GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- It's a Bird had won two major stakes earlier this year by widening lengths. But it was his hard-fought victory over Jonesboro in the Grade 3, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on Monday that might have been his best performance yet.
"He impressed me today with what he did," said Marty Wolfson, who trains It's a Bird for Edmund Gann.
It's a Bird ($3) won the richest race on the Million Day program of six stakes when he edged Jonesboro by a head in a spirited stretch battle. It's a Bird tracked the pace three-wide, as King Dan cruised alone on the lead through fractions of 23.25 seconds for the opening quarter and 47.17 for the half-mile. Jonesboro and It's a Bird joined him through six furlongs in 1:11.21, then went at it through the stretch, with It's a Bird, the 121-pound highweight, covering the distance on a track rated fast in 1:41.83.
"He fought back and came back on him," said Julien Leparoux, who was aboard It's a Bird.
Wolfson said Leparoux has been a big part of the success It's a Bird has had this season, with the rider also guiding him to victories in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic in January and the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn in April.
The wins have moved It's a Bird up the ranks of the nation's top handicap horses, and Wolfson said he would be considered next for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 13. However, he said a start was not definite because he has to take into consideration the fact that Leparoux is the regular rider of Stephen Foster probable Einstein, who is the top-ranked older horse in North America.
It's a Bird earned $240,000 for his win, which was his 11th from 30 starts. He has now earned $1,412,855. He is a 6-year-old son of Birdonthewire.
The Lone Star was one of three victories on the Million Day program for Leparoux, who also took the Grade 3, $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup aboard Seaspeak and the $100,000 Valid Expectations with Pious Ashley. Wolfson trains Pious Ashley, as well as Flibberjibit, who was the favorite in the Grade 3, $200,000 Ouija Board Distaff.
Flibberjibit was pulled up in the one-mile turf race with an injury to her left hind leg, one race before the Lone Star.
"She took a bad step on the first turn," said Wolfson, who said it appeared Flibberjibit might have sustained a condylar fracture. "I'll see when we get back to the barn if we can do some surgery on her. I don't know."
Handle on the 11-race card from all sources was $2,938,079. Attendance ontrack was 14,032.