Spa-loving Voodoo Song works his magic in Grade 1 Fourstardave

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

NYRA/Coglianese Photo

By Sarah Mace

Last summer, when Voodoo Song put his name in the history books alongside the legendary Native Dancer by winning four straight races at Saratoga, even his connections could hardly have imagined that he could top that feat. Au contraire.

At Saratoga on Saturday, as Barry and Sheryl Schwartz looked on, their homebred 4-year-old son of English Channel ran his Spa record to a perfect 5-for-5 with a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on the inner turf.

In the words of trainer Linda Rice, “Who better to win the Fourstardave than a horse who is obviously a Saratoga star?” The race is named, of course, for the “Sultan of Saratoga,” aka New York-bred Fourstardave who won at least one race at the Spa each year from 1987 to 1994 and is buried near the tunnel leading to Clare Court.

As is natural for one of Saratoga’s marquee races, the one-mile Fourstardave attracted a world-class field. Moreover, on paper Voodoo Song appeared to up against it owing to the presence in the lineup of multiple Grade 1 winner Heart to Heart. Both horses are confirmed front-runners and were almost guaranteed to hook up early, duel one another into defeat and leave the closers to pick up the pieces. Voodoo Song was sent off at odds of 6-1, fourth choice in the field of six.

A speed duel may have been the script, but the field adlibbed. Sent hard from post six, by the time he approached the first turn Voodoo Song was well on his way to having the having the lead all to himself. Heart to Heart showed early speed right after the break, but then took back and tracked the pace.

Winging his way unmolested around the first turn and up backstretch over the “good” inner turf course, Voodoo Song opened up more than five lengths on Heart to Heart. In fact, it wasn’t until the far turn that Voodoo Song began to feel the heat of approaching rivals as the field advanced and whittled the lead of the free-wheeling front-runner down to 1 1/2 lengths.

NYRA/Annette Jasko

Delta Prince, last early stages, fought his way into contention in the turn and was moving best of all in upper stretch. Up into second just past the furlong marker he posed the most serious threat, but Voodoo Song dug in afresh and gamely held off the would-be spoiler in the final sixteenth, recording a neck victory.

Delta Prince finished two lengths clear of Divisidero in third and completing the order of finish were Made You Look, 9-5 favorite Yoshida and Heart to Heart. After a half-mile in 46.89, Voodoo Song stopped the clock at 1:35.96. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“He’s fast out of the gate and you always want to let him do whatever he wants to do,” said jockey Jose Lezcano, aboard for all four of Voodoo Song’s Saratoga wins last summer. “That’s the thing with him, and he keeps going. I leave him alone, you don’t want to fight with him. The longer you leave him in the bridle, the better he is. I felt confident all the way around. Let him do whatever he wants to do.”

Describing the late challenge from Delta Prince, Lezcano said, “I waited on the inside closer to the rail and when I saw the Number 2, I came outside a little bit, so he could see him and he rebroke again. He kept going and wouldn’t let him pass.”

Voodoo Song began his career in the barn of Mike Hushion before the beloved New York conditioner retired at the conclusion of Belmont’s 2017 Spring/Summer race meet. When the chestnut moved to Rice, she stretched him out from sprints and returned him to the grass for his historic four-race run. This season he has won an open allowance, finished third in the Grade 3 Poker and scored a front-running victory in the Forbidden Apple on July 14. The Fourstardave is his third career stakes victory.

“It’s very exciting,” Rice said. “It’s hard to move up on what he did last year here with winning four races. It was an unbelievable meet and so special to all of us. I think he got a lot of fans here by winning so many races at Saratoga, so it’s so exciting to come back. What do you do next? Win the Fourstardave! It’s just fantastic.”

The conditioner addressed the condition of the Spa turf course, which during this rainy summer has caused big headaches for trainers. “[Soft turf is] a big concern for a speed horse. Frankly, I’ve been having a tough time at the meet because a lot of my horses historically have speed. A lot of my grass horses usually love this course. Frankly with all the rain we’ve had, we haven’t been able to put it together on this soft turf course, but Voodoo made up for that.”

Rice applauded Voodoo Song’s will to win. “When they came to him at the three-eighths pole, I didn’t know how he’d handle that. In the past, he really fought off the competition. [Today], I was really thrilled with him in the stretch. He just dug in and he wouldn’t be denied. I’m so thrilled for [the owners]. They bred this horse in New York for Stonewall Farm. This is their first Grade 1 victory at Saratoga. I’m thrilled for them.”

Voodoo Song, who has earned $870,435 from 16 starts, with eight wins, two seconds and a third, is out of Mystic Chant, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Unbridled’s Song purchased by Barry Schwartz for $200,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale. In an eight-race career Mystic Chant became a stakes winner for Schwartz before graduating to broodmare duties.

She has produced six winners, but Voodoo Song is her star. The mare has a yearling full brother to Voodoo Song and a weanling colt by Japan. She was bred back to Flatter this year.

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