, I am going to miss seeing her everyday and miss getting the opportunity to ride her in all these great races. I am happy she is retiring to be a momma. All is good. I just want to thank her and all the connections that were involved. I am very blessed to be the guy who got to ride her. I am very proud to put her on my resume of horses that I've been so blessed to ride. She was a champion over and over again.”
Bred by John Antonelli, Songbird is out of Grade II winner Ivanavinalot, a granddaughter of Forty Niner, who was privately purchased by Coolmore in 2015. In addition to Songbird, the Medagalia d'Oro/Forty Niner cross has produced the likes of Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra, MGISW New Money Honey and recent GI Alabama S. heroine Elate.
Ivanavinalot is also responsible for the juvenile filly Song of Mine (Ghostzapper), who summoned $800,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale; the yearling filly Sophisticate (Tapizar); and a weanling filly by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. The 17-year-old mare was bred back to Pioneerof the Nile.
Songbird will go to Taylor Made until the Fasig-Tipton November sale to be held in Lexington Nov. 6. Porter has enjoyed many good results at that auction, selling MGISW Round Pound (Awesome Again) to Darley for $5.75 million in 2007; Horse of the Year Havre de Grace (Saint Liam) to Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm for a record $10 million in 2012; and Grade I winner Joyful Victory (Tapit) to Aaron and Marie Jones for $2 million in 2013.