How do Rachel and Zenyatta rank with the greatest females of all-time?
Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are without a doubt two of the best horses in the history of racing. Each has done things that have never been done before, but where do they rank among the best females of all time? This is very hard to say and certainly subjective to personal opinion. It’s very hard to compare horses throughout time, and say one was better than the other. I considered trying to do so, but many of these top horses are separated by very little. Saying one is better than the other just isn’t fair. Let’s take a look at some of the top fillies and mares in the history of racing. They are listed in no particular order. I’ll let you decide for yourself who is the fastest.
Ruffian - “As God as my witness, she may even be better than Secretariat”. That quote was said by Lucien Laurin, trainer of Secretariat. Perhaps Ruffian was better than Big Red. The daughter of Reviewer stood nearly 17 hands tall and led at every call in every race of her career minus her ill fated match race with Foolish Pleasure. While her competition wasn’t as good as some of the other great horses, she demolished all comers and in solid times. Her past performances say things like “easily” and “speed to spare”. She is one of only eight fillies to sweep the Triple Tiara series which is composed of the Acorn Stakes, Mother Goose Stakes, and Coaching Club America Oaks. All are Grade I events. Ruffian had some of the best early speed of any horse that ever lived. She was different from most horses in that her early speed was also late speed. She just kept on going!
Personal Ensign - The daughter of Private Account never lost in 13 trips to the track. Jockey Randy Romero piloted her in all but one race. She took down two very tough males in the Whitney Handicap when she powered home past King’s Swan and Gulch. She was a Grade I winner at the ages of 2, 3, and 4. Her best wins came in the Beldame Stakes (twice), and the Breeders Cup Distaff. Her win in the Distaff came over Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors. The finish was very exciting with Personal Ensign just barely getting up in the nick of time over the speedy Kentucky Derby winning filly. If you haven’t watched this race, I highly suggest doing so. It is counted among the best of all time.
Bayakoa - This mare won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff twice and took over the older female division after the retirement of Personal Ensign. It would’ve been incredible if they would’ve been able to race. Bayakoa won 29 of 39 career starts for trainer Ron McAnally. The Argentinean bred mare began racing at two, but didn’t really blossom into a champion until she reached the age of 5. Other than her Breeders Cup triumphs, her best wins came in the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap and the Grade I Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap.
Azeri - Trained by Laura de Sourux and then D. Wayne Lukas, this filly was Horse of the Year in 2002 and Champion Older Female in 2002, 2003, and 2004. She won the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap a record three times. She beat top mares Spain, Sightseek, and Take Charge Lady, but wasn’t able to get a win against the boys. Trainer Laura de Sourux had this to say about Azeri: “She didn't let anyone down, and she did it in great style. She's simply the fastest filly in the world now. You can't catch her early, and you can't catch her late.”
Genuine Risk - What is the best race that not only a filly, but a colt can win? The Grade I Kentucky Derby of course! This daughter of Exclusive Native became just the second filly to take the Run for the Roses in 1980. Piloted by Jacinto Vasquez, she won 10 of 15 career starts and never finished off the board. She would go on to take the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap after the Triple Crown.
Below is a list of other great fillies, many of whom were on par with the ones we just discussed:
- Ashado (2004 Kentucky Oaks & 2004 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner)
- Busher (1945 Horse of the Year)
- Go For Wand (Winner of 10 of 13 races, including the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies)
- Lady’s Secret (1986 Horse of the Year)
- Paseana (Winner of 1992, 1993 Apple Blossom Handicap and 1992 Breeders’ Cup Distaff)
- Princess Rooney (1983 Kentucky Oaks & 1984 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner)
- Rags to Riches (2007 Belmont Stakes winner)
- Serena’s Song (Winner of 11 Grade I races)
- Twilight Tear (1944 Horse of the Year)
- Winning Colors (1989 Kentucky Derby winner)