• Porter recounts Songbird's journey ahead of G1 Alabama • Travers-nominated Destin to work on Friday
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Everyone is looking forward to watching Fox Hill Farm's Songbird in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes - no one more so than owner Rick Porter.
"I'm getting excited," said Porter by telephone from his home in Delaware. "I'll come up Saturday and go back the same day."
Porter bred and owned 2000 Alabama winner Jostle as well as 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, who was beaten a neck in the previous year's Alabama by the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Blind Luck, the top 3-year-old filly of 2010. He provided some background as to how Songbird wound up in Southern California with Hollendorfer:
"I was trying to split up the horses between Jerry and Larry Jones and this was the first crop of horses I sent Jerry," Porter explained. "I'd never even met him, but I had followed him, particularly when he was running Blind Luck against Havre de Grace. That's how I learned about him. We get along great and I'm really proud to have him as a trainer. I'm the happiest I've ever been with trainers. I've got Larry, Jerry and Dick Mandella, so I'm in good shape.
"As my babies in Ocala were developing, the initial reports were the half-sister to Mucho Macho Man [Southern Girl] that I bought was getting all the attention as the best horse," he continued. "And then Songbird started to surface, getting better and better, and in the meantime I had already committed the horses to Larry and Jerry. Right before they shipped out, Songbird had moved a couple steps ahead of Southern Girl. Either one would've done a great job, but I think her being out in California and not moving around as much, being at Del Mar and Santa Anita, it's a better program than being around here in the wintertime.
"I was out to see her when I was up for the sale last week, and she seems to have settled in very nicely in Saratoga."
Purchased for $775,000 as a yearling, Southern Girl won her career debut at Delaware Park last September, before running third in an allowance at Keeneland. She won a six-furlong allowance at Laurel Park in her first of the year July 24, improving to 2-for-3 for Larry Jones.
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Twin Creeks Racing and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partner's Destin has continued to train forwardly ahead of his anticipated bid in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 27, said trainer Todd Pletcher on Wednesday morning.
Runner-up of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, Destin finished third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy in his last start on July 30. The Giant's Causeway 3-year-old worked four furlongs in 48.87 seconds in his August 12 breeze on the main track. He is expected to turn in his final breeze for the race on Friday, Pletcher said, although the trainer added that he isn't sure if Destin will breeze on the main or Oklahoma training track.
"I haven't decided [which track yet], we're going to play it by ear depending on how the surfaces play out this week and the weather," Pletcher said.
Travers Day could be an exciting one for Pletcher stable, as Curalina targets the Grade 1, $750,000 Personal Ensign. The 4-year-old chestnut filly is coming off a win in the Grade 3 Shuvee on July 31 at the Spa. Mei Ling, the fourth-place finisher in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap on July 16, is also a possibility for the Personal Ensign.
Anchor Down is being pointed towards the Grade 1, $700,000 Priority One Jets Forego. The 5-year-old son of Tapit followed a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap with a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 30.
Pletcher also said Stopchargingmaria is a possibility for the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina.
Sweet Loretta will work either Thursday or Friday as she prepares for the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway on September 3. The 2-year-old Tapit filly is 2-for-2 in her career, including a win in her graded stakes debut with a 4 ¼-length score in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on July 22.
Comfort remains a possibility for the Grade 1, $600,00 Woodward on September 3, but Pletcher said he remains open to waiting until racing resumes at Belmont Park to start the Indian Charlie 3-year-old bay colt. Comfort finished second to Frosted by two lengths in his Grade 1 debut in the Whitney on August 6.
"We're still thinking about it," Pletcher said. "We're happy with the way he came out of the Whitney. We're still weighing our options between here and waiting on Belmont. He's 2-for-2 at Belmont so he seems to like the track there, so that's something we're considering as well. We'll see how he does and get a line on how the Woodward is going to come together."
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Jeff Drown's Summer Revolution, preparing for a start in either the Grade 1 Travers or the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King's Bishop a week from Saturday, worked four furlongs in 50.40 seconds on the main track Thursday morning beneath trainer/exercise rider Rudy Rodriguez.
"I breezed him a little bit today, he breezed a good half-mile, nice and easy," said Rodriguez. "Now, I'm just waiting to hear from the owner to see what his plans are and we'll take it from there."
Asked if there was a lean either way, Rodriguez replied, "Probably the King's Bishop - I think it's a tough race, but we'll see. We'll probably breeze him one more time and hopefully that will be good enough."
Summer Revolution, a chestnut colt by 2009 Travers winner Summer Bird, burst onto the scene with a debut maiden victory by better than seven lengths at Belmont Park July 4. He subsequently won an allowance at Saratoga by three lengths Aug. 6, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 - the highest figure recorded by a 3-year-old this season. Both of his races were at the King's Bishop distance of seven furlongs. * * *
Spring to the Sky, winner of the 2014 edition of the Troy, returns for another shot in the $100,000 race as he faces a field of nine on the turf in Saturday's 5 ½-furlong race.
The 7-year-old gelded son of Langfuhr, fifth to Shore Runner in last year's Troy, hasn't been off the board in four starts this year, including an optional claiming victory in July at Belmont Park, runner-up finishes in the Turf Sprint at Pimlico Race Course and the Pennsylvania Governors' Cup at Penn National, and most recently, a fourth in the Lucky Coin on July 25.
Mike Luzzi will ride the Bruce Brown trainee from the rail.
Back from the Lucky Coin is winner Long On Value for the Wachtel Stable and George Kerr. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 5-year-old son of Value Plan is 1-2-0 from four starts this year, having finished second in an optional claimer and the Grade 3 Canadian Turf, a race which he won in 2015.
Joel Rosario has the mount aboard Long On Value. The pair leaves from post position 4.
Mott also will saddle the lightly raced Songsational, stepping into stakes company for the first time in his short career. The 5-year-old Unbridled's Song horse won two of three races last year at Tampa Bay Downs for Tom Proctor, and this year was fifth and third in a pair of optional claimers before scoring his first win when switched to the turf by Mott.
He will be ridden by Jose Lezcano from post position 6.
Jason Servis will send out Rainbow Heir, a 7 ½-length winner of the Wolf Hill in July at Monmouth Park.
Expected to attract support is the well-traveled Green Mask, most recently second in the Grade 2 Highlander in July at Woodbine. Third in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Green Mask has the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez and drew post position 5.
Rounding out the field are High Noon Rider, Calgary Cat, Rainbow Heir, Disco Partner, and Asset Inflation. Weekend Hideaway and Holy Boss were entered Main Track Only.