Racing Post: live blog

Queens of the Turf

Counting down 50 fantastic fillies and mares throughout January

  • It was a risk to ride so soon after the injury but she took a lot of knowing. The trip [2,400 metres] was as far as she could go and I was at the limit. It was a difficult job because she began too well and I had to leave her quietly to just tick away during the race. Then she saw daylight too early. Perhaps runner-up Comtesse Du Loire came at us a little late and the post saved me

    Yves Saint-Martin, Allez France's jockey
  • Before Zenyatta, there was Personal Ensign. Owned and bred by the late Ogden Phipps, the daughter of Private Account won all of her 13 starts, including eight at the highest level - a feat made all the mare remarkable by the fact she broke her near-hind leg in two places before a tilt in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

    "We never thought she'd race again," said trainer Claude "Shug" McGaughey.

    But race she did, and although off for 11 months, on her return she was a revelation, carrying all before her - including the boys when landing the Whitney.

    Perhaps her most impressive win was her last when, after the heavens opened over Churchill Downs, she was forced to slide rather than glide through the Breeders' Cup Distaff. However, in front of the famous twin spires and a jubilant crowd, she came through traffic from four lengths down at the furlong pole to grab victory over Winning Colors by a nose.

    Personal Ensign (left) wins the Breeders' Cup Distaff 

  • Few will need reminding (pardon the pun) of the heights scaled by number 22 on our countdown - and they may not yet be complete. Minding, last month crowned Cartier Horse of the Year, contested seven Group 1s in 2016, winning five of them - including the 1,000 Guineas/Oaks double. 

    Victories in the Pretty Polly and Nassau Stakes followed, but it was a win over the boys when beating Ribchester by half a length in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes that solidified her place as the star of 2016 - sorry Harzand!

    She doesn't look that sorry actually . . .    
    And the good news is she stays in training, so we may enjoy more of the same this season.
  • Recalling memories of Indian Skimmer, number 21 on our list, may take a little more delving into the grey matter, but boy, what memories she made - and not just for a plethora of high profile wins. 

    There was the time the enigmatic grey refused to go to post for the Champion Stakes. As Steve Denis recalls: "On this occasion she was ably demonstrating that faculty, and it wasn't until Cecil himself came out to indulgently remonstrate with her that she consented to move. They walked a little way down the course together, Cecil not minding about the ruination of his Gucci loafers, Indian Skimmer not minding that she'd been coaxed into participating in the silly race after all. A few minutes later she came back alone, her rivals lost in the fog, the race won, the immovable object transformed into the irresistible force."

    Once she got going though, the wins came raining down - the Prix Diane, Sun Chariot Stakes, Pris Saint-Alary, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix d'Ispahan are just some of the top-tier victories by Cecil's striking grey.
  • Not sure I agree with you about Allez France not beiing in the same class on the track as Frankel. She was far more versatile and highly tried than he was and though he was an extremely high class animal he, a bit like American Pharoah, it could be said that he didn't really beat anything outstanding or at the peak of their form.
  • Martin D. as much as this isn't a Frankel discussion, it is certainly hard to agree with the ending of your comment. But Frankel didn't just win his races, he pulverised opposition, mainly on the bridle, tanking along at in a manner most can only dream of their horse doing. If he hadn't been around imagine us talking about Excelebration as a crack miler. Also, did you forget the International & Champion Stakes and the high-class field he beat on both occasions then? When he passes, it really wouldn't surprise me if he has a much larger than average heart, much like Secretariat.

    However, I am really enjoying the Queens of the Turf and they are bringing some sublime memories of our heroines over the year. Thank you!
  • You're welcome Doyoun, glad you're enjoying it!
  • We all know Sir Henry Cecil was a genius when it came to handling fillies, and in Oh So Sharp he had one of the greatest. The daughter of Kris was the fifth winner of the Fillies' Triple Crown in the 20th Century - the first being Sceptre, who also through in the 2,000 Guineas for good measure!

    Paired with the great Steve Cauthen, in the summer of 1985 Oh So Sharp swept to victory in the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger - beating Phardante and Lanfranco by three-quarters of a length and a head.

    The final test came just in time too, according to Sir Henry: "Another week and it might have been too late. She was beginning to go and I was just hanging on to her"

    Oh So Sharp and Steve Cauthen win the Oaks 

  • If you missed it, here's an astonishing side story from Alastair Down in today's paper about Howard de Walden, who bred Oh So Sharp's sire Kris and won the Derby with Slip Anchor the same year Oh So Sharp won the Oaks.

    "As a student in the 1930s, De Walden was driving in Munich when he knocked down a pedestrian who sadly escaped with only the most insignificant injuries. If only he had floored it and done the job properly. It was Adolf Hitler."
  • A Tuesday treat - here's the story of Noblesse in full.

    Paddy Prendergast was a pioneering figure on the Irish racing scene. Having started his training career in County Kildare during World War II, the former jump jockey began to mount regular raids on major British two-year-old races in the early 1950s.

    The brilliant Windy City led the way with victory in the Gimcrack in 1951. Two years later The Pie King became the first of the trainer’s six Coventry Stakes winners. By the end of the decade Prendergast had won races such as the Champagne Stakes, the Cheveley Park, the Lowther, the Norfolk, the Queen Mary and the Richmond Stakes.

    In 1960 he saddled Martial to become the first Irish-trained winner of the 2,000 Guineas. In the same year came the foaling of a filly – sold in utero by Stanhope Joel – by Mossborough, the sire of Vincent O’Brien’s 1958 Arc winner Ballymoss, out of Duke’s Delight.

    Bought as a yearling for 4,200gns by the Anglo-Irish Bloodstock Agency, Noblesse was sent into training with Prendergast to carry the colours of Evelyn Olin, second wife of John Merrill Olin, an Illinois-born chemical engineer and inventor who specialised in the design and manufacture of arms and ammunition.

    A member of a juvenile team that included the Molecomb winner Royal Indiscretion and Whistling Wind, who won the National Breeders’ Produce Stakes at Sandown, Noblesse had established a significant reputation on the Curragh gallops prior to her debut in the Blue Seal Stakes.

    After she won that Ascot event by a comfortable five lengths, Prendergast was sufficiently encouraged to send her back to England to take on the colts in the Timeform Gold Cup, inaugurated the previous year at the instigation of Phil Bull as Europe’s richest two-year-race.

    Ridden by the Australian Garnie Bougoure, Ireland’s champion jockey in 1960, she won readily by three lengths. She remains the only filly to have won the race now known as the Racing Post Trophy.

    On the strength of just two races, Noblesse was named champion British and Irish juvenile filly. Following a bad winter and cold spring, Prendergast did not have time to prepare her for the 1,000 Guineas. Instead, she made a winning seasonal debut in the third running of the Musidora Stakes at York, accounting for Partholon and the Royal Lodge winner Star Moss in smooth fashion.

    Returning for the Oaks, she was sent off the 4-11 favourite. Always going well, she accelerated when asked by Bougoure a furlong out to win by ten lengths from the 1,000 Guineas runner-up Spree. Bougoure claimed she could have doubled the margin and several experienced observers suggested her performance was good enough to have beaten the brilliant Relko in the 1963 Derby.

    A minor hock injury forced Noblesse to miss the King George and in her place Prendergast sent over Irish Derby winner Ragusa, who proved an able deputy, beating 1961 Timeform Gold Cup winner Miralgo.

    The Arc was now the target for the filly, who returned to action in the Prix Vermeille with Lester Piggott aboard. Failing to find anything like the blistering acceleration she had shown in her previous races, she managed only third. She was found to be lame and was retired.

    Timeform described the 133-rated champion three-year-old filly in glowing terms: “In the first four of her races she hardly needed to gallop seriously for more than fifty yards, and yet she won all of them by a wide margin, and her turn of foot was something to marvel at.”

    She was perhaps the best filly ever trained in Ireland, although Irish racegoers never got an opportunity to see her in action.

  • We've another Sir Henry Cecil filly in today's paper as Bosra Sham fills number 18 on our countdown. The daughter of Woodman was a top flight performer on her day, but was plagued with foot issues throughout her career.

    She regularly missed planned runs and work sessions due to the chronic condition, including a final gallop before the 1996 1,000 Guineas. 

    "It was touch and go whether she could run," recalls Tim Bulwer-Long, racing manager to Bosra Sham's owner Wafic Said. "We knew she wouldn't be at her best but Henry felt she would still be good enough."

    She was, landing the fillies' Classic by a length and a half. However, she saved her best performance for that year's Champion Stakes, dismissing the dual Eclipse and International Stakes winner Halling by two and a half lengths.

    Bosra Sham and Pat Eddery following 1,000 Guineas glory 

  • I'm going to let Nicholas Godfrey tell you all about number 17 on our list, the great Zenyatta . . .

    Queens of the Turf: Nicholas Godfrey
    by Racing Post via YouTube

  • All Along, number 16 on our countdown, triumphed in the ultimate girl power Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, leading home a 1-2-3-4 for fillies in the 1983 race - Sun Princess, Luth Enchantee and Time Charter followed her home.

    However, she was about much more than that single race - the Patrick Biancone-trained filly was an early pioneer in her globe-trotting ways, finishing a close second in the Japan Cup and landing the Rothmans International, Turf Classic and Washington DC International in North America. Those victories earned her the accolade of 1983 US Horse of the Year - the first time an international runner had won the award.

    All Along and Walter Swinburn celebrate at Longchamp 

  • "This was no defeat for the males. It was humiliation. They dictated the pace that destroyed them. They broke under the ferocious pressure. They were devoured by the filly."

    What a brilliant description of the 1973 King George by Tony Morris, reflecting in the Bloodstock Review. The filly in question is Dahlia, a teak-tough traveller and number 15 on our list.

    Owned and bred by oil magnate Nelson Bunker Hunt - whose business was probably boosted by the fuel needed for Dahlia's frequent trips across the Atlantic - she raced for five seasons. Victories in the Man O' War Stakes, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, Prix Saint-Alary and Irish Oaks are just some of the highlights on her CV, which also includes a second King George in 1974.

    However, even that list doesn't convey just how brilliant she was - but Peter Thomas does in today's paper!

    Dahlia and Lester Piggott win the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup 

  • I hope you're enjoying our Queens of the Turf series - it's hard to believe we've only just over a week left! While we've got fillies and mares on the mind, why not try our Queens of the Turf quiz?

  • Well, I think it's easy to see what Racing Post historian John Randall thinks of those involved with number 14 on our countdown, the mighty Sceptre . . . 

    "This iron lady won all the Classics except the Derby in 1902, and her record would have been even better had she been trained and ridden competently throughout her career."

    You read that right - Sceptre, born in 1899, won the 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger. Now to be fair, that's a feat no colt could ever achieve given they can't run in the 1,000 Guineas or Oaks, but that doesn't make her accomplishments any less remarkable. She ran in the Derby, but was fourth behind Ard Patrick following "an interrupted preparation and an injudicious ride by the inexperienced Bert Randall".

    Now I've no idea if Bert and John are related, but he pulls no punches - and it's fair to say he was no fan of Sceptre's owner either . . .

    "As a two-year-old Sceptre won the July Stakes, but at the end of the season her trainer, Charles Morton, turned his yard into a private stable. Bob Sievier therefore had to find a new trainer and his choice, born of invincible self-confidence, was himself – despite his total lack of experience.

    "He set up his base at Shrewton, Wiltshire, and decided that Sceptre should start her 1902 Classic campaign in the Lincoln. Even after her preparation for the big handicap had been ruined by his incompetent American assistant, she was beaten only a head."

    Sceptre at stud with her foal Maid Of The Mist 

  • On the day Secretariat detractor Donald Trump is sworn into office (although he later back-tracked, we can only hope he does the same elsewhere!), it seems appropriate we celebrate his female counterpart - as described by Big Red's trainer himself.

    Although she only raced over 14 months, in that time she produced astounding performance after astounding performance - winning her first ten races by a total of 83 lengths. However, he final outing was to end in tragedy when, in a 1975 match race against Foolish Pleasure following the hugely popular 'Battle of the Sexes' match between tennis legends Billie-Jean King and Bobby Riggs, Ruffian suffered a catastrophic breakdown. Despite emergency surgery, she could not be saved.

    The following year she was inducted into the US Hallf of Fame, and took 53rd place in the Sports Illustrated list of top 100 female athletes of the 20th century - the only non-human to be honoured.

    Ruffian: an imposing specimen 

  • As God is my judge, she might be better than Secretariat

    Lucien Laurin, trainer of Secretariat
  • Love the picture of Sceptre - what a fantastic animal she is. Also Ruffian. Can't wait to see who makes the top ten, though I would imagine you could juggle a lot of these fillies about as they were all fantastic in their own special way. Great series
  • Thanks Martin, glad you're enjoying it! The top ten kicks off tomorrow with an Aussie superstar . . . 
  • It's a bit of a family affair today, with Petite Etoile, number 11 on our list, the fifth dam of Arc winner Zarkava, number 12. 

    Zarkava, an Aga Khan homebred trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, won all of her seven starts, with victories in the Prix Marcel Boussac, Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and Prix de Diane collected en route to Longchamp. Sent off 13-8 favourite on the big day, she didn't give backers the most easy time, breaking awkwardly before hitting traffic. However, she refused to be beaten and denied the admirable Youmzain by two lengths.

    A jubilant Christophe Soumillon  tosses his hat in the crowd after Arc victory on Zarkava

    Moments after she crossed the line the Aga Khan declared that Zarkava represented "the apogee of 80 or 90 years of my family's efforts in breeding". Well, he had Petite Etoile to thank in part for that - the daughter of Petition went to stud following 14 wins and five seconds from 19 starts.

    Trained by Noel Murless, she was initially regarded as a sprint prospect, but after winning the Free Handicap she was unleashed in the 1,000 Guineas, winning by a length before going on to land the Oaks, Sussex Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and Champion Stakes.

    Although controversially beaten in the King George at four, she had already landed the Coronation Cup, doubling up the following season.

    Petite Etoile (right): fifth dam of Zarkava 

    What a family of overachievers.
  • We've made it - the top ten is here! Kicking off the final leg of our epic countdown is Aussie icon and global sprint superstar Black Caviar.

    As one of the most recent stars on our countdown and a worldwide sensation in general she hardly needs any introduction, but for any unfamiliar with her exploits, here are her vital statistics:

    Foaled August 18, 2006
    Pedigree Bel Esprit - Helsinge
    Owner GJ Wilkie, KJ Wilkie, Werrett Bloodstock Pty Ltd, CH Madden, J Madden, PA Hawkes, DM Taylor, J Taylor
    Trainer Peter Moody
    Main jockey Luke Nolen
    Breeder Rick Jamieson
    Career record 25 wins from 25 runs
    Most famous for 'Wonder from Down Under' was a phenomenon, a four-time world champion sprinter never beaten in 25-race career, including a dramatic visit to Royal Ascot in 2012
    Fate at stud The filly Oscietra, her first foal by Exceed And Excel, finished third on her debut for the Hayes/Dabernig stable at Flemington on New Year's Day; she also has progeny by Sebring and Snitzel

    Yep, you read that right - 25 wins from 25 starts,15 at the highest level including that (in)famous run in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes when her jockey Luke Nolen mistook the winning post, resulting in a tense moment for her fans as Moonlight Cloud almost ruined her perfect record. Luckily, the Wonder from Down Under prevailed by a head, returning to her homeland triumphant and three more top-flight wins before retiring to the paddocks.

    Black Caviar's Career Highlights
    by Flemington Racecourse via YouTube

  • Black Caviar and Oscietra, her first foal

  • Elle est fantastique

    Is there a better way to describe number nine on countdown, Treve? Those are the words chosen by her trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, and who are we to argue with the woman who saddled her to win back-to-backs Arcs?

    Un (une?) Arc . . . 

    Deux Arcs 

    Okay, so French clearly isn't my forte (still waiting to discover what is), but it was clear where Treve's talents lay early on. The winner of her sole start at two, she returned at three to land a Saint-Cloud conditions race by three and a half lengths. Struck by illness following that run she looked unlikely to make the Prix de Diane - but proved she was no ordinary filly when not only recovering in time, but winning it by four lengths despite missing her intended prep run.

    That was the first indication of just how tough she was, but certainly wasn't the last as she not only won a red-hot Arc in 2013, but overcame back and foot problems - resulting in high-profile defeats at Royal Ascot and Longchamp - to deny supreme Arc yardstick Flintshire in the 2014 highlight.

    She may not have been able to complete the hat-trick the following year but lost little in defeat when fourth behind Golden Horn, and thoroughly deserves her place in our top ten. Retired (for the second time) after that Longchamp outing, her first foal, by Dubawi, is due literally any minute now.

  • "As a two-year-old she was decent, no more than that. We knew she’d have to stay to be better than that at three, but it wasn’t clear from her pedigree whether she would."

    Those are the words of Ed Dunlop on his global superstar Ouija Board, who earned the trainer many equine air miles before Snow Fairy came along. Before getting her passport stamped however she racked up an Oaks double - winning the Epsom event by an outstanding seven lengths.

    But it was for her iron constitution and love of travelling the daughter of Cape Cross became adored throughout the racing world. After a close third to Bago in the Arc, she packed her bags (not forgetting Lord Derby's famous black and white silks) and jetted to Texas, winning the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf under Kieren Fallon.

    That was her three-year-old season done and dusted, but at four and five she added the Hong Kong Vase and a second Breeders' Cup win to her name, in addition to victories in the Prince of Wales's Stakes and Nassau Stakes - the latter thought of by many as one of the races of the decade after an epic ding-dong battle with Alexander Goldrun across the Sussex Downs.

    Other overseas trips yielded plenty of places, including a second in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and a third in the Japan Cup.

    Her success didn't end on the track either - although her first few foals failed to yield a star, a visit to Galileo in 2010 resulted in 2014 Derby hero Australia.

    But enough chat, let's watch her in action . . .

    2004 Breeders Cup Filly Mare Turf - Ouija Board
    by 365horses via YouTube

  • Ta-da! Ed Dunlop is reunited with Ouija Board at stud 

  • The mention of Sun Chariot may prompt many racing fans to think of the July Course highlight, won three times in the last decade by Sahpresa and who's roll of honour also includes Queens of the Turf Time Charter and Indian Skimmer. However, before the race came the horse, and what a horse she was - when she felt like it.

    Bred by the National Stud and leased to King George VI during World War II, the daughter of Hyperion almost failed to make the track such was her devilish attitude at home, but after wartime bureaucracy delayed her return to Ireland as a reject, she deigned to do a real piece of work for trainer Fred Darling - and the rest, as they say, is history. A Newbury maiden victory on debut kicked off her career of eight wins and third from nine starts - with three of those wins just happening to be the New 1,000 Guineas, New Oaks and New St Leger (named as such due to them being hosted at the July Course during the war).

    She was a machine, and what a character. I have a few grey hairs and she gave them to me

    Sun Chariot's jockey Sir Gordon Richards

  • King George VI leads in Sun Chariot after her Oaks victory 

  • Some burn bright for a season while others take longer to reveal their true worth, clambering racing's ladder in increments. There are examples among our queens who thrive only near the comforts of home while others were almost born out of place and need to travel further afield to earn recognition.

    Goldikova could do it all.

    Beautiful words there from French correspondent Scott Burton on number six in our countdown, miler extraordinaire Goldikova. 

    Trained by Freddy Head and ridden by Olivier Peslier, the daughter of Anabaa won 14 Group 1 races in total, mainly at the mile mark but showing her versatility when winning the 7f Prix de la Foret and Prix D'Ispahan. However, her crowning glory came when landing a third Breeders' Cup Mile - the only horse to achieve such a hat-trick. She also lost little in defeat when travelling to Churchill Downs for the 2011 edition on her final outing, finishing just a length third to Court Vision.

    Racing on both sides of the Atlantic for five seasons, she was the epitome of toughness - in her attitude both on and off the track, as the picture below shows! She was no pampered princess, this mare was granite from the inside out.

    Goldikova: not the friendliest . . . 

  • 2010 TVG Breeders' Cup Mile
    by Breeders' Cup World C... via YouTube

  • Call Mr Roget, we've a new synonym in town for toughness - Triptych. In at number 5 on our countdown, the daughter of Riverman raced 41 times in six countries over five seasons, winning 14 races including the Prix Marcel Boussac, Irish 1,000 Guineas, International Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes, Coronation Cup and Champion Stakes. Not too shabby - but then again, given her owner Alan Clore spent $2.15 million to secure her as a yearling, you'd expect a bit of bang for your buck.

    Clore was a fan of big numbers - the somewhat capricious owner sent her to three different trainers, put up 15 different jockeys, and later sold her to Peter Brant for $3.4m.

    Sadly, Brant received little return on his investment as after she was retired, Triptych was killed in a midnight collision with a farm vehicle while in foal to Mr Prospector. A tragic ending to a quite spectacular tale of a filly who wowed crowds around the world.

  • Triptych - 1986 Dubai Champion Stakes (Group 1)
    by Maelezo Stud via YouTube

  • You might feel there's a bit of deja vu going on here this morning as today's queen is a star French miler whose connections include Freddy Head. However, unlike number 6 Goldikova, who was trained by the master horseman, number 4 Miesque was partnered by Head on the track.

    She was a filly with an enormous amount of speed but she was free running with it, which didn't always make it that comfortable for the jockey. I never got full pleasure out of riding her because she was a brute. She pulled hard and getting her covered up wasn't easy. But she was very, very good

    Miesque was very, very good indeed, winning 12 of her 14 starts including back-to-back Breeders' Cup Miles for Head and trainer Francois Boutin. By the end of her three-year-old season she had amassed seven Group 1 wins, a record for a three-year-filly only matched last year by Minding. However, Miesque was still in flying form, so remained in training for a - successful - return trip to the US.

    1988 Breeders' Cup Mile
    by Breeders' Cup World C... via YouTube

  • The day has arrived! The top three in our Queens of the Turf countdown were revealed in this morning's RPSunday.

  • In at number three . . . Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup heroine DAWN RUN

  • At number two . . . PEBBLES

  • And at number one . . . PRETTY POLLY

  • Pretty Polly may not be as familiar to some readers as many of the others on the list, but we lay out the case for her topping the list on our Queens of the Turf Postcast 

    Postcast: Queens of the Turf
    by Racing Post via YouTube

  • Here are Pretty Polly's vital statistics:

    Born 1901
    Pedigree Gallinule - Admiration
    Owner Major Eustace Loder
    Trainer Peter Gilpin
    Main jockeys William Lane and Bernard Dillon
    Breeder Major Eustace Loder
    Runs 24
    Wins 22
    Places 2
    Most famous for Her fillies' Triple Crown, among 22 victories from sprint trips to extreme distances, in an illustrious four-year career
    Fate at stud Named Broodmare of the Century in the book A Century of Champions by John Randall and Tony Morris
  • And here's a stunning picture showing Pretty Polly on her debut back in 1903 . . .

  • Well, that's a wrap for our Queens of the Turf series. I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as we've enjoyed writing it. I'll leave you with our take on a famed racing painting with a twist.

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