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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Despite Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra: Where the U.S. Is Severely Lagging Behind

As opposed to all the negative developments in horse racing in recent years, perhaps none is more pleasing (not to mention infectious) for fans than the success enjoyed by fillies and mares racing in open company races at the highest level. Sunday’s shocking upset victory by Sarah Lynx in the G1 Canadian International—arguably the most important non-restricted race run in Canada—only further fueled those flames. So, just how dominating has the “fairer sex” become racing worldwide? Over at my other blog Fillies First, since 2009 I’ve been maintaining a spreadsheet of wins and placings by fillies and mares in graded stakes company around the world, and the numbers suggest that their accomplishments are only growing.

In 2009, fillies and mares won, placed or showed in group/graded open company races 321 times, with 92 occurring at the highest (G1) level, including 35 G1 victories.

In 2010, fillies and mares won, placed or showed in group/graded open company races 380 times, with 112 occurring at the highest (G1) level, including 42 G1 victories.

In 2011, with still a full two months of racing yet to occur including the Breeders’ Cup, fillies and mares won, placed or showed in group/graded open company races 388 times, with 128 occurring at the highest (G1) level, including 44 G1 victories.

Impressive numbers, to be sure, but it’s the story behind the numbers that’s even more revealing. Just how dominating have fillies and mares been in open company races at the highest level worldwide this year thus far? Consider this: four times in G1 races, they have swept the top three placings—and we’re talking about some of the most prestigious races in the world with full fields:
  • FR-G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Danedream, Shareta, Snow Fairy) 16 runners
  • FR-G1 Prix Jacques Le Marois (Immortal Verse, Goldikova, Sahpresa) 12 runners
  • AUS-G1 Epsom Handicap (Secret Admirer, Pinker Pinker, Red Tracer) 17 runners
  • AUS-G1 Newmarket Handicap (Black Caviar, Crystal Lily, Beaded) 11 runners
While not graded because it’s restricted to sales graduates, the still-prestigious Magic Millions 2-year-old Classic (worth A$2 million), was also swept by fillies (Karuta Queen, Combat Kitty, Schiffer) in a field of 16. Mares also captured the top three positions in nine other G2 or G3 events in Australia, England, France, India, Ireland, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

Of the seven races thus far contested in the 9-race Global Sprint Challenge for 2011, two have been won by fillies:
  • AUS-G1 Lightning Stakes (Black Caviar)
  • JPN-G1 Sprinters Stakes (Curren Chan)
Arguably the most prestigious race in South Africa, the G1 Durban July, was won by a filly (Igugu), as was Australia’s classic G1 Caulfield Cup (Southern Speed). Five times this year Black Caviar has captured open company G1 events in Australia while Arc winner Danedream also twice won open company G1 races in Germany. In Australia, Shamrocker pulled off the G1 AJC Australian Derby-Australian Guineas double, while in India, Moonlight Romance won both the G1 Indian Turf Invitation Cup and G1 Indian Derby, and in New Zealand, juvenile Anabandana captured both the G1 Diamond Stakes and G1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce.

Other notable achievements:
  • Two fillies (Nayarra and Rose Eglanteria) ran one-two in the only G1 juvenile stakes race in Italy, the Premio Gran Criterium.
  • In Australia’s 2-year-old Triple Crown races, juvenile fillies race second and third in both the Golden Slipper (Mosheen, Elite Falls) and Champagne (Pane in the Glass, Fast and Sexy), while Pane in the Glass finished third in the AJC Sires Produce.
By a huge margin, Australia leads the world in wins and placings in open company races (115), followed by New Zealand (42), France (42), India (40), Japan (26), England (25), Ireland (20), and Germany (12). These fillies and mares won at distances from 5 furlongs (1000 meters) to 15 furlongs (3000 meters), with 4-year-old Motrice even running third in the ENG-G2 Doncaster Cup at 18 furlongs (3600 meters). Obviously, most of these races were on turf, but even on dirt Life for Sale won the 11-furlong ARG-G1 Gran Premio Provincia de Buenos Aires en route to winning the La Plata Triple Crown.

And in the United States, how are we faring? There’s no nice way to say this—we are pathetic. Although this year we’ve enjoyed Havre de Grace winning the G1 Woodward, Keertana winning the G3 Louisville Handicap, Maristar running second in the G3 Washington Park Handicap, and Stacelita placing third in the G1 United Nations, we’re still pitifully locked into a myopic mindset when it comes to challenging open company events. Come on, folks! The time has come for U.S. racing to actually come up to the level of other countries in truly challenging the best of the best.


suebroux said...

And in breaking news: Sarafina, after running 7th in the Arc, looks to be heading to Churchill Downs where she would be pointed to run against the males in the Turf!

Val, once again, great thought!

P.S. The secret "word" for verification is mentest! No foolin'!