Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Over the years, the Breeders' Cup Distaff has had its share of great performers and great
performances. There were record setting victories and unbeaten champions. As
we prepare for this year’s Distaff, let’s go back and take a look at some of
Princess Rooney 1984
The final start in the
career of this great performer was in the inaugural Distaff at Hollywood Park. Princess Rooney made that last start
one of her greatest performances when she won the Distaff as Breeders’ Cup
announcer Tom Durkin described her as, “An absolutely runaway winner.”
This Breeders’ Cup victory
secured her only Eclipse Award, as the top Older Female, even though she had a
career record of 17 wins in 21 starts.
As a juvenile, Princess Rooney won all six of her starts without any
serious challenge, but the Eclipse went to Landaluce who was also unbeaten.
Lady’s Secret 1986
Lady's Secret had a long career that spanned 4 years of racing and 45 career
starts. 1986, which was her best year, ended with a win in the Distaff when the
race was still contested at a mile and a quarter. In 1986 she travelled all
over the country and took on the boys several times.
In gate to wire fashion
she won the Distaff at Santa Anita and Durkin called it as follows, “Lady’s
Secret puts it in another gear. Here is a brilliant champion.” He was correct
as she not only took down the Eclipse for Older Females, but she was also Named
Horse of the Year.
Personal Ensign 1988
Personal Ensign entered the 1988 Distaff unbeaten in 12 starts. That year, as a four
year-old, she won all of her races fairly easily including the Whitney against
her male counterparts. Her Distaff was run on a muddy track at Churchill Downs, and the 8½-length deficit was the farthest behind she had gotten in any career start. Turning for home Personal Ensign looked beaten. I still get chills when I
watch the replay, as the Phipps runner somehow found a way to win by a nose
after a “final 110 courageous yards.” Personal
Ensign got her only Eclipse Award as Top Older Female after her win in the
Inside Information 1995
For Inside Information the Distaff of 1995 was a great performance. Tom
Durkin used these phrases, “Turning it into a runaway…response was devasting…a
colossal victory.” Inside Information set a record for the largest winning
margin in any Breeders’ Cup race of 13½ lengths and the fastest time in the
Distaff of 1:46.15. Both of those marks still stand almost 20 years later.
Her victory in the Distaff
ended her career with an Eclipse Award and a final record of 14-1-2 in 17
In 2002 Azeri joined Lady’s Secret as the only
two horses to be named Horse of the Year in the same year of their Distaff
victory. 2002 would also be the first of three consecutive Eclipse Awards for
Older Female. Azeri made it look easy when she led gate to wire at Arlington
Park to win the Distaff by five lengths. At that point in her career Azeri had only
lost once in 11 starts.
Zenyatta would run only once in the Distaff and that was the ninth start and ninth
victory of her career. In 2008 Zenyatta won the first of three consecutive
Eclipse Awards for Top Older Female. In 2009 Zenyatta became the only female to win
the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Her career ended in 2010, with Horse of the Year
honors and 19 wins in 20 starts.
Royal Delta 2011, 2012
Royal Delta has already qualified as a great performer with her two consecutive
victories and she heads into this year’s Distaff with a chance to win an
unprecedented third in a row. Royal Delta won an Eclipse Award in each of her
years as the Distaff winner, in 2011 for three year-old fillies and in 2012 for