Fox Hill Farms’ champion Songbird (Breeders’ Cup Photo, above) made an impressive 3-year-old debut on Feb. 6 in the G2 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita — if you don’t believe the speed figures — by winning by six and a half lengths in 1:36.84 to remain undefeated in five starts. Now, this is the same filly who was considered better than the colts last year, so either she’s regressed — based on figs — or she was much the best and ran as fast as needed to win. As a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro bred on the same pattern as Rachel Alexandra, Songbird on pedigree — and physique; she’s a big filly — is expected to get better with age, so time, literally, will tell as her season progresses.
She was bred by John Antonelli and sold by Hill ‘n’ Dale to Fox Hill for $400,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, but the blueprint of her pedigree had been sketched by Florida breeder Gil Campbell years earlier. A Massachusetts native, Campbell owns the successful Williston, Florida nursery Stonehedge Farm South, formerly Waldemar Farm. Waldemar stood the Bold Ruler horse What a Pleasure and bred that stallion’s two best runners, 1975 Derby winner Foolish Pleasure and 1976 Derby runner-up and multiple G1 winner Honest Pleasure, on the same property before Campbell purchased it in 1988. Campbell’s longtime farm manager, Larry King, is the son of Joe King, who managed Waldemar, so between them there’s plenty of experience and it’s a big reason Stonehedge has raised at least 70 stakes winners bred by Campbell over the last 25-odd years. Like Waldemar, Stonehedge has patronized its own stallions (as well as others), starting with the In Reality horse Shananie and including the Nijinsky stallion Sword Dance, the Danzig sire Sejm, the Forty Niner son West Acre, the Deputy Minister stallion French Envoy, the Unbridled horse Untuttable (broodmare sire, incidentally, of the Campbell-bred Uncle Mo G3 winner Uncle Vinny), and the Mr. Prospector stallion Act of Duty. At present the farm stands Factum, a Storm Cat half-brother to War Front; Big Bad Barnie, a son of ex-Florida sire Trippi; and Revolving, a son of A.P. Indy. What some of these stallions lacked in racing credentials, they made up for in pedigree.
This is the case with the unraced Claiborne-bred West Acre, the sire of Ivanavinalot — the Campbell-bred dam of Songbird. (Ivanavinalot is pictured below at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton November sale where she was a $885,000 RNA from the Hill ‘n’ Dale consignment; photos courtesy of Frances J. Karon). From the family of Pulpit, West Acre was supported primarily by Campbell during the early years, and the stallion rewarded Campbell with two Graded stakes winners. Altogether, West Acre sired 14 stakes winners, three of them Graded winners. His best was Ivanavinalot, a winner of six of 18 starts and $647,300, including the G2 Bonnie Miss Stakes.
Ivanavinalot’s dam was the Deputy Minister mare Beaty Sark, whom Campbell had purchased for $40,000 at the 1987 Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale. She, too, was unraced, but became a foundation mare for Campbell, producing in addition to Ivanavinalot the stakes winners Shananie’s Beat (by Shananie), Slick Lady (by Unreal Zeal), and stakes-placed Beaties for Real (by Unreal Zeal).
(Campbell, by the way, was quick to reproduce the success of West Acre’s cross with Deputy Minister that created Ivanavinalot, a foal of 2000. He got three other West Acre stakes winners on this cross, including G3 winner Watch Me Go. Altogether, six of West Acre’s 14 stakes winners have Deputy Minister in the dam, including his third Graded winner, Speak Easy Gal. The latter was out of a mare by Victory Speech, a son of Deputy Minister, and was bred by Florida breeders William and Annabel Murphy.)
In 2007, Campbell sent Ivanavinalot’s stakes-placed half-sister Beaties for Real — who had already produced two G3 winners and a stakes winner by Campbell’s Sword Dance — to Medaglia d’Oro in his third year at stud, a difficult year for young stallions who are mostly forgotten by commercial breeders by that time. That foal, however, was sold at the 2009 Keeneland September sale for $1.3 million to Live Oak Plantation and became the stakes winner Onepointhreekarats.
Medaglia d’Oro’s first-crop daughter Rachel Alexandra had won the 2009 Preakness before Onepointhreekarats sold and the sire’s offspring were highly in demand, so the mating by Campbell was inspired for two reasons. Not only had he sent a multiple Graded producer to Medaglia d’Oro during his third year at stud — making her foal a pedigree standout among Medaglia d’Oro’s third-crop yearlings — but the mare — by the Mr. Prospector stallion Unreal Zeal — was bred on the general Medaglia d’Oro/Mr. Prospector cross as Rachel Alexandra.
Specifically, Rachel Alexandra’s dam, Lotta Kim, is a daughter of Roar — a grandson of Mr. Prospector through Forty Niner.
By the time Antonelli sent Ivanavinalot to Medaglia d’Oro in 2012 (producing Songbird in 2013), he had the knowledge that the mare’s half-sister had produced an expensive yearling by the same sire that had become a stakes winner, and that the foal from Ivanavinalot would be bred on a closer nick to that of Rachel Alexandra, because Ivanavinalot’s Campbell sire, West Acre, was a son of Forty Niner, too. And it worked out.