Sunday, August 12, 2012

Famous Mares

I don't think mares get the respect they deserve.  Many people stay away from "flighty female horses" but if you have ever had a good mare, you know how special they can be.  The great ones are "greater" than the best geldings or stallions in my humble opinion.

Let's take a look at some of the great ones.

McLain Ward's Sapphire immediately comes to mind as she was recently retired at 17.  She won two gold medals and countless other titles, clearly one of the best if not the best US show jumper of all time.  And she is chestnut, defying that "chestnut mare myth."  Here she is at Devon this year when she was retired.  Hopefully she will have a few foals in her new retirement.  McLain will have a hard time replacing this one.

Most people know about Zenyatta who was also retired a few years ago and is producing little ones in Kentucky.  She is likely the greatest female racehorse we have seen in the US (other than maybe Ruffian or Rachel Alexandra - it's probably a toss up).  She lost only one race and I think she could have beat the big boys in the Triple Crown too.

Ruffian was a great one that unfortunately died in her prime.  She was a small black filly who was undefeated in her first ten races with an average winning margin of 8 1/3 lengths.  She won her maiden race in record time by 15 lengths.  She set a new stakes record in each of the stakes races she won and equaled two track records.  All but one of her records remain unbroken.  Rachel Alexandra was the filly that bettered that one.  Her 11th race was run at Belmont Park on July 6, 1975, a match race between Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure who won the Derby. The race was attended by 50,000 spectators with a television audience of 20 million.  The mare was ahead by one and a half lengths when both sesamoid bones in her right foreleg snapped.  Her jockey Jacinto Vasquez tried to pull her up but the filly would not stop.  She kept running pulverizing her bones.  She still tried to run and finish the race.  A lengthy operation was not successful - Ruffian thrashed around in the recovery room, doing even more damage to her badly damaged leg and had to be put down. 

She is buried near a flagpole in the infield at Belmont Park.  Even trainer Lucien Lauren (of Secretariat) said "As God as my witness, she may even be better than Secretariat."

( photo)

You may not know much about Regret (love the name).  In 1914 Regret became the first of only four horses to ever win all all three Saratoga Race Course events for two-year-olds:  the Saratoga Special Stakes, Sanford Stakes, and Hopeful Stakes.  She won the 1915 Kentucky Derby.  Out of 11 starts in four seasons she won nine, placed second in one. The only race she did not place in was the 1916 Saratoga Handicap.  She was never beaten by a female horse.  She died in 1934 at 22 and was buried at the Whitney Farm in Kentucky.

(Regret with trainer James Rowe)

Allez France (1970-1989) was a French Thoroughbred racehorse who was the first filly in horse racing history to win $1 million.  She was the preeminent filly in France winning prestigious races such as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and was French Horse of the Year.  As a six-year-old she was sent to race in the U.S. but she did not do well.  In 1976 she was sent to Lane's End Farm in Kentucky and was the dam of the successful sire Air De France (194-2004) who sired 11 stakes winners that had 34 stakes wins. 

Lady Suffolk was one of the most famous trotters, gaining fame in the 1840's as a top Standardbred competitor.  She was originally the property of a Long Island liveryman.  She was the first trotter to finish a mile under saddle in under 2:30. In 1845 she became the first trotter to break the 2:30 mile hitched to a harness and wagon.  Until her death in 1855 she was referred to as "Queen of the Turf".  She is also imprinted in our memory forever as the "The Old Gray Mare" in the famous song.

Rachel Alexandra is now retired but had a wonderful career as a race horse and is often compared to Zenyatta.  She was the 2009 Horse of the Year and she won the Preakness that same year.  She was the first filly to win the race in 85 years (Nellie Morse did it in 1924).  She won races in six states (KY, LA, AR, MD, NY and NJ) on eight different tracks. She broke multiple stakes records, track records, and winning margin records throughout her career.  She was bred to Curlin and had her first baby this past January. 

Rox Dene was one of the most famous horses to ever compete in hunter competition in the U.S.  She is considered one of the best of all time.  She won championships at nearly every major horse show and held the title of USEF Horse of the Year from 1991 to 1995. She had almost perfect jumping form, excellent movement and wonderful conformation.  Her competitive career ended in 1998 and became a mom, producing two foals, Rocky Rules and Roxy.  She was bred using embryo transfer to another famous horse, Popeye K and the filly was named Eyelet.  Rox Dene is living in retirement in North Carolina. 


Winning Colors was one of three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby.  She won the Santa Anita Derby defeating colts by 7 1/2 lengths.  She finished third in the Preakness to Risen Star who also went on to win the Belmont by a huge margin. Winning Colors was out of the money in the Belmont.  In the fall of 1988 Winning Colors finished second to Personal Ensign in the Breeders Cup Distaff in one of the most memorable races ever.  She had the lead with about 110 yards to go but the colt came back and won by a "lip."  Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said it was the best race of her career.  She lived until the ripe old age of 23. 

(Sports Illustrated Photo)

You go girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. Does equine embryo transplant have a contribution in the characteristic of horse? I am not aware of this matter but I want to know the advantages of it.

  2. 4, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Couldn't agree with you more that the girls don't get their due. But I must disagree with you on the greatest Thoroughbred mare--in my book it is Personal Ensign, hands-down. Not only did she have an undefeated racing career (13 races, 9 stakes wins), but she produced one of the greatest distaff lines ever. She herself was a Breeders' Cup champion, as was her Breeders' Cup Juvenile fillies winning daughter My Flag, and her Breeders' Cup Juvenile fillies winning grandaughter, Storm Flag Flying. Personal Ensign also was the dam of Gr1 winner Miner's Mark, as well as Our Emblem, who sired a Kentucky Derby winner.

  3. What an awesome blog and photos too!

    I love it!

    Cheers from Colorado!

  4. Yes, those are some awesome mares! Thanks for paying tribute to them.

  5. You should add Ratina Z to this list.


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