NEW YORK — Songbird makes her season debut Saturday in the $750,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes for fillies and mares, the glamour race on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
It’s Songbird’s first start since her first career defeat last November in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita. It took a determined effort by Beholder to beat Songbird by a nose. The loss snapped an 11-race winning streak that earned her Eclipse Awards at age 2 and 3.
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer considered an earlier start to her season, but decided to take a more conservative approach and give her additional time.
“She’s been brought along slowly but surely,” Hollendorfer said. “She’s bigger and stronger, and I think she’s a horse that can make the transition from 3 to 4. We’ll find out soon enough on Saturday.”
Songbird is heavily favored at 1-2 in her comeback against six rivals in 1 1-16 mile race. As usual, Hall of Famer Mike Smith will ride.
It’s her first race at Belmont. Songbird won twice in New York last summer, taking the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama at Saratoga.
Trainer Bob Baffert doesn’t have a horse in the Belmont, but he will send out Mor Spirit, the 5-2 morning line favorite, in the $1.2 million Metropolitan Handicap, the richest of the undercard stakes.
The 1-mile race attracted a wide-open field of 12.
Chad Brown will try to extend his recent dominance of the $1 million Manhattan, the richest grass race on the card.
The trainer has captured the last three renewals, and four of the last five. He holds another strong hand this time with three of the nine entrants: Beach Patrol, Time Test and Wake Forest.
The main competition could be Divisidero, a two-time winner of the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.