By Sarah Mace
Albert Fried, Jr.’s 9-year-old gelding Moonlight Song (Unbridled’s Song) delivered an inspiring performance at the Spa on Thursday afternoon, when he wired the featured $100,000 John Morrissey Stakes for his second straight year with exactly . . . zero (yes, zero) . . . intervening starts. As it happens, veteran’s victory was also uplifting for young hot-handed jockey Jose Ortiz, who made his 1000th trip to the winner’s circle after the race.
Trained by Charlie Baker, Moonlight Song is extremely lightly raced for his age, with only 17 career starts under his girth coming into the 6 1/2-furlong Morrissey. The handsome dark bay gelding was a bit of a late bloomer and only got to the races for the first time at five. He dominated the fields in his first two career starts, but has had to work through a variety of physical issues over the years. Fried has shown exemplary patience and continues to reap the rewards.
Sent off as the 6-1 fifth choice in the competitive field of seven, Moonlight Song assumed command shortly after the break, and took the field through a hot first quarter in 22.05 and half in 45.73 with a one-length lead over 3-2 favorite Weekend Hideaway.
Pressed though the far turn by his main rival, but kicking clear and comfortably extending his lead to three lengths in upper stretch, the gelding was guided to the rail by Ortiz nearing the furlong marker, and dug for the wire as a host of challengers ganged up behind him.
Moonlight Song hit the line a three-quarter length winner under a drive. The next three to finish were separated by a photo, with Ostrolenka second, a head in front of Crackerjack Jones in third, who nosed out Weekend Hideaway in fourth. After six panels in 1:09.54, Moonlight Song stopped the clock at 1:15.99. Completing the order of finish were Drama King, Notacatbutallama and John’s Island. [VIDEO]
Ortiz reported, “He broke well; he broke perfect. We went really easy the first quarter-mile. This horse is a special horse. He doesn’t run a lot, but every time he steps on the track, Charlie [Baker] brings him 110 percent.”
On his 1000th victory, Ortiz said, “This means a lot. It’s a big goal in my career. I’m just thankful. I want to thank every single owner and trainer who gave me the opportunity. My family, and my fiancée [Taylor Rice] who support me every day, [and] my brother [jockey Irad], who taught me a lot when I first started riding. Saratoga is the place to be in the summer, and I really love it. I’m very blessed I could do it here.”
Charlie Baker was, with reason, beaming in the winner’s circle over Moonlight Song’s impressive win. “He’s a great horse and he runs great fresh, so it’s a little easier on me. You still have to get him cranked up and ready to go, but he’s a nice horse.”
Continued Baker, “He had a little problem after the race last year and the owners are very easy to get along with. We got him back in March. We took our time; he had a little issue here and there, but it worked out super. It’s very hard to imagine a 9-year-old coming off a year layoff, but if any horse can do it, he can.”
Of the secret to Moonlight Song’s long-term success, Baker explained, “We’ve always given him time off and never abused him. We are going to go and see how he comes from here.” He plans will give Moonlight Song at least six weeks before (fingers crossed) his next start.
A stakes winner at all three NYRA tracks (Aqueduct’s Gold and Roses and Belmont’s Hudson in 2014 and a pair of Morrisseys at Saratoga), Moonlight Song is the third foal, and one of four winners from seven to start out of Moonlightandbeauty (Capote), also bred by Fried.
Fried purchased Moonlightandbeauty’s Grade 2 winning-dam, Stolen Beauty (Deputy Minister), for $30,000 at the 1990 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Moonlightandbeauty became a stakes winner and $228,053-earner for trainer Rick Schosberg and Fried and began her broodmare career with a bang, producing Schosberg-trained Giant Moon (Giant’s Causeway) as her first foal.
Giant Moon went undefeated in his first four starts, culminating with a victory in the 2008 Count Fleet Stakes, and was voted champion New York-bred 2-year-old male in 2007. Giant Moon won at least one stakes race every year from 2007 to 2010 and earned just over a half million.
Moonlight Song, after four stakes wins, an additional stakes placing, and a record of nine wins, two seconds and third from 18 starts, has earned $534,294.