Songbird wins comeback; Baffert, Smith win big at Belmont
NEW YORK (AP) Songbird captured her comeback, winning the $750,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes for fillies and mares, while Mike Smith and trainer Bob Baffert also starred on the Belmont Stakes undercard Saturday.
Smith won five of the first seven stakes he rode in, teaming with Baffert for four of those victories.
''It's pretty big for us,'' Baffert said. ''They were the favorites, but the odds were against us. How can you win them all? Mike Smith was huge.''
Smith and Baffert, who are based in Southern California, combined to take the richest race of the undercard, the $1.2 million Metropolitan Handicap, with Mor Spirit ($7.10 to win).
They also won the $700,000 Acorn with Abel Tasman ($6.30), the $500,000 Woody Stephens with American Anthem ($5.90) and the $150,000 Easy Goer with West Coast ($5.70).
The last time Smith won five races at Belmont Park was on May 11, 1991.
''I was so happy we were coming here,'' the 51-year-old jockey said. ''I'm very blessed to ride for guys like Bob. He is so good and analyzing these horses, understanding what they're best at.''
For Songbird, the Phipps was her first start since her lone career defeat last November in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita.
That loss by a nose to Beholder snapped Songbird's 11-race winning streak.
Despite the layoff, the bettors backed the 4-year-old with gusto as the 1-5 favorite. The divisional champion at 2 and 3 appeared primed and eager in the post parade and showed no rust as she broke alertly from the gate to set the pace while racing well off the rail.
Paid Up Subscriber offered the lone serious challenge, rallying up the fence to engage Songbird around the turn and through the lane.
Smith took the upset bid in stride, confidently urging Songbird to a length victory.
''Let's call this a great race off the layoff,'' Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. ''I'm not sure she's at the top of her game right now, but she did very well. Mike gave her a great ride and he's in the groove today.''
Song ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.24 and paid $2.70, $2.30 and $2.10
Paid Up Subscriber returned $4.50 and $2.90. Highway Star paid $3.10 to show.
The victory earned Songbird guaranteed berth in the BC Distaff this fall at Del Mar.
In other stakes:
- Mor Spirit was the decisive winner of the Metropolitan, extending his winning streak to three.
Mor Spirit waged a fierce battle for the lead with Sharp Azteca before that rival gave way at the top of the stretch.
Mor Spirit romped to a 6 1/4-length win, his sixth in 13 career starts. The time was 1:33.71 for the mile.
- Ascend pulled a 27-1 upset in the $1 million Manhattan on the turf. The gray 5-year-old trained by Graham Motion and ridden by Jose Ortiz beat Time Test by 1 1/4 lengths.
He paid $57 for the win, his third straight victory.
He ran the 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.97.
- Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman beat Salty by a length in the Acorn for 3-year-old fillies. For Smith, it was his fifth Acorn win for five different trainers. Baffert has won the Acorn four times.
- American Anthem, once considered a Triple Crown contender, has won consecutive stakes since Baffert returned him to sprint races. He drew clear to a 3 1/4-length win in the Woody Stephens for 3-year-olds, running seven furlongs in 1:22.14.
- Antonoe ($8.20) rallied up the rail to edge Sassy Little Lila by three quarters of a length in the $700,000 Just a Game for fillies and mares on the turf.
Javier Castellano was aboard for trainer Chad Brown as the 4-year-old improved her record to 4-0-1 in eight starts.
- War Story rallied to win the $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational at the same 1 1/2-mile distance as the Belmont. Javier Castellano rode for trainer Jorge Navarro as the 5-year-old gelding got his fifth win in 21 starts, beating Sunny Ridge by 2 1/2 lengths and paying $10 to win.
- Disco Partner ($11.60) took the $300,000 Jaipur Invitational with a record-setting performance. The gray 5-year-old ran six furlongs on turf in 1:05.67, erasing the track mark of 1:06.76 set by Pure Sensation in last year's Jaipur in which Disco Partner was second by a neck. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode for trainer Christophe Clement as Disco Partner earned his seventh win in 17 career starts.