Sensational second-crop sire Birdstone accomplished an extraordinary
feat on June 6th when his 3-year-old colt Summer Bird rallied late to prove best in the $1 million Belmont S. (G1), giving the young Gainesway stallion two Classic winners from his first crop of runners. His son Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby (G1) last month
Saturday’s Belmont became a family affair, as Summer Bird, newly equipped with blinkers, showed his affinity for the distance by swooping past the leaders in the stretch to claim the third and final leg of the Triple Crown by a decisive 2 ¾ lengths on the wire of the 1 ½-mile marathon. Mine That Bird would fall just a neck short of second after finishing a close second in the Preakness (G1) just three weeks prior. That result gives the popular Mine That Bird a win, a second and a third while dancing in all of the Triple Crown races in the last five weeks.
Birdstone, a Belmont winner himself, not only gained his second Classic winner of the year from his debut crop, he also put his proverbial ‘hoof prints’ all over this year’s running of the Belmont with the winner and the third-place finisher. The 2009 Triple Crown won’t only be known for the filly that won the Preakness, it may be better known as the year of the Birds.
For Summer Bird – dubbed as the “other Bird” in the days leading up to the Belmont, the gorgeous chestnut colt ran tremendously to not only overtake Mine That Bird, but also the highly-touted duo of Dunkirk and Charitable Man in the stretch at the Big Sandy in Elmont, NY. Piloted for the first time by veteran Kent Desormeaux, Summer Bird settled towards the rear early in the race and waited patiently through an honest pace. Desormeaux moved him out into the clear for a wide rally turning for home and Summer Bird responded willingly, swallowing the leaders in the stretch to prove best after 2:27.54 of running time over a local main track that had been playing fast all day.
Trained by rookie conditioner Tim Ice, Summer Bird, who is out of the Summer Squall mare Hong Kong Squall, earned $600,000 for the win to move his earnings to $723,040 for long-time southern breeders and owners Vilasini and Kalarikkal Jayaraman, two retired doctors who reside in Hot Springs, Ark. In their hometown, the Jayaraman’s watched Summer Bird break his maiden just 2 ½ months ago at Oaklawn Park. In his next start, he was a promising third in that track’s biggest race – the million dollar Arkansas Derby (G2) – and earned a birth into the Kentucky Derby.
While Mine That Bird won the Derby, a lightly-raced Summer Bird gained valuable racing experience in just his fourth career start, rallying past 10 of the land’s best sophomores to be a credible sixth that day. But he grabbed the spotlight from Mine That Bird in the Belmont, a race he had been brilliantly prepared for by Ice.
The Belmont truly is the ‘Test of a Champion’, and Team Ice and Summer Bird passed with flying colors – much like the colt’s sire did just five years prior.
“Right now it's just unexplainable,” said Ice, who also celebrated his 35th birthday Saturday. “If my career goes nowhere from here, I've got a Belmont win.”
Ice’s training career has just begun and it looks bright – much like Birdstone’s career at stud.