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Queens of the Turf

Counting down 50 fantastic fillies and mares throughout January

    Hello, and welcome to our Queens of the Turf blog, where we'll be giving you a sneak peek of the fantastic fillies and magnificent mares featured in the Racing Post - and giving you a chance to have your say on our top 50.
    Throughout January we'll be counting down, from 50 to one, the greatest mares in racing's history, reliving their career and highlighting their fortunes at stud.

    It doesn't stop there - keep coming back for photo galleries, polls and quizzes all focused on racing's favourite fillies.
    Kicking off the series in Monday's paper at number 50 is pocket rocket and Cheltenham queen Lady Rebecca.

    Lady Rebecca and Norman Williamson (left) heading to victory in the 2001 Cleeve Hurdle 

    Bought by bloodstock agent David Redvers for just 400gns, she went on to win the Cleeve Hurdle three times for Venetia Williams and Norman Williamson.
    For all the thousands of horses I've had through my hands, I don't think there will be another who holds quite such a place

    David Redvers on the mare who helped make his name

    Read the full story of Lady Rebecca in Monday's Racing Post (Jan 2)
    Coming in at number 49 is Elite Racing Club's multiple champion Soviet Song. Unbeaten at two when winning the Fillies' Mile, she failed to score again at three - although finished second to Russian Rhythm in the Coronation Stakes.

    However, she blossomed at four, winning the Falmouth Stakes, Sussex Stakes and Matron Stakes, winning the Falmouth Stakes again at five.

    Soviet Song after her second Falmouth victory - Johnny Murtagh presumably declaring she's number one! 

    Tony Hill and Elite were great because a lot of people would have retired a Group 1 winner who had done well at three but maybe not quite as well as we had all hoped

    James Fanshawe, trainer
    Narrowing down the list to a top 50 was no mean feat, and listing every fantastic filly or marvellous mare would produce a fairly hefty tome. 

    However, throughout the month, trainers, jockeys and writers will be nominating their favourite mares who didn't quite make the final 50 (mine's Barshiba FYI).
    She didn't make the list but I still loved her because . . .

    She could hardly see over the door of the stable and it even looked like she might be able to get out through the crack at the bottom because she was so tiny, but she was lightning fast. She bolted up in the Cornwallis at two and then we took the brave decision not to run her until the King’s Stand the following season. It was only two weeks before Royal Ascot that she started to show her form at home, so we���d cut it fine but we were getting quite excited. She jumped out and made all to beat Continent, who towered above her. It was a first Royal Ascot winner for her owners Major and Mrs Kennard and for me, and it was something else really.
    Marcus Tregoning 

    Dominica (far side) wins the 2002 King's Stand Stakes 

    . . . and here's Gordon Elliott's favourite (who DID make the list!) 

    Queens of the Turf: Gordon Elliott
    by Racing Post via YouTube

    Remember this David and Goliath tussle on the Sussex Downs? The little lady on the left will soon be featuring in Queens of the Turf . . .

    Coming in at number 48 we have a mare who failed to win in nine starts at two but went on to become an outstanding sprinter. Soba, trained by David Chapman for his sister owner/breeder Muriel Hills.

    The daughter of Most Secret might not be familiar to some our younger audience, so here she is winning the 1982 Stewards' Cup in record time.

    Horse Racing 1982 Stewards Cup Goodwood. Soba
    by Eddie Cr via YouTube

    Soba thrived at Goodwood, returning the following year to land the King George V Stakes.
    "She might have done less homework than an expelled pupil, but when it came to an examination of her credentials on the track few mares made the grade like Solerina."

    A brilliant summing up by Andrew Dietz of the Bowe family's star hurdler Solerina, number 47 on our countdown.

    Solerina and Paul Carberry  

    The daughter of Toulon won 18 times over hurdles at seven different tracks, beating Champion Hurdle heroes Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace, and landing three consecutive runnings of the Hatton's Grace Hurdle.

    Number 46 on our countdown will be as familiar - if not more so - to bloodstock aficionados as she is to racing fans. Urban Sea, winner of the 1993 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is also the dam of eight-time champion sire Galileo and Arc hero Sea The Stars - sire of last year's Derby winner Harzand.

    In total Urban Sea produced nine foals to race, all of whom earned black type on track - including four at the highest level.

    Urban Sea (top left), Galileo (left) and Sea The Stars 

    With Galileo siring 2016 1,000 Guineas and Oaks heroine Minding and the dam of 2,000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold, last season was a particularly notable one for her legacy.
    We have an absolute pocket rocket at number 45. Marling, the mini filly with a big heart, won four Group 1s during her career - but the last proved most memorable as she defeated the QEII winner (and considerably larger) Selkirk in the 1992 Sussex Stakes.

    Marling - 92' Sussex Stakes
    by TIMETRAVELLER1955 via YouTube

    It was one hell of a struggle against a bigger horse; they went at it hammer and tongs from a long way out.

    - David Loder, then assistant trainer to Geoff Wragg
    well done, great idea....marling/selkirk great race, and soviet song, still so hard to accept she has gone......
    "There she was, every spring, as regular as the daffodils and as welcome."

    A true statement from Steve Dennis in today's Racing Post describing our queen at number 44, Quevega. Not only did the diminutive hurdler set a record when winning six times at Cheltenham Festival, remarkably she turned up at Prestbury Park without a prep run on five of those occasions - a prime example perhaps of why her trainer Willie Mullins is a champion of his craft.

    The winner of 16 races from 24 outings in total, Quevega is now thriving in her new career as a broodmare - here she is with her first foal, a Beat Hollow filly born in 2015.

    Oh go on, here's another look - we all need a foal video or two to brighten up these January days . . . !

    Quevega and her foal part 2 of 2
    by Stable Runners via YouTube

    Following Quevega at number 43 we have In The Groove. The daughter of Night Shift had her own Cheltenham connections - her time at David Elsworth's yard coincided with that of his Gold Cup and King George hero Desert Orchid - but she was far from overshadowed by her illustrious stablemate after winning the 1990 Irish 1,000 Guineas, Juddmonte International and Champion Stakes, throwing in the 1991 Coronation Cup for good measure.

    In The Groove (right) on course to win the Champion Stakes 

    We've an old favourite and a whippersnapper in today's paper with User Friendly filling spot number 42 and Champion Hurdle heroine Annie Power in at 41.
    User Friendly, a daughter of Slip Anchor, earned triple Classic honours for her owner Bill Gredley and Newmarket favourite Clive Brittain when landing the 1992 Oaks, Irish Oaks and St Leger.

    She threw in the Yorkshire Oaks in between for good measure, and the following year won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
    She went from being a filly you might win a Yarmouth maiden with to one ending up winning five Group 1s. She was something special

    Clive Brittain, trainer
    what a sight....quevega 'training' her foal, quite incredbile to watch
    Annie Power - what can we say? The talented chestnut is the first on our list still in training, having won last season's Champion Hurdle - but will she defend her title this season? That we don't yet know, but what we do know is she has now won 15 of her 17 starts - her two beaten runs both came at Cheltenham, once when second to More Of That in the World Hurdle, and 'that' fall in the 2015 Mares' Hurdle.

    The Champion Hurdle heroine 

    Our deputy Irish editor David Jennings is a big fan too . . .

    Queens of the Turf: David Jennings
    by Racing Post via YouTube

    In today's paper we have our first US filly to make the list, Rachel Alexandra at 40 - but will she be the last? (SPOILER ALERT: No).

    During an epic three-year-old campaign the daughter of Medaglia D'Oro was unbeaten in eight outings, including the middle leg of the Triple Crown, Pimlico's Preakness Stakes.

    2009 Preakness - Rachel Alexandra beats Mine That Bird
    by CatFanInTheBathtub via YouTube

    In the Preakness Rachel Alexandra beat Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, whose tale was later made into the film 50-1. Sadly 'Rachel A: The Movie' has yet to be picked up . . .

    Where do you start with Lochsong, our number 39? I'll turn to Steve Dennis for that one . . .

    "Speed thrills, and Lochsong had speed. She was prone to use it early and generously, like a factory worker on a Friday night with his weekly pay packet clutched in his fist, yet there was always enough in hand to see her safely through the five furlongs."

    She might have used her speed early - often on the way to the start - but Britain's favourite sprinting filly was something of a late bloomer, only making her racecourse debut in the August of her three-year-old career. However, from the start of her four-year-old career until she retired aged six, it was very much a case of onwards and upwards, as she progressed from a Pontefract handicap to successive wins in the Prix de l'Abbaye.

    My favourite memory is her Nunthorpe win – on the form book she couldn't win and I wasn't confident at all, but she was a revelation at York. She blew them away inside the first furlong. I've never been so shocked or so pleasantly surprised

    Jeff Smith, Lochsong's owner-breeder
    It's hard to believe Danedream, number 38 on our countdown, won the Arc back in 2011, but time flies when you're having fun. She arrived at Longchamp with a brace of Group 1s under her belt, yet wasn't expected to beat the likes of Sarafina, So You Think or reigning champion Workforce, and was duly sent off at 20-1.
    Bookmakers would never make that mistake again - she was favourite for four of her five final races, although not in the 2012 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which she won by a nose over Nathaniel.
    However, dreams of back-to-back Arc wins were cut short when her Cologne training centre was put on lockdown due to an EIA outbreak. Fans were robbed of their last chance to see her, but can look forward to seeing her progeny on track soon - perhaps the three-year-old Frankel filly Nothing But Dreams.
    If Found fans don't already have a place in their heart for Time Charter, they'd better find one. Winner of the 1982 Oaks, the daughter of Saritamer raced at a time when the fillies' programme was a very different beast to that of today, with scant opportunities for females after their Classic campaign.
    However, Time Charter had already shown she was more than capable of mixing it with the boys when winning the 1982 Champion Stakes - she then went on to land the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at four, adding the Coronation Cup at five for good measure.
    A feminist trailblazer?!

    We've a bit of a Willie Carson special in today's paper - the multiple champion was a key player in the success of both Classic queen Salsabil (36) and sprint sensation Habibti (35)

    An 800,000gns buy for Hamdan Al Maktoum, Salsabil proved a worthy investment when winning not only the 1,000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks, but also the Irish Derby - becoming the first filly to do so since Gallinaria in 1900. 

    Salsabil wins the Irish Derby from Deploy 

    Carson was in the plate for all of her nine outings (of which the pair won seven), and says: "The Irish Derby was one of the easiest races she ever had. A furlong and a half to run she was still on the bridle and went clear - race over."

    The duo's final win came in the Prix Vermeille, beating Miss Alleged by a neck.
    While Carson may have been a big fan of Habibti, it's fair to say her regular rival Soba, number 48 on our list, probably wasn't. The pair clashed on four occasions, with Habibti coming out on top each time - including with a stunning seven length victory in the 1983 Haydock Sprint Cup.

    Carson says: “I think the reason Dandy [David Nicholls, rider of Habibti's rival Soba] doesn’t like me is I used to get upsides him on the bridle, turn to him, tell him to push harder and then off I’d go!”

    That certainly seems to be the case in this video of the 1983 July Cup - Soba also finished second to Habibti in the William Hill Sprint Championship (Nunthorpe) and the Prix de l'Abbaye.

    Horse Racing Habibti & Soba July Cup 1983
    by Eddie Cr via YouTube

    Keeping it topical, and coming up on our countdown (though I won't give away her placing!) is Petite Etoile, the 1,000 Guineas, Epsom Oaks and Champion Stakes winner (to name but a few) who also graced the turf at Kempton on her four-year-old debut when winning the Victor Wild Stakes.

    Petite Etoile (not at Kempton!) 

    Back to today, and readers enjoyed plenty of international flavour with Melbourne Cup icon Makybe Diva (34) and Ed Dunlop's globe-trotting superstar Snow Fairy (33).

    "She transcends the sport."

    That was the opinion of trainer Lee Freedman after Makybe Diva was retired, and he wasn't wrong. Even accounting for the fact racing has a huge following in Australia, the three-time Melbourne Cup winner became a sensation across the country and beyond.

    Here she is winning for a record-breaking third time . . .

    2005 Melbourne Cup - Makybe Diva
    by 365horses via YouTube

    Speaking after the win, Freedman added: "Go find the smallest child on this course and there will be the only example of a person who will live long enough to see that again."
    If only Ed Dunlop could have collected Snow Fairy's airmiles, he'd never have to pay for a flight again.

    Already a star at home after her Anglo-Irish Oaks double, the daughter of Intkhab set off for what would be the first of seven trips outside Britain, landing the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto - a race she would win again 12 months later.

    Other victories included the Hong Kong Cup and Irish Champion Stakes - and of course she also won the hearts of millions of racing fans.

    Who couldn't love that face?! 

    The tale of Park Top might not be too familiar to some of our younger readers, but it's more than worth reading in today's Racing Post as she comes in at number 32. Trained by Bernard van Cutsem and ridden primarily by the great Lester Piggott, she was a bit of a slow-burner, failing to make the track at two but showing plenty of promise at three.

    However, it was at five she really came alive, and in a seven-week blaze of glory won the Coronation Cup, Hardwicke Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

    We had plenty of good fillies but if everything went right she had a phenomenal turn of foot and, in all the years I was in racing, I never came across a horse who could put a race to sleep in such a short time

    Mick Ryan, Van Cutsem's assistant trainer

    Park Top returning to the winner's enclosure at Ascot 

    "Cometh the hour, cometh the horse - of all the Queen's horses, Dunfermline timed it best."

    Steve Dennis hits the mark in his ode to Dunfermline, the filly who not only provided the monarch with an Oaks and St Leger win, but in the Silver Jubilee year of 1977.

    Ridden by Willie Carson (he's back!), she proved hugely popular up and down the country with both racing fans and the general public for her timely exploits, her reputation bolstered even further when St Leger runner-up went on to win back-to-back runnings of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
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