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Reprinted from Bloodhorse

The year turned over and she hit a speed bump in training early, but Songbird is still Songbird.

During her 2017 debut June 10 at Belmont Park in the $750,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1), Fox Hill Farm’s 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was challenged in the turn by Paid Up Subscriber, who put a head in front of the two-time champion filly with a rail move.

If onlookers studied Mike Smith, however, they would not have been worried. The Hall of Fame jockey never panicked, kicked away from the challenger in the stretch with a few underhand taps of the whip on Songbird’s right shoulder, and cruised to a better-than-looked one-length win.

“Let’s call this a great race off the layoff,” said winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “I’m not sure she’s at the top of her game right now, but she did very well today. Mike gave her a great ride and he’s in the groove today. … I would say that Mike knew what he had under him.”

Songbird finished off the 1 1/16-miles around one turn in 1:42.24 after she sprang out of the gate and set fractions of :23.99, :47.27, and 1:11.25 through six furlongs. The Ogden Phipps was her eighth grade 1 win and 12th victory overall from 13 starts.

“She is so good out of the gate, and God willing she’ll continue to do so,” Smith said. “She jumped really, really well (out of the gate) and I stayed off the fence today, just because it’s her first race back. If someone wanted to get brave and move early at her, I’d rather move in (to) my inside, so that I could wait and keep my position. That part worked out and after that, I hand rode her home. She got a little tired, but she is supposed to (in her first race back).”

Paid Up Subscriber came in a clear second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Highway Star. The 5-year-old Candy Ride mare was carrying six pounds less than Songbird (the 123-pound highweight), but jockey Javier Castellano forced the issue in the turn as the top two separated themselves from the field.

As much as Paid Up Subscriber tried, though, she was simply no match late for the classiest of fillies.

“She ran great,” Castellano said. “We hooked up with the best filly in the country, and she still gave me a good run. She never gave up and just got (beat) a length. It was a great race. She fought back and ran a great race.”

Second choice Carina Mia finished fourth, followed by Verve’s Tale, Factory of Faith, and Bar of Gold, to complete the order of finish. The 1-5 favorite, Songbird returned $2.70, $2.30, and $2.10.

Bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli, out of the West Acre mare Ivanavinalot, Songbird now has more than $4.1 million in earnings. The Phipps was her first start since her lone defeat—by a nose—to four-time champion Beholder in the Nov. 4 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

“There might be some kind of chance that we might see her at Saratoga this summer, but don’t forget we have the Breeders’ Cup on the West Coast this year,” Hollendorfer said of his ultimate plan to run Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar. “That’s an important consideration. We talked a little bit about running her in the Delaware (Handicap, G1), but I’m not real sure about that. We’re going to talk some more about those kinds of plans.”