SAN DIEGO -- One of the potential stars of Del Mar's first Breeders' Cup won't make it to the starting gate.
Songbird, a two-time Eclipse Award-winning filly and a favorite for this year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, was retired Thursday due to medical issues in both her hind legs.
"We have a situation where it'd be dangerous for Songbird to continue training," owner Rick Porter said in a posting on his Fox Hill Farm Facebook page.
A 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, Songbird won her first 11 career races, including the Del Mar Debutante and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at 2, before suffering a heartbreaking but memorable loss to Beholder in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff. She was named champion filly of North America at 2 and 3 and is a virtual lock to be voted into the Racing Hall of Fame.
Songbird was given a lengthy break after the Breeders' Cup and returned in June and won the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont and the Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park. But last Saturday she was defeated by Forever Unbridled in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga. She retires with 13 wins and two seconds in 15 starts and earnings of $4,692,000. Jerry Hollendorfer was her trainer and she was ridden by Mike Smith.
More of the Facebook post from Porter:
"There is an ancient proverb that says all good things must come to an end. Today, Fox Hill Farm announces that something that was very good for us, and very good for racing, has come to an end -- the racing career of Songbird.
"Over the Winter, Songbird had bone bruising and a specific area was very slow to heal. She was finally cleared to return, but the three races from Songbird this year weren't what we expected from the bigger, stronger, and smarter Songbird. There were so many variables with her long layoff, shipping, tiring tracks, going 11/4 miles, and more, we were never sure which of the variables may explain what wasn't quite Songbird.
"After this past race, we thought something seemed off in her hind end, so we sent her to Rood & Riddle for an evaluation. Her lameness was readily apparent to Dr. Bramlage, and ultrasounds proved both hind suspensories were enlarged. Since suspensories are usually the result of something else amiss and he knew of her history, Dr. Bramlage shot a set of X-rays of the area of bone Songbird had issues with over the winter. A distinct line on the bone was present. We followed up with a bone scan, and then an MRI.
"Unfortunately, the results weren't what we wanted to see. We have a situation where it'd be dangerous for Songbird to continue training, and Dr. Bramlage isn't optimistic that the site will fully resolve even if given ample time.
"So for this reason, we are retiring our lovely Songbird. She was an absolute joy to race, and we expect that she'll be as wonderful a broodmare as she was a racehorse. She took us on an incredible and unforgettable journey."
The Breeders' Cup is scheduled for Nov. 3 and 4 at Del Mar. Porter will be honored Nov. 2 at the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters annual awards dinner with the Mr. Fitz Award for typifying the spirit of horse racing.
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