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Songbird flies east for Del ‘Cap

By Bob Ehalt

As the countdown to Saratoga drops into single digits, the final weekend of its spring/summer meet will play out at Belmont Park.

Yet before the curtain goes down on Belmont Park on Sunday and glorious Saratoga opens on July 21, on Saturday at Delaware Park racing fans will get a chance to see the sport’s leading lady.

The mighty Songbird has flapped her wings and traveled east to Delaware, where she will take flight under jockey Mike Smith in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap.

The practically perfect 4-year-old filly will bring a record of 12 wins in 13 starts into the mile and a quarter test, with her lone loss coming in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff when she lost by an inch to Beholder.

A length winner of the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park in her first start since the Breeders’ Cup, Songbird will have to stretch out to 10 furlongs in the Del ‘Cap, but that’s hardly beyond her scope. She handled that distance before with aplomb, winning by seven lengths in last year’s Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga.

Traveling cross-country should also pose little problem for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s two-time Eclipse Award winner. Of the West Coast-based filly’s 12 wins, five of them were registered at tracks east of the Mississippi River.

Only five rivals turned out to face the 1-5 morning-line favorite, with the main threats figuring to be Weep No More (6-1) and Martini Glass (8-1).

Weep No More finished no better than fourth in her last five starts, but before that captured the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland last spring. Martini Glass is coming off a solid effort over the racetrack – an important factor on a quirky Delaware surface. The 4-year-old filly was second by a neck in the $100,000 Obeah Stakes.

Meanwhile, at Belmont, the meet will close with a pair of stakes on Saturday, the $150,000 Forbidden Apple and $100,000 Rockville Centre, and the $100,000 Lynbrook on Sunday.

After that, the bags will be packed, the horses loaded on to the trucks, and the scene will shift to the incomparable Saratoga, which opens Friday with the $150,000 Lake George and $150,000 Schuylerville ushering in the eagerly awaited 40-day meet in upstate New York.