Thursday, October 21, 2010

All-Time Favorite Dominant Distaffers

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, October 21, 2010--While doing my daily surf thing the other day, I noticed that a poster on Thoroughbred racing brought up the subject of his Top 10 Fillies of All Time.

This got me to wondering, which were mine? So with pen and notepad (remember those?) I began jotting down names. My brain went on tilt when I reached 25.

I couldn’t believe it. And I didn’t include names like Twilight Tear or Regret or any of the other legendary race mares of history.

So I thought I’d limit my choices to those I actually saw race live, in person or through the miracle of video. In good conscience, I found that I couldn’t whittle it down easily.

Then I remembered that, as a horseplayer, conscience had nothing to do with it.

Uncomfortably, then, I thought of 12 names I absolutely couldn’t live without.

Perhaps you share the same thoughts regarding my Terrific Twelve, perhaps not, especially if the firestorm of the past two years relative to Rachel Alexandra v Zenyatta or, if you prefer, Zenyatta v Rachel Alexandra, is the measure.

But one thing became abundantly clear, however. If my life depended on picking the winner of this mythical 12-horse field, I wished that my charred remains be buried somewhere in the infield of Saratoga Race Course.

I predict that RA and Z would attract the most attention, which would be disappointing. Not that either is unworthy but we’d like to see some historical perspective here.

But I’m sure if I asked sports fans to name the best NFL linebacker they ever saw, Troy Polamalu would get more votes than Mike Singletary; Singletary more than Lawrence Taylor; Taylor more than Sam Huff; Huff more than Chuck Bednarik.

But since racing’s audience skews older, I‘m hopeful.

These are fillies I saw race often, most for their entire careers, some Europeans notwithstanding. I tried flashing back to how I felt at the time I saw them compete and whether in my mind’s eye I could conceive them being defeated.

I’ve been interested in watching horses race, and betting on them, for 49 years. Here are my personal favorites--again, favorites; not best. They amount to less than one filly every other year, 24 in all.

The Terrific Twelve is listed alphabetically at the bottom of this post. Feel free to agree, or not, or write-in the name of your favorite filly.

Your comments would be most welcome. You can supply those in the usual manner.

Here are 12 that didn’t make my personal BHF cut. You’ll be shocked by many of the names on this list; I know I was. (Three turf specialists were included in a separate category below):

Azeri: Champion older mare 2002, 2003 and 2004, Horse of the Year in 2002, Hall of Fame 2010.

Bayakoa: Champion older mare 1989, 1990, Hall of Fame 1998.

Chris Evert: Champion three-year-old 1974, Hall of Fame 1988.

Desert Vixen: Champion three-year-old 1973, older mare 1974, Hall of Fame 1979.

Genuine Risk: Champion three-year-old 1980, Kentucky Derby winner, Hall of Fame 1986.

Paseana: Champion older mare of 1992 and 1993, Hall of Fame 2001.

Personal Ensign: Champion older mare 1988, undefeated winner of 14 races lifetime, Hall of Fame 1993.

Priceless Gem: Half-sister to Affectionately defeated juvenile male champion and eventual Horse of the Year, Hall of Famer Buckpasser, in the 1965 Futurity in an extraordinarily brilliant and game performance.

Susan’s Girl: Champion three-year-old 1972, Champion older mare 1974, Hall of Fame 1976.

Ta Wee: Hall of Fame 1994. “Beautiful Girl,“ Dr. Fager’s half-sister, twice beat males in the Fall Highweight carrying 130 as a three-year-old and 140 at 4. She won the Interborough spotting the second highweight 29 pounds.


All Along: Horse of the Year and Female Turf Champion 1983, Hall of Fame 1990.

Goldikova: American and European Champion Turf Female 2009, winner of 11 Grade/Group 1 races.

Pebbles: Champion Turf Female 1985, first filly to beat males in the Eclipse Stakes, winner of the Champion Stakes.

The Terrific Twelve:

Co-Champion Juvenile 1962 and Older Mare 1965. Champion Sprinter 1965, Hall of Fame 1989. Saw the “Queen of Queens” win 1965 Vagrancy beneath 137 pounds. Beat boys in the Vosburgh and Toboggan and, a sprinter by nature, she still won the 9-furlong Top Flight by 8 lengths as the highweight. Unforgettable.

Davona Dale: Champion three-year-old 1979, Hall of Fame 1985. Won eight straight stakes at 3 including two Triple Crowns, the old NYRA variety of the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks, the latter also concluding the older national version, which started with the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan.

Lady’s Secret: Champion Older Mare and Horse of the Year 1986, Hall of Fame 1992. Won an amazing 20 of 32 starts at 3 and 4, including the Whitney, in one of the most aggressive campaigns by a filly we‘ve ever seen. Twenty for thirty-two!

Landaluce: Champion juvenile 1982. Broke her maiden first time out in 1:08 1/5 and a week later won the Hollywood Lassie in 1:08 by 21 lengths, the largest victory margin by a two-year-old ever at Hollywood Park. One of the most brilliant fillies we’ve ever seen.

*Miesque: French Champion Two-Year-Old Filly 1986, European Turf Filly Champion 1987, 1988, American Champion Turf Female 1987, 1988, French and American Hall of Fame in 1999. Positively electric turn of foot; hard to imagine one more impressive.

Moccasin: Co-Champion Juvenile 1965 and Co-Horse of the Year. Ridan’s full sister was the only juvenile filly ever to earn that honor. A dominant sprinter/miler, she beat the boys at 4 in the Phoenix Handicap. Big, blocky, breathtakingly beautiful.

Go for Wand: Champion Juvenile 1989, Champion three-year-old 1990, Hall of Fame 1996. Seven for nine in her sophomore year, finishing second in the Kentucky Oaks, until that fateful afternoon at Belmont Park. Speed and uncommon courage.

Princess Rooney: Champion Older Mare 1984, Hall of Fame 1991. Seventeen for 21 lifetime after going six for six at 2. Totally dominant, no weaknesses, uncommon versatility. Can’t understand how she once finished off the board.

Rachel Alexandra: Champion three year old and Horse of the Year 2009. No introduction necessary for future Hall of Famer.

Ruffian: Champion juvenile 1974, Champion three year old 1975, Hall of Fame 1976: Five for five at 2 and five for five at 3 until her tragic match race with Kentucky Derby champion Foolish Pleasure. No horse was ever ahead of her at any point of call in her career. Beloved legend died on the lead.

Shuvee: Champion Older mare and Turf Champion 1970, Champion Older Mare 1971, Hall of Fame 1975. Won the NYRA Triple Crown at 3 (but lost sophomore championship to Gallant Bloom). Won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at two miles at 4 and 5, the last time by 7 lengths. Big and powerful, she imposed her will on the competition.

Zenyatta: Champion Older Mare in 2008, 2009. The only female winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Her pursuit of perfection continues in less than two weeks.

*The only turf specialist to make our Top 10 Plus Two.


Best Mare you have ever seen ...

Written by John Pricci

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