Fan Favorite Songbird to Return in Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day

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Champion Songbird after a victory in the 2016 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Fox Hill Farm’s champion Songbird will make her first start of 2017 in the Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park June 10, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Thursday. In her final start of 2016, she lost by a nose to Beholder in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November.

The Ogden Phipps, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Nov. 3 Distaff at Del Mar, is run at 1 1/16 miles on the Belmont main track.

Songbird, a 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, went 11-for-11 through her juvenile and sophomore seasons before suffering the first defeat of her career at the hands of four-time champion Beholder.

Originally Songbird was targeting the Beholder Mile, formerly the Vanity Mile, at her home base of Santa Anita Park June 3. Hollendorfer said the Ogden Phipps allowed him a little more time to get the champion filly ready.

“Rick [Porter, owner of Fox Hill Farm] wanted to run in the race that made the most sense, and once we got to talking about it [the Ogden Phipps] seemed like the race that made the most sense,” Hollendorfer said. “We think Stellar Wind and Vale Dori [both scheduled to run in the Beholder] are two of the best fillies in the country, and we think there are a lot of good fillies who are going to run in the Phipps, too, but the boss [Porter] wanted to run there."

While Songbird has won the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama Stakes [both Grade 1s] at Saratoga Race Course, she has not yet run at Belmont.

“You always have a concern about anything that’s new, so going to Belmont would be new,” Hollendorfer said. “I wouldn’t say that Belmont is totally similar to Saratoga, but it’s certainly more like it than the racetracks out here in California.”

Songbird worked three-quarters of a mile Thursday under her regular jockey, Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith. The pair covered the distance in 1:13 4/5, second fastest of six at the distance with fractional times of :24, :48 1/5, and 1:01 and a gallop out to seven furlongs in 1:27.

“She went very well and galloped out well, so we’re very pleased,” Hollendorfer said. “Mike Smith was up and he’s very happy with the way she’s coming along. She’s bigger than last year, she’s put on weight, [and] looks good. She’s been training the same. She doesn’t act any different that way. We’re looking to try to have a good campaign with her.”

Prior to Thursday’s work the filly notched bullet workouts on May 11 and May 18.

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