Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best ever racemares

Frank Mitchell has started an interesting debate over on his Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog at http://fmitchell07.wordpress.com/ by asking his readers who were the greatest racemares of the last 100 years. Naturally most of the responses suffer from the recency effect. Only curmudgeons seem to remember, or be very much interested in, the achievements of what to others is the distant past.

It's an interesting question, though, worth some thought, and a quick look back through the records to remind even this old head of the glories of the past. In truth though, it is almost certainly entirely just to discount the achievements of virtually all of the fillies and mares that raced before World War II. American racehorses were quite simply better after the importation of European stallions and mares reached critical mass in the aftermath of the war. It seems pretty clear that the American racehorse reached something of an apotheosis in the 1960s and '70s, and everything since then must be compared to those horses. The fact that those decades happen to coincide with this old curmudgeon's impressionable teens and 20s has absolutely nothing to do with it.

So what does your list look like? Here's mine, with some semi-credible attempts at justification.

1. Ruffian....Ran too fast too many times not to be at or near the top.
2. Zenyatta....19 for 19....What else is there to say? (Yeah I know, there are plenty who quibble)
3. Dark Mirage...800 pound monster won 10 straight @3 and 4, many by huge margins
4. Gallant Bloom....Beat Shuvee 5 out of 6, 11 straight wins, vastly underrated even in her era
5. Allez France...Raced only once in U.S. when past her best, but beat Dahlia 5 for 5, beat colts 8 times in Europe
6. Personal Ensign...13 for 13, but had to be carefully handled because of soundness and thus difficult to evaluate fairly
7. Dahlia....only 15 for 48, but raced on when well past her best...Beat top colts silly in Europe 5 times, and 4 times in America.
8. Desert Vixen....9 for 11 at 3 in '73...admittedly a sentimental favorite. Led Dahlia a merry chase in D.C. International over distance way too far and almost held on. Great filly.
9. Rachel Alexandra....Sorry folks, generally overrated. Beat a bad bunch of colts, just like any of the fillies rated above her here would have.
10. Tosmah...17 for 22 at 2 and 3, beat colts in Arlington Classic
11. (why stop at 10?) Go for Wand...Another sentimental choice, but 10 for 12 before dying on the lead is pretty damned good.
12. Shuvee...Couldn't beat Gallant Bloom, but beat everything else after GB retired.
13. Bayakoa...16 for 21 and absolutely lethal at 5 and 6 when at her best.

That's my lucky 13. Have at it.


  1. Very nice but I'd swap Rachel Alexandra for Miesque or Lady's Secret.

  2. nice, John. I'm taking a different approach with my list, which isn't up yet, but this is good reading and thinking.

    it's always fun!


  3. LauraS....Busher probably comes closest in my mind of any of the pre-war...or in her case during the war...mares to deserving to be in the top 10 or 15 of the century. The problem is that she raced during the war when competition was weakened. Yes, she beat Armed, but he was nowhere close to his later form when she did. She's hard for me to evaluate, but clearly a great mare.

  4. hmm
    great list and not that these are any better...Ta Wee, Priceless Gem Affectionately Saftly Kept oh what was the Mare's name that Jacobs trained???
    so many so good and what fun to watch and remember
    Moccasin as a 2 year old!! Champion!!
    thanks for the memories

  5. Hmm, I required more than one win out of sex restricted company to make my list but to each his own.

  6. not sure whther or not my previous post landed but anyway

    from down here ( or up here in oz) my top 10 are

    makybe diva
    the rest (not in order)
    light fingers
    typhoon tracey
    gay poss
    denises joy
    and the jury is currently out on more joyous (denises joy's grandaughter)

    ray from oz

  7. Miesque would be an appropriate addition I think. She was dominant on both sides of the Atlantic. I have much more trouble with Goldikova, however, since Zarkava beat her twice, once at Goldikova's best distance, and once at Zarkava's. Miesque's record in Europe is better than Goldikova's. Just because Goldikova stayed in training a year longer and passed Miesque's G1 win record means nothing.

  8. Zarkava...oh yes...and Lamb Chop!

    Straight Deal...that's who it was

    by the way...I have a hard time with the below....not trying to be anonymous...just not sure how to answer it

    John Greathouse

  9. Hi, just read your post - from the bottom end of the planet (Australia), I'd have to nominate Makybe Diva. Any nag that can win three Melboune Cups (3200m - 16 furlongs) on the trot against international horses has got to be good.

  10. throw in a cox plate 2050 mtrs in her last years cup win as well, a true champ in every sense of the word, currently has a colt mothballed, or cottonwooled