Race of the Week 2017

Breeders' Cup Top 10 - The Distaff/Ladies' Classic (with Videos)

Breeders' Cup Top Ten
10) 2002 - Before Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta there was Azeri. Prior to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2002, Azeri had compiled a stunning record for the year of 7 wins in 8 starts, a streak which included four consecutive Grade 1 triumphs and six straight graded stakes wins overall. As the gates sprung open to the roar of the fans at Arlington Park, Azeri made sure every second of the race was about her. Bounding to the lead, the chestnut filly plowed through an opening quarter in 23.2 and a quick half in 46.1. With nary a move from jockey Mike Smith, Azeri ran the six furlongs in a fantastic 1:09.3 and continued to sweep her way effortlessly around the far turn. Coming off the stretch Mike Smith loosed his charge,  and with a few taps of the whip, Azeri rolled home the easiest of winners by 5 lengths. Her 2002 exploits were enough to earn the 4-year-old filly Horse of the Year and Champion Older Female Eclipse Awards, making her the first filly in 16 years to win Horse of the Year.


9) 2008 - In 2008 Zenyatta took the American racing scene by storm, winning all seven of her starts, all in graded stakes races. It was a spectacular year that culminated with her winning the Distaff, renamed the Ladies Classic in 2008. True to her form, Zenyatta broke dead last as the gates sprung open. 2007 Distaff winner Ginger Punch took up position in fourth place, while 2007 Distaff runner-up Hystericalady ran a close up third, just off the pace set by Bear Now. All through the first turn, and down the backstretch Mike Smith and Zenyatta sat as cool as could be, their position unchanged. As the field began to navigate the far turn, Zenyatta took to the outside of horses as jockey Mike Smith roused his mount with a shake of the reins. Unfurling her gargantuan strides, Zenyatta began to make up ground like a runaway express train. Coming six wide into the stretch, the enormous filly absolutely trounced the field. The winning margin was just 1 ½ lengths, but the ease with which she won was off the charts.


8) 2005 - In 2005, Ashado was favored to defend her Breeders’ Cup Distaff title from the year before off the merit of her three Grade 1 wins that year. She entered the Distaff fresh off a victory in the Beldame Stakes (gr.1). A field of 13 fillies broke from the gate at Belmont Park with Ashado rating close to the pace in fifth. As the field rounded the far turn, the champion threaded her way through the frontrunners under a hard drive and took a narrow lead, but unnoticed by most, 30-1 shot Pleasant Home had come rocketing to the front of the pack from second-to-last on the backstretch. Swinging into the turn five wide, Pleasant Home swept past Ashado, now dueling desperately with Society Selection, and blazed her way down the stretch. In the blink of an eye the entire complexion of the race had changed from race, to rout. The final winning margin was 9 ¼ lengths.


7) 1989 - Bayakoa had accumulated six Grade 1 races in 1989 when she lined up to contest the Distaff at Gulfstream Park. Facing the winners of 25 Grade 1 races combined, the Argentinean wonder-mare broke well, rated just half a length off the pace set by Wonder’s Delight, and took command at the half mile mark with jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., after a slow opening quarter in :24 2/5. Rounding the far turn the undefeated Highest Glory took her best shot at Bayakoa but could get no closer than two lengths to the champ. Dual Grade 1 winner Gorgeous gave her best effort as Bayakoa led the field into the homestretch, but in the final furlong, the Argentine filly proved much the best, winning by two lengths. One year later Bayakoa would become the first and only repeat winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in one of the most tragically run races in history.


6) 2007 - Ginger Punch was the leading older female in the nation in 2007 after three straight graded stakes wins, including two consecutive grade 1’s. But when she finished a dull third in the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes there were plenty of questions to answer, and in typical Ginger Punch fashion, she did her talking on the biggest stage in American racing. In a field where 7 of the 11 contenders were grade 1 winners, Ginger Punch hooked up with the hard-knocking Hystericalady coming into the stretch and battled the length of the stretch in the slop. The recipient of several bumping incidents, Ginger Punch fought back gamely after losing the lead to her rival and won by a neck with the talented 3-year-old filly Octave closing from dead-last to finish another neck back in third.


5) 1986 - In 1985 Lady’s Secret finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. In 1986 Lady’s Secret took her game to a whole new level, winning 10 of her 15 starts, and never finishing worse than third. Surging to the lead at the break, jockey Pat Day took a strong hold of Lady’s Secret as she strode through an opening quarter in :23 flat. Rounding the far turn the grey daughter of Secretariat dragged her way five lengths clear of the field, running the half in :46. 1/5, now leading by six lengths and still under tight restraint. Onto the far turn the field began to close in, cutting her lead down to three lengths, but once again she spurted clear, this time opening up by five lengths as Pat Day began to hand ride her into the homestretch. From there on in the results were just a formality as the impressive filly tallied a 2 ½ length victory in a hand ride, running the 1 ¼ miles in 2:01.20. Lady’s Secret was crowned Horse of the Year and Champion Older Female of 1986 and was inducted in the Racing Hall of Fame in 1992.


4) 1993 -The 1993 Breeders’ Cup Distaff was billed as a showdown between defending 1992 Distaff runaway winner Paseana, who had amassed three additional Grade 1 wins since her Breeders’ Cup triumph, leading 3-year-old filly Sky Beauty, who entered the Distaff off five consecutive Grade 1 wins, and race favorite Hollywood Wildcat, winner of four straight stakes races, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Oaks. At the break Paseana was fastest into stride, but on the far outside Supah Gem raced forward with Hollywood Wildcat just behind. After a slow half :50 flat, Hollywood Wildcat moved up on the outside of Supah Gem with Paseana less than a length behind, stalking her every move. Into the turn Hollywood Wildcat and Paseana came on even terms and dashed into the homestretch to the roar of the Santa Anita crowd. Down the stretch the two brilliant fillies battled like the Titans they were, Hollywood Wildcat on the inside with a nose advantage over Paseana, trying desperately to become the first repeat winner of the Distaff since her Argentinean counterpart Bayakoa, in 1990. At the wire it was Hollywood Wildcat by a nose in a thrilling, and well deserved victory.


3) 1984 - Princess Rooney made sure the Breeders’ Cup Distaff got off to a promising start when she took down the first ever 1984 running at Hollywood Park for her 5th straight graded stakes score, and final career start. The moment the gates sprung open, Princess Rooney pushed Grade 1 winning pacesetter Lucky Lucky Lucky through an opening quarter in :23.3. At the half mile marker Princess Rooney began to edge forward, taking a slight advantage from Lucky Lucky Lucky. Around the far turn the two leaders remained glued to each other’s necks until jockey Eddie Delahoussaye decided he had had enough. Entering stretch he unleashed the overpowering energy of Princess Rooney, pointing her for the wire and instantly receiving a huge response that rocketed the filly 2 lengths into the lead. She wasn’t done yet, with just a few taps of the whip and a strong hand ride, Princess Rooney waltzed under the line seven lengths the best.


2) 1995 - In 1995 Inside Information entered the Distaff winner of three straight Grade 1 races. Facing ultra talented fillies such as Serena’s Song, Heavenly Prize, Mariah’s Storm and Golden Klair, Inside Information and jockey Mike Smith made a quick move along the inside as the field approached the far turn to seize the lead. The Phipps homebred filly led the way from there and never looked back. Cruising off the turn Mike Smith asked Inside Information to pick up the tempo, and with just a shake of the reins the Private Account filly burst clear by six lengths. Pulling away with blissful ease, she came home a 13 ½ length winner, stopping the clock in 1:46.15. The fastest running in the twenty six year history of the Distaff. She defeated the winners of 35 graded stakes combined that day, including winners of 12 Grade 1 races. Inside Information was one of the most talented Breeders’ Cup fillies of all time.


1) 1988 - How can you possibly argue with perfection? In 1988 Personal Ensign came to Churchill Downs undefeated in twelve lifetime starts, looking to close her storied career with a perfect thirteenth victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Kentucky Derby winning filly Winning Colors had different ideas about who should win the race, and did her absolute best to spoil the fairy tale ending of Personal Ensign. Breaking on top, Winning Colors continued to lead  as the field came racing around the far turn, two lengths claer and doing it well in hand. Into the stretch the Derby winner continued to pour it on. Personal Ensign was struggling mightily as they entered the homestretch, appearing hopelessly defeated. With Winning Colors beginning to tire after her monstrous effort, Personal Ensign began to edge forward, eating into the lead with each and every stride. With one final dramatic surge, perfection crossed the line, a nose the best.



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Older Comments about Breeders' Cup Top 10 - The Distaff/Ladies' Classic (with Videos)...

Lady's Secret is my choice!
@Mike - Dance Smartly was my #11, she had a fantastic year and beat a pretty good field in the Distaff too!
@Brian - I almost left Lady's Secret off, but after looking into the field, and seeing the time she ran on the lead all the way for 1 1/4 miles there was no way I could toss her!
I like the 1991 Ladies Classic with Dance Smartly. She was a Triple Crown winner in Canada and beat the best older horses in the Distaff. She should get more respect when people talk about the great 3 year old fillies.
You picked the right #1 for sure, Brian ... and it is always great to see two of my all-time favs, Lady's Secret and Princess Rooney, doing their thing!
Thanks Andy! There are so many impressive runs, but Personal Ensign was just too much, I couldn't see my way around her at #1 :)
Love your list. Personal Ensign would have been my #1, too.

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