Songbird, the richest and most accomplished horse in Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s 39-year career, was retired Thursday because of lameness in both hind legs.
Owner Rick Porter announced the retirement on Facebook, writing that an examination this week by Kentucky veterinarian Larry Bramlage revealed that “both hind suspensories (ligaments) were enlarged … usually the result of something else amiss.”
Songbird had 13 wins and two seconds in 15 starts, including victories by at least 3¾ lengths in her first 11 races before losing by a nose to Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in her final start of 2016.
She began 2017 with less-than-impressive wins in the Ogden Phipps Stakes and Delaware Handicap and finished second in the Personal Ensign Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga, losing by a neck to Forever Unbridled after surrendering a comfortable lead.
Purchased for $400,000 as a yearling in 2014, Songbird earned $4,692,000 and won Eclipse Awards as the nation’s champion 2-year-old filly in 2015 (when she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies) and 3-year-old filly in 2016.
“We’ve been very grateful and blessed to have a horse like Songbird in our barn,” Hollendorfer said. “She touched the lives of many people who work in my barn. She had a big impact on our morale and she picked us up. She did everything we asked her to do.”
Songbird is Hollendorfer’s only two-time Eclipse champion, and she and Dakota Phone are the only ones to win a Breeders’ Cup race. Her nine Grade 1 victories are the most of any Hollendorfer horse (Blind Luck won six and Shared Belief won five and each captured one Eclipse Award).
“I think a lot of things are similar no matter what business you’re in, but you’re dealing with animals so there is a sentiment there that’s not in a regular business,” Hollendorfer said. “She was kind of a socialite. She loved to have people come and pay attention to her. She was always wanting to eat more carrots. Just so delightful to be around.”
Songbird’s future lies as a broodmare, and Porter indicated that he would sell her this year.
“Horse athletes are just like any other athletes,” Hollendorfer said. “The great ones always have something extra to put into it. They find a way to win races, and Songbird found a way to win most of the time.”
Larry Stumes is a freelance writer.