Bird Song Skips to Alysheba Victory
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Marylou Whitney, John Hendrickson, Ian Wilkes, and Tracy Wilkes celebrate Bird Song's win

Marylou Whitney Stables' homebred Bird Song is a fan of the Churchill Downs main track, where he broke his maiden and won an allowance last year.

The Ian Wilkes trainee has also traded wins with on-the-board efforts in graded stakes company his past four starts, and was due coming off a third in the April 15 Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.

Start to finish, Bird Song led the field in the $400,000 Alysheba Stakes presented by Big Fish Casino (G2) May 5 at Churchill, where he galloped under the line to collect his first grade 2 and second graded stakes score. Watch Video

"He had shown speed before," said jockey Julien Leparoux. "I just wanted to break good and get a good position. I was expecting three or four other horses to go with me, but I got myself in a good spot on the lead. I was pretty much by myself. ... He kept going until the end."

Leparoux secured the advantage after breaking well from post 1 in a field of 10 older horses, and kept Bird Song in a ground-saving rail trip for all of the 1 1/16-mile race. The 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song clicked off fractions of :23.23, :46.78, 1:11.11, and 1:37.30. He was never really challenged, although runner-up Honorable Duty made an effort to close for the length of the stretch. But that rival could not get to the winner, who finished 1 1/2 lengths in front in a final time of 1:44.34 on a sloppy, sealed track.

"The horse has got a world of talent," Wilkes said. "He has a high cruising speed and last time the track just played against him, but they have to be able to overcome that. Today the speed’s been pretty generous and that helped him a little bit.

"I thought there was a ton of speed (in the race). I was really concerned. I told Julien, 'You’ve got to ride your race. There’s a ton of speed in here and I don't know what’s going to happen. You’ve just got to ride.'"

Bird Song returned $15.20, $7, and $5 at odds of 6-1, while Honorable Duty brought $4.60 and $3.60. International Star was worth $7.40 to show for his third-place finish. Favored American Freedom finished another 1 1/4 lengths back in forth under Rafael Bejarano.

"He didn't like this track," Bejarano said. "We were afraid of that. He didn't run well here last year (in the grade 3 Pat Day Mile). He just didn't fire late today."

The order of finish was completed  by Breaking Lucky, December Seven, Noble Bird, Behesht, El Huerfano, and Fish Trappe Road. Flashy Jewel was scratched.

Bred in Kentucky out of the Cape Town mare Bird Town, the Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly of 2003, Bird Song improved his record to 5-2-1 from 11 starts for earnings of $484,207.

"I don’t think he’ll be a mile-and-a-quarter horse, but I think we can get a good mile-and-an-eighth," Wilkes said. "I'll look at the Stephen Foster (grade 1, June 17 at Churchill Downs). The grade 1 would be important. He likes this track. He runs good here. And then we'll look at the next one (the grade 1 Whitney Handicap, named for the family of Bird Song’s owner and breeder)."

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