The Triple Crown is one of the most adored and celebrated series in horse racing history. It commands immediate and lasting respect for its winners and contestants, and has a direct impact on championships, breeding, and overall value. Because of the success of the heavily male dominated Triple Crown, an American Triple Tiara series was created as a female counterpart, in the hopes of creating a competitive and prestigious series for the breed’s fairer sex. While the Triple Tiara has succeeded in gaining its contestants great prestige, counting only eight winners in history, it is also very inconsistent. From 1957-2002 the series consisted of the Acorn Stakes, Mother Goose Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks before dropping the Acorn from 2003-2006 and adding the Alabama Stakes. Reverted back to the original three from 2007-2009 it once again changed for the 2010 running, consisting of the Acorn, Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama Stakes. This year the series started with the 1 mile Acorn Stakes, continued in the Mother Goose Stakes at 1 1/16 miles and will conclude this weekend with the 1 1/8 mile Coaching Club American Oaks.
The Coaching Club American Oaks (gr.1) has been changed just as much as the Triple Tiara itself it seems, being run at four different distances from 9 to 12 furlongs. The very first running in 1917 was contested at 1 1/8 miles but from 1919 to 1941, and again from 1944 to 1958 it was run at 1 3/8 miles. In 1942-1943 as well as 1971-1989 and 1998-2003 the race was a 1 ½ mile test of stamina. From 1990-1997 and 2003-2009 the Coaching Club American Oaks was contested at 1 ¼ miles before reverting to its current 1 1/8 mile distance in 2010.
While the race has seen inconsistencies in its running distance there has never been any doubt as to the quality of fields and fillies that have dominated its historic footnotes. Listed among its glittering alumni are such greats as Top Flight, Black Helen, Vagrancy, Twilight Tear, Shuvee, Ruffian, Davona Dale and Mom’s Command along with so many others. Dark Mirage and Shuvee became the first back-to-back winners of the Triple Tiara in 1968-69 and just five short years later Chirs Evert and Ruffian followed suit.
Ruffian is easily the most revered winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks, winning the 1975 edition in wire-to-wire fashion under a mild hand ride to equal the stakes record during her championship season. In 2005 Smuggler captured the Coaching Club American Oaks on her way to being named Champion Three Year Old Filly as well as Ashado in 2004. Banshee Breeze was another to attain victory on the track in the Coaching Club American Oaks as well with the voter in the Eclipse Awards balloting in 1998, coming just one year after Ajina achieved the same feat. The 1980’s saw four fillies win the Coaching Club American Oaks on their way to seizing divisional honors, starting with Wayward lass in 1981, Christmas Past in ’82, Mom’s Command in ’85 and concluding with Open Mind in ’89. The 70’s produced an even better tally, coming in at five, with four winners coming in consecutive years starting with Chris Evert in 1974 and finishing with Our Mims in 1977. At least two winners of the Coaching Club American Oaks have finished the year as Champion Three Year Old Filly in each decade, with both the 1920’s and 30’s producing six winners each.
The impact of the Coaching Club American Oaks in the battle for divisional supremacy is undeniable. A win not only offers the victor a spot next to the greats on the pages of history, it also goes a long way towards completing a championship year. Approximately thirty percent of the Coaching Club American Oaks winners have gone on to become champion three year old filly. A very high success rate by any standard.[With Royal Delta already ranking at #4 on HRN's current leading 3-year-old fillies page, how likely is it that the next sophomore champion could emerge from the Coaching Club American Oaks?]
A strong field of probable runners is eyeing the 95th running of the classic race this year and heading the cast of newcomers are a trio of Grade 1 winners. Leading the way is Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty, Mother Goose winner Buster’s Ready and Acorn Stakes winner It’s Tricky. Two other graded stakes winners are probably as well; Black-Eyed Susan winner Royal Delta and Mother Goose runner-up Joyful Victory.
Plum Pretty will enter the Coaching Club American Oaks off a decisive defeat in the Hollywood Oaks (gr.1) where she finished second to Zazu in a slightly controversial outcome. She had spiked a temperature earlier in the week which forced trainer Bob Baffert to scratch any plans of running in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr.1) the same day. After her condition cleared up much faster than expected Baffert entered her in the Oaks after observing how fast she bounced back to form. Some feel she may still not have been able to produce her best effort in the Hollywood Oaks but there will be no excuses on Saturday if she runs. Her last work was an excellent six furlong work she completed in 1:12.00 flat.
Last year the Todd Pletcher trained Devil May Care won with John Velazquez up, giving the jockey and trainer partnership their fourth win in the prominent event since 2001. This year they return with Bistuer’s Ready. Buster’s Ready finished second to Royal Delta in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and then returned in her next start to demolish the Mother Goose field, winning for fun by more than four lengths over Joyful Victory. She’s improving rapidly but enters off two four furlong works which could leave her a little shorter on stamina than her other graded stakes winner counterparts.
It’s Tricky turned things around in a huge way when she took the Acorn Stakes (gr.1) by storm at Belmont Park on June 11th, soundly defeating Turbulent Descent, considered by many to be the best one-turn three-year-old filly in the country. Her 3 ¾ length triumph might have been enhanced by the muddy conditions but she still beat Turbulent Descent with ease and also defeated Her Smile who went on to become a Grade 1 winner in the Prioress Stakes on July 4th.
Royal Delta lived up to her incredible two-year-old potential when she captured the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr.2) at Pimlico on Preakness Stakes day May 20th and now she is back to prove she’s one of the elite of a very strong three-year-old crop of fillies. She has trained up to the Coaching Club American Oaks with three solid works, including two straight five furlong moves. This is the filly that could still be getting better. Her pedigree is almost pure gold and her running style and win in the Black-Eyed Susan was beautiful.
Joyful Victory is quickly falling from the leading ranks to the second tier. After her two impressive wins at Oaklawn Park she finished fourth in the Kentucky Oaks with virtually no strong rally and then finished second in the Mother Goose Stakes. Solid efforts but nothing showing the spectacular kick she displayed when taking the Honeybee and Fantasy Stakes earlier this year. She enters off two excellent five furlong works, her last a 1:00.00 flat bullet at Delaware Park. You never want to underestimate a Larry Jones filly, that’s for sure.