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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Belmont to Travers: A Saga of Fillies

With all the talk about Better Than Honour’s current and future value, after birthing two consecutive Belmont Stakes winners—Jazil and Rags to Riches—and my fellow TBA bloggers contemplating potential breeding matches for Rags to Riches, I got to thinking, what about those other fillies who had run in the Belmont before? What kind of success did they have with their offspring? I know Genuine Risk’s sad story, with lost foals including one to Secretariat (what an incredible animal that could have been!). Since a number of the female Belmont runners were actually in the nineteenth century, I did not have access to comprehensive data on them, but what rudimentary information I could find is illuminating (though by no means definitive).

In 1869, the filly Invercauld finished third in the Belmont Stakes; she produced the 1890 Belmont Stakes winning colt Burlington (by Powhattan). The filly Flambino ran third in the 1927 Belmont Stakes; among her progeny was 1935 Triple Crown winner Omaha (by Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox). Flambino came from an amazing dam, Flambette who produced Gallette (dam of champion filly Gallorette) and La France (dam of 1939 Kentucky Derby winner Johnstown).

What was so interesting in examining this kind of history is how often I ran across fillies racing against males, but particularly as they got older, although this appears to be out of necessity as races for older fillies and mares was once limited. For example, as a three-year-old Gallorette finished second in the Wood Memorial, lost the Dwyer by a nose and won the Empire City Stakes over the Belmont Stakes winner Pavot. However, between the ages of four and six, Gallorette won the Brooklyn, Metropolitan, Carter and Whitney handicaps, and regularly competed against the finest handicap horses of her era.

Back to Rags to Riches, can you imagine what an Empire Maker-Rags to Riches progeny could do? Belmont winner to Belmont winner. On the other hand, how about Point Given-Rags to Riches? Afleet Alex-Rags to Riches? I honestly do not know enough about the numerical significance within these hypothetical matings, but nothing in them screams “disaster” from what little I know. Any comments?

Finally, for those of us interested in seeing Rags run against the boys again—it wouldn’t be the first time such a thing happened after the Belmont. After she won the Belmont in 1867, Ruthless went on to win the Travers Stakes. Wow, 140 years between that event and now! However, again, there is a precedent for fillies doing well in the Travers. Belmont runner Invercauld finished third in her Travers try. Filly winners of the Travers include:

1865 Maiden
1867 Ruthless
1868 The Banshee
1876 Sultana
1895 Liza
1903 Ada Nay
1915 Lady Rotha

Second place finishers include:

1865 Oleata
1871 Nellie Grey
1888 Los Angeles
1921 Prudery (fascinating story about this race here)
1927 Nimba
1950 Bed O Roses

The last filly to finish in the money in the Travers was Chris Evert, who finished third in 1974, behind winner Holding Pattern and runner-up Little Current.


Handride said...

I had no idea about that Travers, that's a great story. You know for all the complaining about small fields nowadays you do hear a lot about walkovers in histroy.

Fran Jurga said...

Valerie, that's a great post. Thanks so much for that research. From people (general public type people, of course) I talk to, they are clamoring for her to be bred to Curlin!

But let's enjoy her while she's here with us!

Anonymous said...

My Flag finished 3rd in the Belmont in 1996 and has produced (among others) Champion Storm Flag Flying.

NoBoy said...

I like your suggested mating between RTR and Point Given. I also think that Distorted Humor, Kingmambo and Seeking the Gold (let's not forget big brother Jazil) would make excellent choices.