Saratoga Start Unlikely For Songbird; Porter Says No Plans To Retire Two-Time Champ At Year’s End

Owner Rick Porter and Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer have long indicated that a race at Saratoga Race Course was among the stops they intended to make as part of two-time champion Songbird’s 4-year-old campaign.

After an upset scare at hot and humid Delaware Park in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap on July 15, where the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro responded to strenuous urging from jockey Mike Smith and had to dig deep to fend off longshot Martini Glass by one length, those plans appear to be changing.

“We may skip another long-distance trip,” Porter said during a phone interview on Thursday. “It’s not out of the question, but right now I think we’re leaning toward not going to Saratoga.”

Porter said his thinking has shifted more toward the $300,000 Zenyatta, to be run at 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 30 at Santa Anita, rather than the $700,000 Personal Ensign, at 1 1/8 miles, at Saratoga on Aug. 26. Both are Grade 1 events.

“Mike Smith really thought there would be no problem waiting for the Zenyatta,” Porter said. “This race really tightened her up.”

Porter also said he briefly considered having Songbird, a winner of 13 of 14 career starts, oppose males in the G1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga since plans for the brilliant Arrogate call for him to remain on the West Coast.

“It just didn’t make sense,” Porter said of the Woodward. “There are a lot of good older horses out there other than Arrogate.”

According to Porter, much will depend on how Songbird recovers from the Delaware Handicap, only her second start this season following a victory in the G1 Ogden Phipps on June 10 at Belmont Park, and what she shows when she returns to the track. She was shipped from Delaware to Del Mar, site of the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 3 and 4, on Tuesday.

Hollendorfer said he is staying open minded about what the next move should be.

“I don’t have any opinion one way or another. We’re very flexible in our racing plans for all of our horses,” Hollendorfer said. “We did get a race out of the way that Mr. Porter really wanted to run in and that was the Delaware Handicap and he was a winner there.

“We’ve accomplished a good deal of what we wanted to accomplish this year already. We’re looking forward to trying to do even more for Songbird and for him.”

A minor accident in her stall delayed the start of the star filly’s campaign this year. Porter emphasized that he is being guided by whatever he thinks will be in her long-term interests.

“We want to be able to run next year,” he said. “I’m not interested in selling her as a broodmare this year. We’ll see how she does in these next couple of races, but as long as she shows she can compete at the Grade 1 level and win, I wouldn’t retire her. You don’t get horses like this very often. Why not keep going if she can get the job done?”

Porter noted that Beholder was 6 when she handed Songbird her only defeat, a narrow decision in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff last year at Santa Anita.

“I’d like to follow in the steps of Beholder,” he said.

The post Saratoga Start Unlikely For Songbird; Porter Says No Plans To Retire Two-Time Champ At Year’s End appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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