Songbird Symphony at Breeders’ Cup
Songbird Symphony at Breeders’ Cup by Michael Fenrich: There are a lot of people that are instrumental in the success of a racehorse. Songbird was the favorite in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies. She sang to the racing fans at Keeneland the host track for Breeders Cup 2015 on Saturday, October 31, and treated them on Halloween to a 5 3/4 with Hall Of Fame Jockey Mike Smith singing along for the journey. Jerry Hollendorfer is the trainer of this talented filly, Fox Hill Farms Inc. is the Owner and John Antonelli is the Breeder.
Rachel’s Valentina was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Dothraki Queen showed.
One of those many people instrumental in the early stages on the farm helping Songbird was Allyson Walker. Walker breaks horses to get them familiar with training before they run in competitive races.
Mike Smith commented about Allyson Walker saying, “Songbird is so great to ride has a real good mind, she did a wonderful job!”
Below Allyson explains the journey that led Songbird to become a Breeders Cup Champion.
I worked for trainer, Bill Recio, Lynwood Stables this winter. I broke horses under his guidance. I had never broke thoroughbred’s before, only re broke them for second careers I worked my way up on the track from hot walker, to groom, to pony person and once I finished my university degree, I learned to gallop. After a few years Roger Attfield let me get my my assistant trainer license. I traveled with Attfield to Canada, Florida and Kentucky. Summer 2014 I went to Saratoga to ride for Lukas. Where I galloped Will Take Charge, Take Charge Brandi and Mr Z. I was back and forth between Canada and the states because of visas, which made it difficult. After Breeders Cup 14, I decided to go to work in Ocala for Mr. Recio.
He does a fantastic job. He really tailors his program to each horses physical, mental and natural capabilities. Most horses spend close to two weeks on the property, becoming comfortable with their surroundings, learning daily routines and acclimating before any Breaking starts.
Classic Mile training center, where Bill keeps close to five barns full of some of Americas top bred horses, has a faculty that has allowed him to create a program that gives each horse multiple outlets for success. Recio takes it slow. Making each horse is ready before graduating to next phases of his breaking program and that each day every horse has a positive experience, while making progress. He spends an ample amount of time ground breaking and getting each animal comfortable with tack and humans..After ground breaking the rider breaks in the stalls to shed row. Graduating to the round pen, then to paddocks. There is an enormous trail throughout the property that we nature walk and jog the horses on before taking them to a grass field gallop. After each horse is comfortable and beginning to get fit we go to a small jogging track. If all goes well here they are off to the mile dirt course. But this point many of the horses are at various stages. Like humans, every horse learns differently, and develop at different rates. It’s neat to see how horses get paired. They are so greatly affected by their surrounding.
I was most impresses by Recios ability to manage a large number of animals and know exactly when to start or stop on one. When making a horse pair change or a rider change makes all the difference. I started riding Songbird right when she started in the small paddock stage of breaking. She was sweet but spunky Wouldn’t do a thing wrong and than surprise you with a squeal and buck. She was athletic from day one. Always forward and looking for more. Her partner in crime was Southern Girl (Sire. Tap it-Dam. Ponce de Lona. Half to Mucho Macho Man, trained by Larry Jones now). Both are physically perfect fillies but Southern Girl just always seemed to shine a tad brighter. She was and is enormous. Picture perfect, grey mare who moves at the walk, jog and gallop 10/10. The rider of her, Ronni Hernandez, and I used to joke about who was better. Songbird was my favorite from my first time on her. I had even told her buyer Mr. Tom McGreevy that my money was on Songbird to break her maiden first. With 120 potential super star horses at Lynwood, it was a bold and maybe even idiotic statement to make; especially being my first time breaking babies. When it came time for breezing I never had to wake her up. It was like she knew exactly what her job was from the first moment I turned her head lose. There was never a work with me on her where I didn’t feel like I was strangling her to stay the pace I wanted. She has so much natural talent, ability and obviously speed that would give me goose bumps.
I have been so fortunate to get to ride some amazing animals. I feel blessed to had been placed in the Lynwood Organization for a short amount of time and to have been put on a Horse with such immaculate capabilities. I owe great thanks to Bills assistant Gene Recio who first named me on Songbird and put up with my daily Songbird stories of stopping to eat hanging moss of the trees on the walk home, or the launch pad she thought she had to jump off of on the way to the track or how she would always try and keep other horses away from Southern Girl. Especially the pony and even just simply how I believed she was the best horse ever after 8th of a mike work.
I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to take the winter off of the track and break babies but I believe it was my best horse experience yet. It’s neat seeing them grow and learn. It has been amazing to the horses run all over the country and of course it has been so surreal watching Songbird make all my crazy dreams of her come true.
There you have it yet the sweet sounding symphony of Songbird.