It's a Bird won a stirring stretch battle by a head over Jonesboro in the $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO), the headline event on a stakes-packed Memorial Day program at the Grand Prairie, Texas, track May 25.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, It's a Bird overcame his rival in the final couple of strides while under a strong urging. The 6-year-old son of Birdonthewire is one of the top-ranked handicap horses in the nation this year and was sent off as the prohibitive favorite. He went over the $1 million mark in 2009 earnings for owner Edmund Gann and trainer Marty Wolfson.
The 7-year-old Jonesboro, a millionaire as well for owner Michael Langford and trainer Randy Morse, nearly pulled off a 9-1 upset under Cliff Berry after gaining the lead from pacesetter King Dan while racing between horses in upper stretch. It's a Bird, prominent throughout on the outside, engaged Jonesboro to get the advantage briefly, but Jonesboro fought back and the two battled valiantly in the final furlong. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile distance was a sharp 1:41.83 on a fast main track.
New Mexico invader Song of Navarone appeared as a late threat under Chris Landeros, but settled for third, a half-length behind.
“He broke very good,” said Leparoux. “The outside horse out broke us, but after that we got a nice position on the outside, and that was perfect. We passed him (Jonesboro) before the quarter-pole, and he came back on us and passed us, but we fought back and came back on him. So that was great.”
It's a Bird was made the 1-2 favorite off his six-length triumph last time out in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) April 4. The dark bay won the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic earlier in the year. Leparoux has been aboard for all three of his wins. He won for the 11th time in 30 lifetime starts and pushed his earnings to $1,412,885 with the Lone Star winning purse of $240,000.
“Julian has a lot to do with it (his success),” Wolfson said. “We talked about it down at Gulfstream Park. He just gets along great with the horse. I thought he’d be closer up early on, but I don’t worry when Julian is on him. The races he’s won with Julian have been very easy. Today really tested him and he impressed me with what he did.”
Bred in Florida by White Cross Farm, It's a Bird is out of Faithful City, by Hooched.
It's a Bird carried top weight of 121 pounds and paid $3, $2.60 and $2.10. Jonesboro, overlooked in spite of his win in the Texas Mile (gr. III) April 25, returned $5.20 and $3. Song of Navarone, who had a four-race winning streak in New Mexico stakes for trainer Henry Dominguez, was $3.40 to show.
King Dan set reasonable fractions of :23.25, :47.17, and 1:11.21 and held on for fourth. He was followed by Encaustic, Magnum, Z Fortune, Stungbythestorm, and Upstream.