Horse racing fans are set to be thrilled by a gripping battle between two of the year’s best females when Songbird and Forever Unbridled clash in the Personal Ensign Stakes on Saturday. The race comes with a $700,000 prize purse and typically attracts many of the leading fillies and mares aged three or over. This year is no different as between them Songbird and Forever Unbridled have racked up 17 graded stakes win and more than $6 million in prize money. Seven runners are set to slog it out, but all eyes will be on that star duo.
The Personal Ensign is an extremely prestigious Grade 1 race held at Saratoga. It is named after Hall of Famer Personal Ensign, who retired back in 1988 with a perfect 13-0 record. Her career saw her beat male horses in the Whitney Handicap and seize victory over Kentucky Derby champion Winning Colors in her final race, the Breeders Cup Distaff. The race started life in 1948 as the Firenze Handicap, but it became the John A Morris Handicap in 1986 and was then named after Personal Ensign in 1998. The prize purse has steadily risen over the years and it now stands as one of the highlights of the calendar for fillies and mares. There is plenty at stake as this year’s race is a challenge series race, offering the winner a place in the Breeders Cup Distaff. It is run over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.
An A+ Sportsbook like Betonline will have odds for the Personal Ensign Handicap. Currently the racebooks have Songbird as the -175 favorite, while Forever Unbridled is out at +300. Then you have Going for Broke, Terra Promessa and Carina Mia, all at +1200, Faithfully at +1400 and Flora Dora at +4000.
It is understandable that Songbird is the favorite as she has enjoyed a magnificent career, with a record that is almost as unblemished as Personal Ensign’s. She has won 13 out of 14 races and the only one in which she came up short was this year’s Breeders Cup Distaff, where she was second to Beholder. But she bounced back to record strong wins in the Ogden Phipps Handicap and the Delaware Handicap and comes into this race in great shape.
Forever Unbridled also ran in the Breeders Cup Distaff, finishing third behind Beholder and Songbird. It would take a heroic effort for her to usurp Songbird this time, but she is a fantastic runner and is in with a shot. Forever Unbridled has just six career wins from 15 races, but she is in good form, having won the Group 2 Fleur de Lis last time out. Trainer Dallas Steward said: “It’s going to be a good race. It’ll be a tough race. There’s only one horse that has ever beaten Songbird and that’s Beholder – but it’s going to be a great race, nonetheless. It’s horse racing, so we don’t know what’s going to happen. Hopefully we just have a good trip and can fight it out down the stretch. She’s been training great in Kentucky and working well. She looks fantastic and I don’t see anything negative at all. She’s won over six different racetracks, so I’m not worried.”
Fighting talk from Stewart and he should take confidence from the Breeders Cup Distaff. It was a thrilling race, and Beholder just edged Songbird at the very death to win it by a nose, but Forever Unbridled was flying towards the end. She spent the first half of the race in dead last place, but when Joel Rosario finally made a move she bolted. She made up plenty of ground on the front two and only finished half a length back. Since then she has improved, so odds of +300 on Forever Unbridled actually look very attractive. If she can get a good trip and not leave herself with so much to do in the second half of the race she could leave Songbird with a second defeat to her name.