With his victory over older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), Summer Bird became the first horse since Easy Goer in 1989 to sweep the Big Apple’s three most prestigious distance races—the Belmont Stakes, Travers, and Gold Cup, all grade I—in one year. Those three wins helped the son of Birdstone earn the Eclipse Award as top 3-year-old male.
Unraced as a 2-year-old, Summer Bird, who had originally been in the Santa Anita barn of John Sadler, was turned over to first-year trainer Tim Ice at Louisiana Downs Jan. 28.
“The whole journey was an experience of a lifetime,” Ice said from Oaklawn Park, where Summer Bird is recovering from a slight fracture suffered while training for the Japan Cup (Jpn-I). “It’s something I’ll never forget. I thought he was going to be a nice horse, but I obviously didn’t know he was going to become a grade I winner, especially a three-time grade I winner in New York.
|2009 Eclipse Awards|
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“Every day you could see him move forward,” said Ice, who trained Summer Bird for breeders/owners Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman. “After he finished third in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), we took a shot in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and after the way he ran there, we had to take a shot in the Belmont. After watching him train up to that race, it wasn’t a surprise that he won. But I believe his best performance was the Gold Cup. He and Quality Road tested each other down the stretch and he showed his heart and determination. It was just a phenomenal year.”
Ice said Summer Bird’s injury has been healing beautifully and he’s up to 20 minutes a day walking the shed.
“Hopefully, we’ll be back on that journey again real soon,” Ice said.
First-place vote totals: Summer Bird, 225; Mine That Bird, 4; Blame, 1; I Want Revenge, 1.