Songandaprayer Returns With Huntington Win

Songandaprayer, a $1 million purchase who broke his maiden at Monmouth in his only other start, enjoyed a successful stakes debut Sunday by winning the $84,800 Huntington Stakes on a sloppy track at Aqueduct. After winning his debut race in June, Songandaprayer had chips removed from both hind ankles.

"He had surgery, we gave him the time and he's been training super," said trainer John Dowd. "He's been rating in the mornings and finishing up his breezes in :11 1/5 for his last eighth. We'll see how he comes out of this and look for another spot. Part of the plan was to let everyone else knock themselves out going for the Breeders' Cup and we'd have a fresh horse."

Songandaprayer came from off the pace to win by neck in the race for 2-year-olds. Native Heir was second in the field of 10, with Voodoo another 2 3/4 lengths back. Voodoo and Solitary Vision battled through a fast half-mile but both tired in the late going, and Songandaprayer beat them to the wire. Cowdin (gr. III) winner Fistfite finished fourth, followed by The Goo, American Century, Solitary Vision, Friday's a Comin', Hunt Gold, and Sea of Green.

"We were sitting fourth early on and he just accelerated when I asked him," said winning jockey Aaron Gryder. He was coming off a long layoff and I wanted to wait as long as possible to get into him. He was very game."

Songandaprayer, carrying 116 pounds, covered the six furlongs in 1:10.59. He earned $50,880 for owners Leonard Green and Robert and Leslie Hurley. Songandaprayer (Unbridled's Song--Alizea, by Premiership) remained perfect on off tracks; his maiden win came in front running style on a track listed as good. Songandaprayer was bred in Kentucky by Donna M. Wormser.

"I was confident, but you go from one end to another being 1-5 in his first race and 10-1 in a stakes next time out," said Hurley, the former Duke University basketball star who has six horses in training with Dowd. "I didn't have any reservations about coming off the injury. He was training so well and John (Dowd) was giving me daily updates."

The winner returned $23.60, $10.60 and $8.40. Native Heir paid $6.20 and $4.70 and Voodoo was worth $6.50 to show. The winning exacta combination paid $137. (Chart, Equibase)