07/25/2016 10:26AM

Sparkman: Streaking Songbird adds to Medaglia d'Oro's credentials

Barbara D. Livingston
Songbird, by Medaglia d'Oro, wins the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

Last weekend provided something of a harmonic convergence for the stud career of Medaglia d’Oro. On the same day that the retirement of the only daughter of his first great champion filly Rachel Alexandra was announced, Medaglia d’Oro’s second great American champion filly Songbird soared to an emphatic victory in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.

Bred in Kentucky by Albert and Joyce Bell, Medaglia d’Oro made his first two starts in Joyce Bell’s colors, running second in a six-furlong maiden at Turfway Park in December 2001 and then running away with a maiden victory at Oaklawn Park the following February by more than four lengths for trainer David Vance. That attracted the attention of scouts for trainer Bobby Frankel and his client Edmund Gann, and they purchased Medaglia d’Oro privately and promptly entered him in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes.

Medaglia d’Oro easily defeated what turned out to be a pretty undistinguished field by more than two lengths, and over the next three seasons, he proved himself one of the best racehorses in the world on dirt, even though on the biggest occasions, he always found at least one too good for him.

In the Kentucky Derby, he rallied gamely after a poor start to finish fourth, and, after a subpar effort in the Preakness, he was beaten only a half-length by the unconsidered Sarava in the Belmont Stakes. Medaglia d’Oro won the Jim Dandy and the Grade 1 Travers, but in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was beaten by another outsider in Volponi, leaving the 3-year-old colt Eclipse Award to his Derby conqueror War Emblem.

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Medaglia d’Oro won his first three starts at 4, including the Grade 1 Whitney, but again finished second (to Candy Ride) in the Pacific Classic and (to Pleasantly Perfect) in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Medaglia d’Oro ran only twice at 5, winning the Donn Handicap, but was second once again in the Dubai World Cup behind Pleasantly Perfect.

By El Prado out of the Bailjumper mare Cappuchino Bay, Medaglia d’Oro retired to stud initially at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, but moved after one season to Audrey Haisfield’s Stonewall Farm. When his first-crop champion Rachel Alexandra swept all before her en route to Horse of the Year honors in 2009, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum purchased a majority interest, and he has stood ever since at Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley at Jonabell.

Rachel Alexandra, who defeated colts in the classic Preakness and the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational and Woodward stakes, was one of five Grade 1 winners from Medaglia d’Oro’s first crop, and he has gone on to sire 97 stakes winners to date from 1,116 foals age 3 and up, an 8.7 percent stakes-winners-to-foals ratio that has become about the norm for a top sire in the big book era.

Rachel Alexandra and Songbird are his only North American champions, but he also has sired 2015 Australian champion 2-year-old Vancouver (out of Skates, by Danehill) on one of his excursions down under for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season.

His stakes winners includes 14 Grade or Group 1 winners, a status Songbird first achieved in last season’s Del Mar Debutante.

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Songbird was bred in Kentucky by John Antonelli, who sold her for $400,000 through Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency to agent Tom McGreevey, who buys on behalf of Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm.

Though her female line traces to the great Boudoir II, granddam of Graustark, His Majesty, and Bowl of Flowers, Songbird is by far her family’s brightest ornament in more recent generations, though it has shown distinct signs of revival over the last two generations. Her dam, Ivanavinalot, by Forty Niner’s rather obscure son West Acre, was a fast filly who dominated Calder Race Course’s juvenile series at 2 and added the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss at 3. Ivanavinalot’s unraced first foal, Wide Range, by Mineshaft, is dam of Grade 3 winner Mico Margarita, by Run Away and Hide.

Songbird’s second dam, Beaty Sark, by Deputy Minister, is dam of two other stakes winners, and her stakes-placed daughter Beatie’s for Real, by Unreal Zeal, is dam of four others, including two graded stakes winners and Onepointhreekarats, by Medaglia d’Oro. Songbird is Ivanavinalot’s seventh foal, and she has since produced an unnamed yearling filly by Ghostzapper who is scheduled to be sold at the upcoming Saratoga yearling sale and a weanling filly by Tapizar.

The Oaks was Songbird’s ninth consecutive victory, exceeding Rachel Alexandra’s eight straight wins at 3 in 2009.

Sadly, Rachel Alexandra experienced life-threatening complications while delivering her second foal, 2015 Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes winner Rachel’s Valentina, by Bernardini. Rachel’s Valentina’s retirement from racing was announced Sunday morning. Rachel’s Valentina finished second to Songbird in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.