Time For a Filly Triple Crown

Is Thoroughbred racing ready for an honest-to-goodness Filly Triple Crown, unlike the provincial series created by the New York Racing Association or the unofficial version that stimulated little interest at all back in the 1940s and ’50s?

There is no reason why a Filly Triple Crown does not currently exist and why no one has attempted to organize one on a national scale, complete with large purses and even possible bonuses.

Imagine a Triple Crown last year that pitted Beholder, Princess of Sylmar, and Close Hatches in all three races and the marketing possibilities that would have existed. As it is, the three super fillies squared off June 7 in the $1 million Ogden Phipps Stakes (gr. I) at age 4, but as great a matchup as that was, it was only one of a number of important and lucrative stakes run on June 7, and was just another lead-in to California Chrome’s attempt at a Triple Crown sweep. Buried even deeper in this stakes extravaganza was the Acorn Stakes (gr. I), once the first leg of the New York Racing Association’s Filly Triple Crown, and at a flat mile, America’s version of Europe’s 1,000 Guineas.

The main problem with establishing a recognized Filly Triple Crown is getting three racetracks around the country to agree to adjust their scheduling and boost the purses of these races. And then there is the issue of actually finding three compatible, prestigious grade I races with the right timing and within fairly close proximity to each other.

The most logical choices would be the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) at Pimlico, and the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont Park. But that no longer seems practical because of the reluctance of trainers to run horses back in two weeks; the Black-Eyed Susan being only a grade II event; and the Coaching Club American Oaks’ having lost the importance it once had and now being more or less a prep for the Alabama Stakes (gr. I), with both races run at Saratoga. Finally, we’ve already been down this road, and horsemen have never embraced these three races as an official Triple Crown.

Unlike the Triple Crown, which has had its feet planted firmly in the history books since 1930 when the term was first coined by Daily Racing Form columnist Charles Hatton, the fillies’ version of this prestigious triad has been floating in the air, unable to find firm ground on which to land and establish its importance on a national level.

The so-called Filly Triple Crown has taken on several life forms since it was informally recognized in the 1940s in an attempt to mirror the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Oaks, run at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby; the Pimlico Oaks, run at Pimlico, home of the Preakness; and the Coaching Club American Oaks, run at Belmont Park, home of the Belmont Stakes, were unofficially considered the fillies’ version of the Triple Crown.

But it was in name only, as the distances of the three races reflected the odd nature of this series, in which the Kentucky Oaks and Pimlico Oaks were run at 1 1/16 miles and the Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 3/8 miles.

Calumet Farm’s Wistful became the only filly to sweep all three races in 1949. But when Wistful’s victory in the CCA Oaks was reported in the Daily Racing Form and New York Times, not a mention was made of her completing a Triple Crown, only that she had previously captured the Kentucky Oaks and Pimlico Oaks.

Calumet Farm won all three races again in 1952 with Real Delight, but that same year, the name of the Pimlico Oaks had been changed to the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. Once again, the DRF and New York Times never acknowledged a sweep of any Triple Crown.

By 1961 the established Triple Crown had not been swept in 13 years—since Citation accomplished the feat following two decades of steady Triple Crown winners (Gallant Fox in 1930, Omaha in 1935, War Admiral in 1937, Whirlaway in 1941, Count Fleet in 1943, Assault in 1946, and Citation in 1948). With such a long drought the New York Racing Association felt it was time the fillies had an established Triple Crown, and so that year the organization took its three big races for 3-year-old fillies—the Acorn Stakes at one mile, Mother Goose Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, and Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 1/4 miles —and called it the Filly Triple Crown.

After all, New York was the center of the racing universe at the time and the place where championships were decided every year. And because it had never been officially anointed in the past, the media had paid virtually no attention to the accomplishments of Wistful and Real Delight.

In addition, two of the three races were well-established events with plenty of history. The Acorn had been run since 1931 and the CCA Oaks since 1917. The Mother Goose was the baby of the three, having been inaugurated in 1957, but it certainly gained prestige quickly.

So, NYRA packaged all three races and offered a $25,000 bonus to the winner of all three.

At first it looked as if this would follow in the footsteps of the past filly series. In 1963 Spicy Living captured the Acorn and Mother Goose, but in reporting the CCA Oaks, Joe Nichols in the New York Times mentioned the filly, having won the Acorn and Mother Goose, would be attempting to sweep a “Triple Crown of a rather esoteric nature.” And when he referred to the Oaks as a classic, he put the word “classic” in quotation marks.

So, racing still wasn’t sold on the Filly Triple Crown, especially when Spicy Living was beaten in the CCA Oaks by Lamb Chop, thus preventing the new series from getting off on a successful note.

In 1967 Charles Hatton did acknowledge the Filly Triple Crown, discussing its formation and historical significance.

“(NYRA’s) decision reflects a sensitive entirely sound grasp of box office values and a flair for showmanship. Other and richer races there are, but the NYRA series accrue a special significance, challenging the best horses to win the proudest honors. These series inculcate a way of thinking about them. Regarded individually they are just three other races. Collectively, they gain in importance.

“The series not only has color and imagination but makes a prerequisite of speed, stamina, and versatility, with a $25,000 bonus inviting the leaders in the division to attempt the hat trick and bring off victories in all three races.”

Finally, the Filly Triple Crown had been recognized, and by the same person who first used the term “Triple Crown” back in 1930.

All it needed now was a filly that could complete the sweep. No one could have predicted that filly would be a Lilliputian-sized gal named Dark Mirage, who had won only two of her 15 starts at 2 and had been sent off at odds of 112-1 in the Gardenia Stakes. At just over 14 hands and weighing less than 750 pounds, she looked more like a yearling and hardly a filly who would stamp her name in the history books and put the Filly Triple Crown on the map.

But the $6,000 yearling purchase by the obscure (in this country) stallion Persian Road II, out of a deaf mare named Home by Dark, blossomed into an overnight sensation at 3. After winning the 1968 Kentucky Oaks easily, she came to New York, where she romped by six lengths in the Acorn and by 10 in the Mother Goose. Finally, a sweep of the NYRA Triple Crown seemed like a mere formality, and Dark Mirage didn’t disappoint, putting on a spectacular show in front of more than 41,000 fans, winning the CCA Oaks by 12 lengths.

Even Joe Nichols wrote, “The Oaks is the third part of the triple crown for fillies,” although he failed to capitalize “Triple Crown.” Nevertheless, racing had a new hero in 1968 to go along with Dr. Fager, Damascus, and Stage Door Johnny, and had its first “official” Filly Triple Crown winner.

The NYRA Filly Triple Crown had been born, and the following year, the great Shuvee followed suit by sweeping all three races, followed by future champions and Hall of Famers Chris Evert (1974), Ruffian (1975), Davona Dale (1979), Mom’s Command (1985), Open Mind (1989), and Sky Beauty (1993).

The CCA Oaks has been the jack rabbit of Thoroughbred races. From 1971 to 1989, the distance was changed from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles. They had tried the 12-furlong distance in 1942, but that lasted only two years, after which it went back to 1 3/8 miles from 1944 to 1958. During the years it was run at 1 1/2 miles, we saw five Filly Triple Crown winners – Chris Evert, Ruffian, Davona Dale, Mom’s Command, and Open Mind. In 1990, the year after Open Mind swept the Crown, it was switched back to 1 1/4 miles, then back to 1 1/2 miles in 1998. In 2004, it was back to 1 1/4 miles, and in 2010 it was changed to 1 1/8 miles before being moved from Belmont to Saratoga, where it took on its new role as a prep for the Alabama.

It is apparent that NYRA has had no clue what to do with the CCA Oaks, which certainly did not give the Filly Triple Crown any continuity or stability.

Davona Dale, by capturing the Acorn, Mother Goose, and CCA Oaks, as well as the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan, became the only filly to sweep both acknowledged Filly Triple Crowns.

“Traditionally, I believe the three premier races at Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Belmont should be considered the Triple Crown,” said Davona Dale’s trainer John Veitch. “But NYRA wanted to enhance their program and see what would happen if they came up with their own Triple Crown. To be honest, when I ran Davona Dale in all those races at 3, I wasn’t thinking about a Triple Crown or anything historical.

“She just came out of each race better than she went in. She was as tough as nails and you had to train her like you would a very robust colt. For pure athleticism, she was the best horse I ever trained. She could do everything, whether it was at six furlongs or a mile and a half. My one big mistake was, after the CCA Oaks I should have given her the rest of the year off, but I ran her back in the Alabama and Travers. Calumet had so many great fillies, and she carried on the tradition of the farm, and justly is in the Hall of Fame.”

Veitch said the Breeders’ Cup has resulted in many of the sport’s traditional races being rescheduled or having their distances changed or both, so it has been difficult to maintain any continuity in these races.

“Many of the decision-makers have no regard for history or tradition and basically have destroyed many of the great historical races,” Veitch said.

In 1987 NYRA decided to change the name from the Filly Triple Crown to the “Triple Tiara,” most likely in an attempt to separate it from the Triple Crown and give it its own identity. That proved confusing and provided little historical relevance, even though the series was swept by Open Mind (1989) and Sky Beauty (1993).

NYRA had tinkered with something that wasn’t broken and then compounded it by tinkering some more. In 2003 the Acorn, which at one mile was similar to the One Thousand Guineas in England, Ireland, and France, was yanked from the Tiara and replaced at the back end by the Alabama. That lasted only three years, after which the Acorn was restored to the “Tiara.”

NYRA had pretty much given up on the series, dropping its bonus, and in 2010, Betfair TVG stepped in, sponsoring the event but making it the Acorn, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama. So the Mother Goose was given the boot. It was also a series with no name. Betfair TVG attempted to add interest by offering a $50,000 bonus to the owner of the winner of all three races, who would get to donate it to the charity of their choice. If no one won all three races, the owner of the filly that accumulated the most points would get a $30,000 bonus, again to be donated to charity.

That lasted one year before the point system was dropped. The sad part is that no one really cared because most people didn’t even know about the bonus or the point system.

Betfair TVG at least tried to promote and market the series, and that concept has to continue, but on a much larger, national scale.
Personally, the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks is a no-brainer as the first leg of the Fillies Triple Crown, and the 1 1/4-mile Alabama is a no-brainer for the last leg. One in Kentucky in early May and another at Saratoga in mid-August leaves a perfect spot on the calendar in late June for the middle leg.

Santa Anita, which has the new $200,000 Summertime Oaks (gr. II) scheduled for June 21, can change that name and move it to the spring as a Kentucky Oaks prep and move the more prestigious and historical Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) to June 21 or June 28 and boost the purse, and that could serve as the middle leg of the official Filly Triple Crown.

Of course, unlike Europe, whose Triple Crown is spaced apart from May until September, it is not quite as easy in the U.S. to wait that long between races. The major obstacle is sustaining interest over that long a period of time. But if we can get rivalries forming and have the best 3-year-old fillies in America pointing toward those three races, even if they wish to prep in between, it could, with the right marketing campaign, become a huge event, especially with a bonus program attached to it. Racing as a whole, has failed miserably in the field of marketing, and this would be the perfect venue for an energetic and creative marketing team to step in and make foie gras out of chopped liver.

This is the perfect time to take advantage of the filly craze around the world, spurred on by Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Black Caviar, and all the extraordinary femme fatales in France and Japan over the past few years. We don’t have to wait for them to turn 4, 5, or 6. Let’s start creating heroines when they’re 3, as we did with Rachel Alexandra, and intense rivalries like Blind Luck and Havre de Grace and the current big three of Close Hatches, Princess of Sylmar, and Beholder. Heck, the Zenyatta – Rachel Alexandra rivalry may have been the most intense in the history of the sport, and they never even ran against each other. It’s all about marketing. Wonder Woman and Xena are out there. We just have to put them on TV and sell them to a public clamoring for heroes; male or female.

And there is no better hook than linking them to the name “Triple Crown.” The bottom line is that the fillies deserve a Triple Crown, and even though there has been one in some form or another for more than 80 years, it needs to be done correctly and given an opportunity to pique the interest of horsemen and the public.

(This originally appeared in the June 7 issue of Blood-Horse magazine)

Check out this slideshow on the filly Triple Crown winners.

43 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Slewguru

I would love to see an organized Triple Crown for fillies!  I have always thought that the KY Oaks, CCAO, and Alabama would be great.  Princess of Sylmar would have been a deserving winner last year

15 Jun 2014 9:03 PM
Peg645

Was a little confused, Steve - thinking there was a filly Triple Crown, but not having kept up with its disappearance, didn't realize it was no longer. Your idea makes perfect sense, though, especially considering the great fillies of recent years. (Although thanks for taking me back by mentioning Dark Mirage. ;-) )

And not to muddy the waters, but I've been thinking solidly the past couple of weeks that a Triple Crown for older horses also a very good idea. As some good horses are finally being kept racing at 4 and beyond, and with all the previous complaints about "The Triple Crown" being too soon for 3yo's, this would give many an option - if that was also supported financially.

Considering the enormous interest proven again last week, these "crowns" could very well improve interest broadly - if only once they were set, they could remain there. But how do you "create" tradition?

15 Jun 2014 11:15 PM
PeteN

Great idea - in spite of the current Triple Crown hysterics. But, do we need to be welded to 3 yr olds? Why not 4? Timing needs to be considered carefully - no sense creating something no one will participate in. And lastly, why not let Woodbine in and make it N. American? Or is that too radical?

15 Jun 2014 11:25 PM
Steel Dragon

Steve, was Chris Evert the only filly TC winner to be bred to a TC winner (Secretariat)? If I recall correctly they named the foal Six Crowns. I think he (she?) made it to the races but never won. Any recollection of that? Thank you.

16 Jun 2014 12:04 AM
BelmontBarb

Steve ~This sounds inviting and surely sensible for racing ~ certainly our fillies are doing quite nicely and perhaps better than the "boys" and yes, it would be quite lucrative. The thought might take a while though to kick into action since the "planted" Triple Crown is still an open position and there is so much discussion on what to do or how to do it to fill the spot.  Suggestions of schedule change and conditions in reality may not be the answer and as tradition holds its place - the result is what it is.  Of course, if we look at this from the positive side - there is always the chance that the "elusive butterfly" - or should I say, exclusive ~ will come along and that is reason enough to leave everything just where it is because if we are not dealing with the exceptional horse then it's simply The Derby, The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes. I just can't imagine here what would happen to the "girls" if things went the same as this. However, it does seem they are "pretty" much doing this trip already.  On the marketing end - it could do a whole lot since attention span to the Triple Crown has lessened over the course of the past years and as lacked the luster everyone has been looking for.  We need to remember here what "California Chrome" has done as a marketing king or Belmont Park would have had another "picnic day".

So ~ as I see it "the fillies deserve a Triple Crown" but they will need a draftsman and an engineer to design and set the stage. In re of your concluding paragraph I think you would be the perfect Committee Chair to promote the fillies' Triple Crown - it's an appropriate and needed program and you, Mr. Haskin have my support.  

16 Jun 2014 12:29 AM
Racingfan

I am so glad you wrote this!  I agree whole heartedly, as this is something I have been saying for a long time.  Of course I have no influence (although I did email NYRA, attention to Mr Panza, after the Belmont, suggesting he bring back the Triple Tiara or work with the other tracks on a Filly TC as well as the need to bring the "Handicap Triple Crown" back to prominence in order to bring more focus to racing).  BUT, maybe YOU want to be the Mr Hatton of the 2000's and keep bringing attention to this subject...?  Especially to the powers that be who could make it happen...?  I would REALLY love to see both series happen and I believe racing fans would love it too.  I especially think the "Handicap Triple Crown", with a bonus for winning it and its own trophy, could help to keep some of our colts in training past their 3 year old year....  I envision the Metropolitan Handicap at 1 mile the beginning of May (or June I guess), then the Brooklyn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles a month later, and finishing up with the Suburban Handicap at 1 1/4 miles the following month.  All three would be for 4 year olds and up and of course would need to be Grade 1's (which I believe the Brooklyn and maybe the Suburban are no longer). Now, that sounds like a fun time while putting some focus on the older horses, doesn't it?  

16 Jun 2014 12:50 AM
genie918

It would be great to have a Triple Crown for the fillies.  Regretfully, the Triple Tiara sponsored by the NYRA has lost a lot of its luster since the association has changed the races involved several times over the years.  I believe the series should correspond with the current Triple Crown.  The races should be the Kentucky Oaks, the Black-Eye Susan and the Acorn.  Then, tact on an added monetary bonus if the filly who wins these three races goes on to complete and win the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama.  Technically, that filly would be winning the Triple Crown and the Triple Tiara with the Acorn being the overlapping race.  The added bonus should generate a lot more interest and quality fillies to the fields.  

16 Jun 2014 12:59 AM
duchess

Steve, the fillies definitely deserve a Triple Crown of their own.

I love the thought of having one leg being run in California.

Kentucky, California, and New York - one on each coast and one in the middle. It would give a lot of racing fans a chance to see at least one of the races.

Perhaps the California race could make the middle leg at a mile and 3/16 so it could be an intermediate distance between the 9 furlongs of the Kentucky Oaks and 10 furlongs of the Alabama?

16 Jun 2014 1:11 AM
ksweatman9

How can we transform your brilliant idea into reality? I'm shocked the entire concept of a Triple Crown for fillies has gotten lost along the way. It makes so much sense. We've had so many female superstars in recent history. It's true what they say, horse racing is it's own worst enemy. It's in dire need of fresh new ideas, but it remains locked in a time warp. Volunteer for the job, Steve. You need to be the CEO of the sport of kings. I like the title. It suits you.

16 Jun 2014 4:30 AM
Giddyup

I'm a big fan of the fillies and mares but one problem I see with a Triple Crown for them is the same attrition factor that results in many colts falling off the Derby trail. Each year there are few standout fillies but if they dropout of contention for the TC for health reasons is there going to be enough depth behind them to sustain interest among the public? Rather than another Triple Crown series I'd prefer to see something setup that takes advantage of the east-west rivalry that exists in this sport. I think that would be much easier to sell to the public.

16 Jun 2014 4:41 AM
Kelso1966

Why not make the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Oaks, Black Eyed Susan and the Acorn?

16 Jun 2014 7:12 AM
TimberRT

Well Ruffian is still one of my favorite horses of all time. If there is to be a filly triple crown then they need to add a mile and a half in there. They can do it.

16 Jun 2014 8:01 AM
Bret Stossel

A 14 hand, 750 lb filly ran 15 times as a 2 year old and followed that up with what would today be the equivalent of 4 grade 1 wins by from 6 to 10 lengths. And today owners and trainers are screaming about running 3 races in 5 weeks, virtually all stallions, as being too difficult. If that's all the better/tougher thoroughbreds are today, it might be time to just give and forget the whole thing.

16 Jun 2014 8:30 AM
Old Timer

I watched Dark Mirage in all three of her wins in New York. Like you said Steve, she was just the tiniest little thing, but oh so fast. With no disrespect to the great Ruffian, she was my favorite filly of all time.

The slide show shows Dark Mirage winning all three races. Check out the size of the crowd in each of the photos showing the stands at Aqueduct and Belmont. Just the Acorn Stakes as the main event would fill the stands back in the 60's. Now they'd probably draw 5,000. Sad. I do not know the answer but this sport needs to make some radical changes if it is to survive.

16 Jun 2014 12:28 PM
Fran Loszynski

Too bad Iotapa is 4 yrs.old she could be a contendr. Congrats to Afleet Alex's girl! Great win.

16 Jun 2014 1:44 PM
predict

If history has proven anything it is that this idea has failed to fly. I don't oppose the idea, but doubt if it would catch on, just as it hasn't in the past, history tends to repeat itself.

The fillies can already compete in the "real" Triple Crown, but very few have. I do wonder though whether a filly triple "something" would generate more interest among the female population. I would guess that the "degenerates( which includes myself)", who spend our time following and playing the ponies is mostly a male dominated group, with the occasional and unusual female involved. I am making this assessment totally on what I observe happening, in that, I would guess I see ten males for every female I see playing the horses. I am guessing that it is more in the nature of men than it is in women to try and figure out horse races to make money, I think the whole gambling aura that society tends to give a negative label to is part of the reason we don't see alot of women betting on horses, or is it because as a group they make less money than males, and can't afford to gamble with it.

16 Jun 2014 2:12 PM
slee

You hit this nail on the head, Steve.

Of all the things I love about horse racing in this country, the lack of opportunities and respect for fillies and mares is appalling.  One of my pet peeves is when announcers say, "This horse is by Tapit out of a Danzig mare."  Really?  And the mare's name and accomplishments matters not?  It's so refreshing to watch racing in Ireland where they often speak about the "gold ribbon" the best mares pass on.

I remember Dark Mirage, Ruffian, Davona Dale, Mom's Command and Chris Evert.  The latter was sort of infamous for swishing her tail while she was running.  This is usually the sign of a horse getting irritated but for her it meant she was just warming up and ready for battle!

Oh, and Steel Dragon, yes, "Six Crowns" did make it to the track. She won some races, but I think she was most memorable for almost always being in the money.  She went on to be a broodmare and probably her best offspring was Chief's Crown, Eclipse 2 year old of the year, and favored for at least 2 of the Triple Crown Races.

16 Jun 2014 2:34 PM
Arts and Letters

How about the Kentucky Oaks, the Woodbine Oaks (formerly known as the Canadian Oaks) and a longer race in the fall?

16 Jun 2014 3:17 PM
livewire

Steel Dragon-Here is your answer regarding Six Crowns, below.  She was the first broodmare sired by Secretariat to provide evidence of the broodmare sire he would become.  After Six Crowns, followed Terlingua-dam of Storm Cat, Weekend Surprise-dam of Summer Squall and A P Indy, Secretame-dam of Gone West and others in addition to these 3.  There was a Blood Horse magazine article not too long ago which talked about these mares who have provided some of the most influential stallions of this modern era.  

Six Crowns, the stakes winning dam of champion Chief's Crown and multiple grade I winner Classic Crown, was euthanized due to the infirmities of old age on Thursday, February 14 at the age of 26. The daughter of Secretariat will be buried at Robert N. Clay's Three Chimneys Farm next to her dam, Filly Triple Crown winner Chris Evert.

Produced from the mating of two members of racing's Hall of Fame, Six Crowns was bred by Carl Rosen and owned her entire life by Rosen, and then his family. She won the Meadow Queen Stakes and placed in six more stakes races, including the Ladies Handicap (gr. I) at age three. Retired to the breeding shed with earnings of $136,274, as a broodmare Six Crowns exceeded her racetrack accomplishments.

Her second foal was champion 2-year-old Chief's Crown, winner of the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in 1984, as well as the Norfolk, Hopeful, and Cowdin Stakes, all grade I. His grade I wins as a 3-year-old came in the Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap, Flamingo, Travers, and Blue Grass. Chief's Crown also ran second that in the Preakness and third in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Chief's Crown stood at Three Chimneys near Midway, Ky. until his death in 1997,following a paddock accident.

The fourth foal produced from Six Crowns was Classic Crown, winner of the Frizette Stakes Gazelle Handicap, both grade I. Classic Crown, who earned $535,919, also placed in the Beldame, Ruffian, and Test, all grade I stakes.

Six Crowns is also the second dam of Japanese stakes winner and near-millionaire Silk Phoenix and is the third dam of 2002 Triple Crown nominee French Assault, winner of the El Joven S. and second in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile S (gr. III) as a 2-year-old last year. She produced a 2001 filly by El Prado.

Read more on BloodHorse.com: www.bloodhorse.com/.../six-crowns-dam-of-champion-chiefs-crown-dies-at-age-26

16 Jun 2014 3:52 PM
sceptre

Not what anyone (here) wants to hear, but:

Any series of races that is designed (through prestige and/or bonuses) to entice owners into participating in the entirety is detrimental to the horse. Yes, it may benefit the sport, but tends to have the horse perform at a timing less than optimum (no matter what the spacing may be).    

16 Jun 2014 4:04 PM
livewire

Absolutely agree with Steve.  There was a time when the decision makers at the NYRA were about making wise decisions with scheduling and establishing a stakes program.  The problem is the NYRA has obliterated many of the "triples" which were under its control.  The filly version, handicap triple, fall triples for both handicap divisions, male and female.  Very few of the stakes races that made up these traditions still exist today, and those that do are not held in the same regard as their past renditions.

Suffice it to say, should any triples ever be resurrected or established again it will take the cooperation and commitment of other racetracks to succeed. Possibly even corporate sponsorship similar to the type we had in the 80s when it became necessary to motivate Preakness entrants after Spend a Buck skipped the Preakness to pursue a bonus with the Jersey Derby.

I agree with John Veitch, one of the unintended consequences of the Breeders Cup has been the removal of the fall championship races from the New York calendar and the alteration of the races that still exist.  Also, other racetracks have seen fit to mirror the packaging of major races on the same day as opposed to having these races stand on their own or highlighted/advertised with their own particular weekend.  

Having the Metropolitan Handicap moved from Memorial Day Weekend was unnecessary, and the Acorn was given the same consideration as any Grade 3 event.  Untappable skipped the race, if it held it's old importance she would not have.  Frankly, what needs to happen is a coordination between the three racetracks that constitute the Triple Crown to allow Pimlico a chance to showcase racing on the weekend of the Preakness.  If Churchill Downs has the 3 year olds, mile turf horses, and sprinters, then allow Pimlico to card races for the 3 year old grass horses, handicap turf horses and dirt horses, then Belmont Park, with it's 3 week gap could card whichever division it chooses. Pimlico has become the middle child and does deserve some respect and consideration if us as horse racing fans can expect the Triple Crown to continue.

16 Jun 2014 4:26 PM
Soldier Course

"Imagine a Triple Crown last year that pitted Beholder, Princess of Sylmar, and Close Hatches in all three races and the marketing possibilities that would have existed."

Steve: Are you suggesting here that the filly TC series should be structured to require a cumulative effect, meaning that those running in the second leg had to have run in the first leg, and those running in the third leg had to have run in the first two legs?

16 Jun 2014 4:34 PM
honor code

A filly TC would be AWESOME!

16 Jun 2014 6:12 PM
Pedigree Ann

The NYRA has tarnished the names of so many historic races it is not funny. Look at the Ladies' H, G1 10f at Aqueduct in early November. Yes, its spot on the calendar was taken over by the BC Distaff. So after Saratoga saved the Delaware H (G1) from disappearing when its track closed for a few years, why not put the Ladies' H name on the replacement when Delaware Park took its own race back? No, that would have been too logical; have to degrade the Ladies' name by running it on the inner track year after year. Then shorten it, then bury it in the middle of winter until nobody remembers what a great race it once was.

Just one example. There are dozens. Do you know that in the Bobinski-Zamoyski Tables which race was honored with the symbol UO, meaning the Oaks race for the entire USA? Yep, the CCA Oaks. The Fillies' Belmont. Exalt its prep race, the Acorn (from tiny acorns grow mighty oaks), demean the Oaks. The NYRA trashes another bit of US racing history. Ho-hum.

Oh, and the Grading committee doesn't get a bye, either. A race that is substantially changed is supposed to lose its grade until re-established at its new conditions, but the rules apparently don't apply to the NYRA (or Gulfstream, for that matter.) Changing the track where a race is contested, the time of year (has to do with the kind of field attracted), AND the distance by a furlong or more don't count as substantial changes? Crazy!

17 Jun 2014 4:20 AM
Terri Drennen

Some of you may not remember the TRUE greats (RUFFIAN) of the Filly Triple Crown, who won it without an effort. And Dark Mirage, Chris Evert. Of course, my number one is the Greatest, Ruffian, she could sprint, get the long distance of 1.5 miles without breaking a sweat. The bottom line, we do NOT have the horses of the past winners quality anymore. If a colt wins a few races that make the owners a million bucks, they are immediately whisked away to "stand" somewhere! Just how many stallions do we really need?! This is the watering down of the industry, why we do not have the quality of horses we had in the 70's, and the true blue fans that witnessed all the REAL greatness remember how it was, and how it still should be. Every year, I get solicited by tons of stallion owners saying their stud is the next best thing to sliced bread. No, if the fillies cannot do the real, REAL TC as it was originally established, then they do not need to lower the rules/races of the sport because the quality of the breed has been lowered. The almighty buck. Horses now are not at their best until at least four or five years old, if they have not already had their bones compromised by pounding two year olds' legs into the ground. I think that some other issues need to be addressed prior to creating a new named series of races that are not equivalent to the ORIGINAL filly Triple Crown. Same reason why we do not have a colt TC now. What's going on here? Also, while I enjoyed Zenyatta and Rachel, if anyone thinks either one of them could have caught Ruffian (again, a sprinter and a long distance horse wrapped up in a show horse's body) they are incredibly wrong. Ruffian could not, nor would have been caught. She was not whipped..and broke track records on her own, going all distances, with the SAME short amount of time inbetween those TC races. Don't water down the meaning of the races because the breed is now inferior. It is up to the assembly line money hungry breeders out there to be responsible and create quality, not quantity. Until someone can control this out of control industry, it is just going to continue to have less fans, less interest, and the continued ongoing negative thoughts by most that used to love the sport for what it once was.  Just my opinion. Thank you..

17 Jun 2014 9:08 AM
Warlaine

Could not agree more. Something about the girls racing seems to endear to the racing public some thing more. Which is why    I ask the question, why are the graded filly and mare stakes worth less money than the colts? purses?

17 Jun 2014 1:27 PM
RacingFan1992

Here is my proposal: Why not have a "Filly Grand Slam"?

Kentucky Oaks-1 1/8-Churchill Downs

Black-Eyed Susan Stakes-1 1/8- Pimlico

Acorn Stakes-1 Mile-Belmont Park

Mother Goose Stakes-1 1/8-Aqueduct

Coaching Club American Oaks-1/ 1/2-Belmont Park

Alabama Stakes-1 1/4-Saratoga

Space the series from the first Friday in May to the first Saturday in August.

17 Jun 2014 1:39 PM
livewire

Warlaine

The reason filly and fillies and mares races are less lucrative is they are restricted to their sex.  If a filly or mare wants to earn more money (and respect) she must run against the open races which are what most think of as races for the colts.  This is only because fillies and mares rarely race against colts in this country which is why when they succeed i.e. Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Rags to Riches, Winning Colors, Lady's Secret, and Genuine Risk, they are immediately vaulted into the public limelight.

Our history with racing is one of the most intriguing and rich amongst sports competition.  Although, I can't agree with the Ladies Handicap as a race with much historical significance.  It was usually the last grade 1 of the year, held at Aqueduct and won by a deserving, hard knocking mare as more of a consolation prize when the best had been retired or their campaigns were completed for the year.  Really, a better race to lament is the Ruffian which was at one time the middle race in the fall handicap triple comprised of the Maskette (now Go for Wand), Ruffian, and Beldame.  This series had a logical progression of distances, mile, mile and one-eighth, and mile and one-quarter.  As a series of races open to 3 years old and as a handicap series.  This series provided some of the best racing.  I still remember the finish with Bold N Determined and Genuine Risk gutting it out to the wire in that series.

There is no reason why the Maskette could not be scheduled for Saratoga enabling the Ruffian and Beldame to occur with the timing required to fit in with the Distaff.  Or is it shelved because the Distaff is now a mile and one-eighth.  A race well within the scope of most milers with class.

If there was any logic to a triple for fillies, there should be a similar succession of distance progressions such as Kentucky Oaks would be a mile, then a mile and one eighth on memorial weekend, followed by a mile and one-quarter.

Personally, I would love to see more mile and one-half races scheduled.  I think the betting public would be receptive and from what I have been hearing on the Steve Byk show, there has been interest from horseman in filling races with such distances.  I believe an allowance race with a long distance just filled with 14 horses.

17 Jun 2014 4:09 PM
TrueChampion

Opening up myself to ridicule - but worth it. The next Triple Crown Winner (Kentucky Derby-Preakness-Belmont) will be a filly.

17 Jun 2014 6:56 PM
Paula Higgins

A truly GREAT idea Steve and one that should be pursued. If you look at many of the people blogging about horses you will notice they are women. Women are supporting great female horses in numbers not seen before. It is time for the powers that be, to take advantage of women supporting women(fillies). I wonder if a Filly Triple Crown series of races shouldn't include 4 year olds as well. I worry that the push to get horses on the track at 3 can be too much too soon for certain horses. For example, Zenyatta would never have competed in Triple Crown filly races because she wasn't ready. If they want to restrict them to 3 year olds, make the races later in the season. I also think they need to spread them out more, not just for females but for males as well. For those of us who don't want to tamper with tradition, all I can say is that tradition is getting us nowhere fast and it is better for the horses to have more time between races. Even the British get that. Lets do what is humane for the horses. The video of California Chrome walking back to the barn after the Belmont said it all. Lets do it right the first time if a Filly Triple Crown is started.

17 Jun 2014 10:41 PM
Racingfan

Ksweatman9 - I am not sure how much "we" the racing fans can accomplish but I don't think it can hurt to try.  The day after the Belmont, I sent an email to Mr Panza at NYRA commending him on the Belmont card and suggesting he bring back the triple tiara or get with the other tracks about a filly TC.  I also suggested he work to bring back the "handicap triple crown" which is a series that has had only 3 or 4 winners. So, if we ALL were to let those in charge know what we would like to see, just maybe something would happen.  Someone on here also mentioned a "handicap triple" for older females too which is another great idea.  That way the 3 year old colts and fillies each have their crowns and the older colts and fillies have theirs as well.... The thing is, will people actually take the time to try and make their interest known?  

17 Jun 2014 11:14 PM
Ta Wee

Dark Mirage had the great misfortune of being in the same year year as the immortal Dr. Fager who was having his season for the ages. She would've been horse of the year in probably half the years since. She seems somewhat forgotten especially in your top 100.  With the exception of the incomparable Ruffian, and maybe Rachel Alexandra she was as dominant a 3yo filly as I've seen in the last 46 years.

18 Jun 2014 12:44 AM
FlyingJ

The Breeders cup has done more damage to the sport (as well as to the horses) than good.  The reshuffling of important races to accommodate it is one example.

20 Jun 2014 7:26 AM
Arts and Letters

Once upon a time, the Breeders Cup was actually pretty good.  One day of racing only, 7 races that often forced the best colts and fillies to run together, located at various tracks around the country (+ Canada once)...  And then it got watered down.  How many races are there now? 52? 93?  The great fillies/mares don't have any reason to take on the colts now.  Races come and go.  It's almost always at Santa Anita.

I wish they would bring back the original 7 races.

20 Jun 2014 11:42 PM
Arthur Wellesley

In England there is a Filly Triple Crown composing of the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket (May), The Oaks at Epsom (June) and the St Leger at Doncaster (September). This was last achieved by the Sir Henry Cecil trained Oh So Sharp in 1985. The 1000 Guineas is the filly's version of the 2000 Guineas, run a day earlier and the Oaks the filly's version of The Derby, run the day after. However, the St Leger is open to both sexes and is the final leg of the Triple Crown for both colts and fillies trying to win the Triple Crown. I wonder if this is an option to be looked at whereby the Belmont Stakes is the the final leg for the fillies' as well as the colts, it would certainly build more interest when the the Triple Crown isn't on the line for a colt but is for a filly. Furthermore, it would diminish any idea that it is easier for a filly to win a Triple Crown than a colt. Also, I would love the idea of the first leg being over a mile, as you mentioned. In England, the Triple Crown for both sexes starts of at a mile, then a mile and a half before the 14 furlong stamina test of The St Leger, the idea being that as a 3 year old progresses through their season they should naturally need further as they mature. Once upon a time it was considered that a Triple Crown winner would then go on to contest the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot over 2 and a half miles the following year.

22 Jun 2014 10:05 AM
Coldfacts

Interesting suggestion! Is there a Triple Crown for Fillies in the other major racing jurisdictions?

Despite the appeal for a TC for fillies, I cannot lend my supports to same if it will be given the same status as the existing TC. I recognize that I will be again viewed as being on the opposing side of yet another issue but I think negatives supersede the positives.

Let’s assume a colt won two legs of the traditional TC and finish runner up in the other. Let’s also assume that the Filly TC is completed in the same year. Let’s further assume that there is no dominant older horse. Would the TC winning filly be assured of the Eclipse for HOY awards?  It is highly unlikely that a winner of the traditional TC would not be voted HOY irrespective of what occurs in the older horses division. If the ward is not made to the filly it would diminish significance of the Filly TC.

The existing TC is opened to fillies. Genuine Risk won the Derby and was runner up in the Preakness and Belmont. With her achievements, it cannot be either specified or inferred that fillies are incapable of winning the traditional TC.

While the participation of fillies in the Triple Crown series has declined significantly over the years, three have combined to complete the TC in the last 26 years i.e., Winning Colors, Rags To Riches and Rachel Alexandra. A prestigious TC for fillies would likely deter participation in the traditional TC and thus robbing the public of the battle of the genders in the most celebrated series of races for 3YOs.

In every 3YOs crop there is likely to be a dominant male and a dominant female. In most instances the dominant female towers over her fellow females and occasionally over her male counterparts. The likes of Eight Belles, Rags To Riches and Rachel Alexandra would have easily completed a Filly TC barring injury. Would it be a stretch to speculate, that a dominant female is more likely to complete a gender specific TC, than a dominant male completing the traditional TC. The frequency of a Filly TC winner would make it less impactful and deemed to lack the difficulties of the traditional TC.

In the last 10 years, three female were awarded the Eclipse for HOY. All the recipients defeated males en route to securing their HOY awards. Why should there be a special TC for fillies when they have proven they are quite capable of defeating their male counterparts.

22 Jun 2014 11:24 AM
Slewguru

Steel Dragon,

The great Davona Dale had two colts by Seattle Slew,  Macau, Le Voyageur and a filly, Mistletoe Time.  Most notably was Le Voyageur, who finished third in the Belmont Stakes behind Easy Goer and Sunday Silence.  

22 Jun 2014 11:00 PM
Frank Angst

It's such an obvious idea and I'm partial to the Ky., N.Y., Cal. idea. (California should have a classic!). It would be of great interest to racing and on the breeding side it would give us that many more classic winners (and relatives of classic winners).

23 Jun 2014 2:33 PM
JayJay

Coldfacts : The fact that Eight Belles broke down competing against the boys, Rags To Riches retired one race after the Belmont and Rachel Alexandra was never herself after that grueling campaign against the boys and older males I think justifies a Filly Triple crown.   It doesn’t make sense for you to use Genuine Risk or even Winning Colors as examples.    The fillies of the past decade were all bred from horses who won few Graded races and retired.   They are not as durable as the horses before them like Geniuine Risk or even Winning Colors.

I'm still of the opinion that US fillies are not bred to be competitive against the boys, because they are not trained that way.   Even Zenyatta is not bred to run against the boys but she is an exception because she wasn't run to the ground, she was handled carefully by Shireffs and she was trained with the "horse first, racing second" mentality regardless of the criticisms given to her connections.   She ran as a 6 yr old and she did a lot for the racing industry regardless of how they raced her.  If the sole purpose of the filly triple crown is to attract more fans into the game, then I don’t think it’s a good idea as that will just put pressure on the trainer to race the fillies much earlier than they should be (like the colts.)

I think if the powers that be starts creating more 10F races, things might change.   Pedigree Ann mentioned so many races that used to be classic distances but have all been shortened.   If we have more 10 or 12F races, breeders and trainers will change their ways, we can rebuild and see the return of durable horses who can run and still be dominant at 5 or even 6.   I would also get rid of the “day trader” type investors who wants a quick return on their investment which changes the trainers mindset…they all have to answer to their bosses and if they want their money and profit, the trainer is forced to run their horse before they are ready.    I would prefer to see horses start running at 3 and continue running at 5 than see them run at 2 and retire at 3.   You can’t keep fans if the horses that got their attention is retired 4 races after they started showing brilliance which is what happen to most 3 yr olds now.

24 Jun 2014 12:28 AM
Mary

Slee, don't forget that Chief's Crown's broodmare sire was Secretariat.

25 Jun 2014 10:37 PM
JoyJackson21

Excellent article, Steve, as usual.  It is always a pleasure to read your articles. Well done!

I love the idea of a filly (3 years old)or mare (4 years old and above) Triple Crown series.  There is no reason why there shouldn't be one, although I also personally can't see any fair and equitable reason why fillies are not running in the current Triple Crown series under the existing points system.  After all, Genuine Risk, Winning Colors and Regret have all won the Kentucky Derby; Rags To Riches and Rachel Alexandra have defeated the boys in the other two legs of the crown; and Zenyatta, Black Caviar and Gentldonna have been powerhouse winning machines against male competitors throughout the years;and the last two winners of the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe have been female horses, winning against 13+ male horses in each of those races.  The argument that female horses are vulnerable does not wash with me.  And in the case of Eight Belles, that beautiful, brave filly clearly beat 18 of the best male horses of their generation that year (2008) in Kentucky that day, and was only a short distance behind Big Brown when they crossed the finish line of the Kentucky Derby, quite a feat in itself.  She is still quite a wonderful inspiration, and heroine, today.  Her death in that race that day was the exception for female horses racing against males, not the rule.  RIP, great filly.  I will love you always, Eight Belles.

Back to the female Triple Crown - it would be great to have one.  The world should be as well versed about Untapable and her accomplishments as they are about California Chrome's accomplishments.  If a female Triple Crown series is to succeed, the industry needs to make the series blend both tradition and excitement to garner interest in the series for the non-racing fan public to help the series catch on, especially among women (would would be intrigued by a Triple Crown series featuring female horses)and the young, where the growth of the industry truly lies.  To add interest and a needed twist to the new series, TPTB could make a nod to tradition making the Kentucky Oaks the first leg of the Crown, the Black-Eyed Susan the second leg, and make either the Ashland or a highly-prestigious stakes race out in California at Santa Anita Race Track the third leg of the filly Triple Crown.  It would create interest and word of mouth about the series.  Excellent hype is what has been missing in the mix in the previous tries at launching this series.  

Thanks again, Steve.  Have a great week!

29 Jun 2014 1:10 PM
mike g rutherford

Having a true Triple Crown for fillies  should not be confined to NY. The best 3 year old filly race is the KY Oaks and then the Alabama. 1st race should be KY Oaks, 2nd race should be in California, 3rd The Alabama.That gives fillies plenty of time between races and is spread out all over the US. A winner gets a trophy and bonus.  

01 Jul 2014 10:26 PM
merasmag

sumtimes coming late to the party is a good thing. I just read this article and all the comments, and have decided that a triple crown for the girls should be limited to FOUR year olds. that way, when they get rid of the points system (which can't happen soon enough), the girls can run in the "Triple Crown" races and the next year they can have their own series. THEN, when THAT becomes successful, there will be a hat trick triple crown series for 4 and 5 yos of both sexes. then we'll have us sum racing again.

You're welcome.

04 Jul 2014 5:50 AM

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