07/05/2013 3:10PM

Sam-Son has strong hand in Queen’s Plate

Michael Burns
Up With the Birds (left), a grandson of the late Sam-Son Farms broodmare Wilderness Song, likely will be favored in the Queen's Plate on Sunday.

Although she won 10 stakes races and earned a championship, Wilderness Song never quite gained the fame she deserved, racing for much of her career in the shadow of her stablemate, 1991 Canadian Triple Crown winner Dance Smartly. Wilderness Song was again relegated to the background when joining Dance Smartly in the broodmare band at their birthplace, Sam-Son Farms in Milton, Ontario, as Dance Smartly produced two classic winners.

Still, when the field goes to the post for the Queen’s Plate on Sunday at Woodbine, it will be Wilderness Song who could be responsible for writing the next chapter in the farm’s history.

Wilderness Song, who died in 2011 at age 23, is the second dam of likely Queen’s Plate favorite Up With the Birds, who will seek to give Sam-Son its sixth victory in the race. The Stormy Atlantic colt, who comes into the race off a dominant victory in the Marine Stakes at Woodbine, is the first foal out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Song of the Lark.

“[Wilderness Song] was a fantastic racemare but never really produced a significant runner for us,” Sam-Son broodmare manager Dave Whitford said. “But one of her daughters, her first foal is Up With the Birds. We’re hoping that family will stay strong and get rejuvenated.”

Wilderness Song, a daughter of Wild Again, showed early promise as a juvenile, winning the Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes and the Princess Elizabeth Stakes before faltering to finish eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Dance Smartly was third in that event, locking up the divisional Sovereign Award. The following spring, Wilderness Song won the Fury Stakes before finishing second to Dance Smartly in the Canadian Oaks. The stablemates met again in the Queen’s Plate, where Dance Smartly romped by eight lengths, with Wilderness Song a clear second.

After finishing fifth in the Prince of Wales Stakes as Dance Smartly continued her march toward the Canadian Triple Crown, Wilderness Song spent the rest of the summer and fall competing against fillies, posting three straight stakes victories, culminating with a win in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. However, she again failed to fire at the Breeders’ Cup, finishing seventh in the Distaff as Dance Smartly rolled to a win, locking up Canada’s Horse of the Year title and two divisional championships.

The following season, Wilderness Song recorded six stakes wins or placings, including a 5 1/2-length score in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap and a game neck victory in the Pimlico Distaff Handicap. The campaign earned her a Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion older female. In 1993, Wilderness Song captured the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher Handicap and the Grade 3 Monmouth Park Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap. She retired following that season with earnings of $1,482,033, second only to Dance Smartly among Canadian females. She was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2008.

Wilderness Song was a consistent broodmare for Sam-Son, producing six winners from seven starters, including the Grade 2-placed Go to the Sun. However, she never came close to replicating herself. Her true impact has begun to be shown through her daughters, as Song of the Lark is her third stakes producer. Another daughter, the Storm Cat mare Wilderness Storm, produced the stakes winner Murmur, while Song of the Wild, by Gone West, produced the stakes-placed Giant’s Tomb.

“Most people gamble on the fact that a good racemare makes a good broodmare, and I think that holds true,” Whitford said. “People want to pay big money for fillies that have a race record. Even if they don’t produce for you, it seems it skips a generation. It will pay off down the road. Their daughters still start producing good runners. If people are afraid they’re not going to get the payout immediately, it’s just a matter of time, if they’re in it for the long run – it’s going to pay off for them.”

Up With the Birds leads a strong pair of homebreds for Sam-Son into the Queen’s Plate, both of whom represent Sam-Son’s long-term approach to developing families. Sam-Son’s other contender is His Race to Win, who was second by a nose in the Plate Trial on June 9. The Stormy Atlantic colt is out of the stakes-placed Gone West mare Fleet of Foot, whose dam, the unraced Seattle Classic, is a half-sister to Dance Smartly.