Moonlit Song cruises to Sylvia Bishop win
by Ted Black
One week after the state-bred sophomore boys were on display in the latest renewal of the Robert Leavitt Memorial, many of the best West Virginia-bred three-year-old fillies took center stage in the $50,000 Sylvia Bishop Memorial, named in honor of the late trainer who was the first African-American licensed to train thoroughbreds, in 1954.
Much of the attention heading into the Sylvia Bishop centered around Moonlit Song, whose dominance of this division suffered a minor blow when she stumbled at the break of a two-turn allowance here last month and settled for fourth and was eventually promoted to third in a race won by local rival Lies And Scandals.
Moonlit Song had won five straight races prior to that outing for owner-breeder-trainer Tim Grams, including both the It’s Binn Too Long Stakes and the Fancy Buckles Stakes but it was Lies And Scandals who headed into the Sylvia Bishop riding a three-race win streak for owner-breeder-trainer John McKee.
When the gates opened in the Bishop, Unaquoi displayed the best early speed but Moonlit Song broke alertly – something that she had failed to do in her previous outing – and loomed just off the leader with Lies And Scandals prompting the pace three-wide. Unaquoi led the group through honest fractions of 23.1 and 47 flat, but both Moonlit Song and Lies And Scandals corralled that one nearing the quarter pole and the two daughters of Fiber Sonde looked poised to settle the issue among themselves in the final furlong.
Moonlit Song owned a modest lead on the far turn and Lies And Scandals loomed alongside her approaching the furlong pole and either one looked capable of prevailing at that point. But Moonlit Song had her mind on running on this night and she held sway through the lane for a two-length score in 1:26.31 for the seven panels. Lies And Scandals held the place spot in a game effort while seeing her three-race win streak come to an end.
A homebred daughter of Fiber Sonde owned and trained by Tim Grams, Moonlit Song regained her winning ways in the Sylvia Bishop to notch her third stakes of the season and her sixth win in eight starts this year, pushing her bankroll past $140,000. A winner once in two starts last season, Moonlit Song now owns a 7-1-1 slate and $157,000 bankroll from 10 career tries and gives Grams plenty of options heading into the September 23 Pink Ribbon card here and then the lucrative West Virginia Breeders Classics card over the strip on October 14.
“It was a such a relief just to see her break well,” said Grams, who also saddled Toy Train to win the finale, a one-turn maiden claiming event. “I always get nervous watching her on the first turn, but [jockey] Christian [Hiraldo] knows what he’s doing. I always think he might be sending her a little sooner than she should go, but he knew what he had left. That other filly [Lies And Scandals] is really nice, too. They’re both really good and it’s developing into a good local rivalry.”
Grams said that he might point Moonlit Song for the Grade III, $350,000 Charles Town Oaks for three-year-old fillies on Sep. 23 or he might opt to try her against older, state-bred fillies and mares in the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins, the last local prep for the $150,000 Cavada on WVBC night. In the weeks leading up to the WVBC card, Grams will be faced with another decision of whether or not to try older state-bred fillies and mares again in the Cavada or opt for the $80,000 West Virginia Lottery Breeders Classics for state-bred three-year-olds at seven furlongs.
“It might be better just to stay with her own for a while,” Grams said. “I am leaning toward the Sadie Hawkins so I can get a gauge of how well she will do against older mares here. If she runs well there then we can come right back for the Cavada. If she doesn’t do well against those older mares in the Sadie Hawkins then we will probably go in the three-year-old filly race on Classics night. She’s been really, really good all year and I would like to keep running in spots where I know she’s going to be competitive this year because we can always come back in those older races next year.”