It All Started With Dahlia

On Saturday, Belmont Park will run two million-dollar races on the grass for 3-year-olds – the Belmont Derby and the Belmont Oaks. Both are expected to attract several top-class horses from Europe. Grass races designed to attract Europeans have spread throughout racetracks all across America, from the lucrative Arlington Million Day to big events at now defunct Hollywood Park, Belmont Park’s summer and fall meet, and, of course, the two Breeders’ Cup days.

Many of the top European horses we’ve seen competing at these events have been fillies, who have stamped their names in the annals of American racing. We have embraced such exciting female invaders in recent years as Goldikova. Ouija Board, The Fugue, and Dank, among others.

We are all aware of the female dominance over the past decade in major international events around the world, especially the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. We now take fillies beating colts for granted, as we see them constantly knock off the best males in the world. But it wasn’t always that way.

There was a time when Europeans, especially fillies, rarely traveled abroad, with the one exception being the Washington D.C. International, and that was for one race in mid-November. Europeans never actually came to America and stayed for a full campaign, and a filly defeating colts in major races in both Europe and America was unheard of.

With the big Belmont weekend coming up and the Arlington Million and Beverly D to follow, I thought this would be a good time to re-address a column I wrote five years ago for those who were not following this blog back then. It is even more appropriate, because this year marks the 40th anniversary of Dahlia’s unprecedented fall campaign of 1974, which changed the face of American grass racing forever.

There was a time, long before the Breeders’ Cup, when foreign horses came to the U.S. for one special event, like the Washington D.C. International, and then returned home.

But, then, along came Dahlia.

Unlike your typical tomboy type, Dahlia was able to compete with and defeat the world’s best males, despite being extremely refined and feminine, and having as kind a disposition as you’ll ever see in a Thoroughbred. Before Dahlia came along in 1973 and ’74, Europeans and other horses from across the globe would ship to America for the D.C. International and that was the last Americans saw of them. But Dahlia, after winning the International in 1973, returned the following year for a fall campaign in North America, the first time a European had attempted that. After returning to her home base in Chantilly and competing in Europe for most of 1975, she was sent back to America for the third time later that year and stayed for good, racing as a 6-year-old and starting 15 times under the care of Charlie Whittingham.

By the time Whittingham took over her training, Dahlia already was the first European horse to win the Man o’ War Stakes (then the championship event for American turf horses), the first European to win the Canadian International Championship, the first filly to win the Washington D.C. International, and the only horse (male or female) to win group or grade I stakes in five different countries – England, France, Ireland, United States, and Canada.

Nelson Bunker Hunt’s remarkable filly most certainly must be regarded as the equine pioneer of international racing. At a time when transatlantic travel was generally limited to a single round-trip flight from Europe to the United States, mostly for the D.C. International, Dahlia logged an incredible 26,000 miles during her career, competing in six different countries. Along the way, she defeated no less than 10 classic-winning colts, including English Derby winners Grundy, Roberto, and Snow Knight; Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners Rheingold and Star Appeal, plus the winners of the French and Irish Derbys, the Irish St. Leger, Grand Prix de Paris, and Belmont Stakes. And those are just the classic winners.

It was Dahlia’s success in America that paved the way for a massive French invasion, with many of the invaders being fillies – Waya, Flying Water, Nobiliary, April Run, Trillion, All Along, Miesque, Pebbles, Estrapade, Miss Alleged, and Dahlia’s nemesis, the great Allez France, among others. So dominant was All Along, the French filly was voted Horse of the Year in America in 1983.

Following Dahlia’s victory in the 1973 D.C. International, French-trained horses captured seven of the next 10 runnings of the race. The onslaught had begun and grass racing in America would never again be the same.

Before we get into Dahlia herself, let’s look at the origins of modern-day international racing. The roots trace back to 1923 when English Derby winner Papyrus was sent to the U.S. to compete in a match race against Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Zev. The match race was the brainstorm of Joseph E. Widener, with the Westchester Racing Association paying all expenses for shipping Papyrus to America. Advance sales were so high that a special ticket office had to be opened on Broadway to accommodate the demand.

Unfortunately, three days of rain turned the Belmont track into a sea of slop, and, despite the urging of American trainers to use mud caulks, Papyrus’ trainer, Basil Jarvis, insisted on running his colt in his customary smooth plates. Papyrus never got hold of the wet track and was beaten eight lengths by Zev.

What was gratifying to many Americans was that it came just a few years after the British Jockey Club passed what became known as the Jersey Act, which branded a great majority of American-bred Thoroughbreds “impure” and denied their entry into the British Stud Book.

Although anticlimactic, the Zev--Payprus match race set the stage the following year for what was a unique series of races. Simply called the International Specials 1, 2, and 3, it lured M.P. Wertheimer’s French-trained and French-bred Epinard. In a period of less than two months, Epinard competed at six furlongs, one mile, and 1 1/4 miles, finishing second to Wise Counsellor in Special 1; second, beaten a nose by Ladkin, in Special 2; and second again in Special 3 behind Sarazen, who broke the track record by more than a second.

Other ideas, most of them outlandish, cropped up over the years in an attempt to lure European horses. But none ever came to fruition until Laurel president John Shapriro came up with the concept of the Washington D.C. International. The race, first run in 1952, became a rousing success and proved to be one of the world’s great races. It received its first major boost in 1958 when European superhorse Ballymoss made the trip, finishing third to Sailor’s Guide. In 1964, the International decided Horse of the Year when Kelso got his revenge on his archrival Gun Bow, shattering the course record. This followed three straight second-place finishes by Kelso, behind T.V. Lark, French-trained Match II, and Mongo. In 1967, Fort Marcy defeated Damascus by a nose in what proved to be a battle of future Horses of the Year.

In 1973, racing in America meant one word – Secretariat. Big Red proved to be a sensational turf horse, winning the Man o’War and Canadian International, but was retired following the Woodbine race, passing up a shot at the D.C. International.

That was disappointing to Dahlia’s trainer, Maurice Zilber, who was looking forward to proving that his filly was the best horse in the world. Although Dahlia was unable to handle her archrival Allez France over the softer courses in France, and never ran a lick in the Arc de Triomphe, Zilber was convinced she could beat Secretariat, based on her spectacular victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, as well as her victories in the Irish Oaks and Prix Saint-Alary and another win over the colts in the Prix Niel. Dahlia’s trademark was her brilliant turn of foot, which is why she usually was not at her best over soft and yielding courses.

In the King George, run over good (firm) ground, Dahlia demonstrated an explosion of speed and power rarely seen anywhere. With one electrifying burst, the 3-year-old filly blew away the winners of the English, Irish, and French Derbys and subsequent winner of the Arc de Triomphe, drawing off to a jaw-dropping six-length victory.

When Dahlia arrived at Laurel for the International, that performance was overshadowed by her disasters at Longchamp. But Europeans knew that was not the real Dahlia, and they tried to explain that the filly had wrenched a leg muscle in the Prix Vermeille and should never have come back two weeks later in the Arc.

Dahlia’s jockey Bill Pyers did not want Zilber to run her at Laurel, feeling she was far below her best form. The European press firmly believed Dahlia could beat any horse in the world, but they also weren’t sure whether she’d be at her best. British turf writer Richard Baerlin observed her and said. “She appears to be within 10 percent of herself. That won’t get it.” Even Zilber admitted that Dahlia was “not completely back to her summer form.”

It was hard to make believers out of the Americans, who were just beginning to come down from the Secretariat high that had lifted the entire nation into a state of euphoria. With Big Red scheduled to depart for Claiborne Farm the day after the International, the main hopes of America rested on the tiny shoulders of Tentam, who had won the Metropolitan Handicap on dirt, the United Nations Handicap on grass, and was second to Secretariat in his record-breaking victory in the Man o’ War. Also in the field were the classy American horses Big Spruce and London Company, Champion Stakes winner Hurry Harriet, Irish St. Leger winner Conor Pass, Eclipse Stakes winner Scottish Rifle, Grand Prix de Deauville winner Card King, and Preis von Europa winner Acacio d’Aguilar.

When Dahlia was made 8-1 on the morning line, Irish race caller Michael O’Hehir kept telling anyone who would listen that Dahlia was “truly a great horse,” adding that “if she had skipped the Arc, as she should have done, she’d be 2-1.” When Americans mocked O’Hehir for mentioning Dahlia in the same breath as Secretariat, he asked, “How can you compare Secretariat to Dahlia when you haven’t seen her run?”

Scottish Rifle’s trainer John Dunlop said, “Dahlia is truly a wonderful filly – one of the best I’ve ever seen. If she comes up with her top effort, she’ll win.”

When it was over, Americans had witnessed the greatness of Dahlia. After turning for home, at the three-sixteenths pole, Pyers had Dahlia hopelessly trapped behind horses. All he could do was wait for Big Spruce and Scottish Rifle to clear him, so he could swing Dahlia to the outside. With her explosive acceleration she could get back in the race in a matter of seconds.

In the final furlong, Big Spruce and Scottish Rifle bore down on Tentam and took over the lead in tandem. Pyers snatched Dahlia to the outside, and in a flash, Nelson Bunker Hunt’s familiar light and dark green silks appeared seemingly out of nowhere. It was as if the horses up front suddenly were moving in slow motion, as Dahlia charged by them so quickly she was three lengths in front in the blink of an eye. Despite the deep, yielding course, she still came home her final quarter in :23 2/5.

The following year, Dahlia, who often needed a few races early in the year before finding her best form, rattled off consecutive victories over the colts in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, another win in the King George, and the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup (now the Juddmonte International Stakes).

Following a third in the Prix du Prince d’Orange at Longchamp, it was decided to send Dahlia back to America for an unprecedented three-race fall campaign, consisting of the Man o’ War, Canadian International, and Washington D.C. International.

Dahlia’s trip back to the States did not start off very well, as she had a terrible experience in the antiquated Clifton, N.J. quarantine facility, prompting Zilber to publicly complain about his filly’s condition after being released from quarantine. Zilber described her experience as “a harrowing mess,” and “a thing of horror.”

Despite the poor conditions and losing weight during her stay, Dahlia still was able to defeat the best turf horses in America in the Man o’War only two days after leaving quarantine. She came right back 15 days later and won the Canadian International Championship, coming from 21 lengths back to defeat Big Spruce by a length. Big Spruce, who had finished second in the Canadian International to Secretariat the year before, had twice knocked off the mighty Forego in ’74 in the Marlboro Cup and Governor Stakes.

Returned to the States, Dahlia was back in action only 13 days later in the D.C. International. This time, she was victimized by a snail-like pace, set by super filly Desert Vixen, who crawled the first three-quarters in 1:17 1/5 on a firm course. Although Dahlia still rallied from far back and closed her final quarter in :22 4/5, she could only finish third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by fellow French horse Admetus. So, Dahlia had won two grade Is and was third in a grade I all in the span of 28 days.

Normally, a 4-year-old filly who had accomplished what Dahlia had, racing 24 times in five different countries, 16 of those races against colts, would have been retired. But, amazingly, Dahlia’s career was only half over. She would race 24 more times over the next two years, and although she was never as brilliant as she was at 3 and 4, she still managed to win the 1975 Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, defeating that year’s Arc de Triomphe winner Star Appeal, finish second in the Grand Prix de Deauville, and third in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes to Grundy and Bustino, in what was called “The Race of the Century,” inspiring a book of the same name. In her third attempt at the Canadian International, she came from 11 lengths back to finish fourth, beaten two lengths by Snow Knight.

By the time she joined Whittingham’s barn for her 6-year-old campaign she was a shell of her former self. Racing almost exclusively in grade I company against colts, she did win the grade I Hollywood Invitational Handicap, defeating major stakes horses Caucasus and Pass the Glass, and was third in the grade I Century Handicap, and fourth in the grade I Hollywood Gold Cup on the dirt.

Dahlia finally was retired with arguably the most amazing collection of championships ever: Horse of the Year in England in 1973 and ’74; Champion 3-year-old in England in 1973; Champion older mare in England in 1974 and ’75; Champion 3-year-old in Ireland in 1973; and Champion grass horse in America in 1974. And, according to Sports Illustrated and the National Museum of Racing, she was the first filly to earn $1 million, although some say it was Allez France. Either way, it was pretty close between the two; typical of their rivalry.

For a filly to have raced so often (48 times), mainly against the boys, while traveling all over the world, there was doubt about Dahlia’s proficiency as a broodmare. Residing at Hunt’s Bluegrass Farm and then Allen Paulson’s Brookside Farm, Dahlia proved as great a producer as she was a racehorse.

Of 11 foals to race, Dahlia produced six graded stakes winners -- four grade I winners and two grade II winners, as well as a grade I-placed horse and a listed stakes-placed horse.

My daughter virtually grew up with Dahlia, visiting her at Windfields Farm (where she was sent to be bred on a couple of occasions) when she was 11 months old, then again when she was 3, and years later at Brookside. I can fill an album with just the photos I have of Mandy kissing Dahlia, who remained one of the sweetest horses you’ll ever be around. It was hard to believe being around her that she was one of the most feared amazons who ever did battle with the boys.

She was a remarkable racehorse and producer, and lived until the age of 31.

So, from now on, whenever you see top-class European fillies competing in international events, or any European horse sent to America to campaign, just remember the brilliant, durable, and indefatigable chestnut filly with the pretty face and gentle disposition who started it all 40 years ago.


Mandy became close to Dahlia at a very young age at Windfields Farm in Maryland.


Mandy reunited with Dahlia years later at Brookside Farm in Kentucky.

52 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Abigail Anderson

BE STILL MY HEART! Steve, how could you have known that Dahlia is one of my absolute favourites????? And you did her proud, I must say. The photos with Mandy are so touching and I'm very glad to learn that you have enough of them to fill a scrapbook. What a great, great filly and mare, with so much courage and heart. Thank you so much for writing about her.

02 Jul 2014 12:32 PM
Valesa

Worthy of a movie! Great article.

02 Jul 2014 12:37 PM
Fred and Joan

What a fantastic filly! Just imagine the kinds of foals she could have had with Secretariat! We enjoy reading articles such as this from you Steve Haskin. We hope you are able to write for many more years. We feel it is important for younger people to be exposed to the historical side of racing such as only you can do so well. Dahlia reminds us of a chestnut broodmare we have that is also very sweet and gentle towards people and also allows kisses! But she is the dominant mare of our herd over all the other horses including the stallion! We really enjoyed the pictures of Mandy with Dahlia. So cute!

02 Jul 2014 12:59 PM
Delrene

Thank you so much for this previously published article about Dahlia.  I was so hoping for pictures at the end of the article and I wasn't going to cheat and scroll before I had read the story to its conclusion.  What great memories for you and your family.  Have a safe and happy 4th of July.  

02 Jul 2014 1:06 PM
Quinnbit

An absolutely wonderful Thoroughbred!

02 Jul 2014 1:53 PM
Arklecgc

Great article Steve. Remember Dahlia very well. Saw her three times: twice winning the King George at Ascot in 1973/74 and in the Arc, won by Rheingold in 1973. Although Allez France always seemed to be her master, Dahlia will still be remembered as one of the great racemares of the 20th century.

Dahlia has another special memory for me as one of her direct female antecendents, Kite was the grand dam of Orlando, winner of the infamous Running Rein Derby, that I wrote about a few years ago and reviewed by Frank Mitchell.

All the best,

Tony Byles

02 Jul 2014 1:55 PM
derbylin

Another great read, Steve.  Dahlia indeed is one of my

all time favorites. Sweet pictures.  That horse was truly awesome.

02 Jul 2014 1:59 PM
steve from st louis

Despite unsucessfully trying to corner the world's market on silver with his brother Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, Bunker Hunt was probably one of the great breeders of all time. Besides Dahlia, he raced or bred Vaguely Noble, Empery, Youth, Exceller, Trillion, Glorious Song, Dahar and Estrapade. I feel badly for those who missed seeing the greats of the '60s and the greatest decade of thoroughbred racing, the 1970s. Dahlia was one of those stars.

02 Jul 2014 2:01 PM
Smoking Baby

Steve, YOU DA MAN!  I'm with Abigail Anderson.  Dahlia's on my short list of alltime favorites. By Vaguely Noble-Charming Alibi if I remember correctly.  I also believe she was the first mare to earn over a million dollars.  Again, I could be mistaken.  Dahlia was one more member of the excellent crop of 1970.  

02 Jul 2014 2:09 PM
serena

Steve.... LOVE THIS!  I remember when you first published the original article.  You HAVE to post the "reunion" photo of Mandy & Dahlia on your FB page (and the link to the article) EVERY horseracing fan needs to read this!   Love that photo and wish it was ME !

02 Jul 2014 3:06 PM
jockey2be

Love the pics!I have a horse kissing little sis-this makes me think of her:)

02 Jul 2014 3:44 PM
Abigail Anderson

Steve: I hope this makes it through moderation: Dahlia winning the King George in 1973 & 1974 -- www.youtube.com/watch

02 Jul 2014 4:18 PM
dance with fate

Thank you for the story and lovely photos. Dahlia has such a sweet, kind face -her heart and courage are astounding. I will remember her, especially when European fillies / mares race here.  There are endless great stories in racing - I appreciate your telling them so entrancingly.  

02 Jul 2014 4:34 PM
Mike Sekulic

Thank you for this spectacularly well-written article reminding all of us of how great DAHLIA was when she was at her best.

Steve Haskin writes one great article after another!

02 Jul 2014 4:39 PM
PioneerCountry

There have been so many wonderful European fillies who routinely run against the colts. In N.A., it's headline news. Dahlia was such a great & to then produce as well. Love these reminders Steve-Tx.

02 Jul 2014 6:29 PM
ksweatman9

Wonderfully entertaining article, many thanks. So many outstanding horses, how can we argue that only a handful are worthy of the title "great"?

02 Jul 2014 6:45 PM
Paula Higgins

What an amazing horse. I had heard that she was a great horse but I knew next to nothing of her career. This was a wonderful story Steve. She is clearly one of the all time great female horses in the history of racing. The pictures of her with Mandy are precious and she certainly does look like a sweetheart. How wonderful that she lived until 31. I admire the European owners and trainers who take the risk to come here and race. When the Australians brought Black Caviar to Ascot, I though that was incredibly gutsy. Ditto Goldikova. She was one amazing horse as well and it was thrilling to see her win for the third time here.

02 Jul 2014 8:42 PM
Sagerider1

I absolutely love Dahlia, I felt in her day she was snubbed. Whenever I look at the woeful collection I managed to get of her from the BloodHorse, I just shake my head. I have every race of Secretariat & Ruffian. I'ts like shes the invisible woman. Sigh.

02 Jul 2014 8:44 PM
Deltalady

Thank you, Steve.  I depend so much on you to fill in the enormous gaps in my Thoroughbred education. I sometimes feel I lived in a parallel universe, as I don't know how I got through the "golden age" of horse racing and was totally unaware of such great horses and such great events as those you are so adept at describing. On the other hand, I get an enormous amount of satisfaction and enjoyment at playing catch-up and even though I had the basic details, your prose brought me to tears at the enormous accomplishment and tremendous courage of Dahlia.  She quite simply takes my breath away.  Thanks for sharing this beautiful tribute.

02 Jul 2014 9:40 PM
BelmontBarb

Thank you Steve - for printing this from your archives. Dahlia was an outstanding filly and a beauty at that - as is Mandy ~  Her persona exploded with her energy to compete and emphasized the ability of what a gentle heart can do.  A powerhouse performer in all categories that enlightens us with hope as your writing does.  It was good to read this right before the 4th - it gives us courage as Dahlia is recalled and we can look back and regain what we have lost by continuing on our run to the finish line.

Thank you ~ have a "brilliant" 4th of July!

02 Jul 2014 10:07 PM
PeteN

The first and only horse I have ever bet on is Dahlia. A friend from my work went to Woodbine for the International and took my 2 dollars worth along...

02 Jul 2014 10:18 PM
judith39

This is a wonderful article, full of history which we horsemen all need to be reminded.  Saw several of the races in US on TV and reminders are good.  Dahlia and Secretariat were so awesome it strains the heart. Thanks.  

03 Jul 2014 4:47 AM
Pedigree Ann

Both Dahlia and Allez France were USA breds, by the way, sent to be trained and raced in Europe.

N. B. Hunt had been taught that 'class in the dam' meant racing class, so he assembled a broodmare band of good, stakes-winning racemares, many of them with less than highly-regarded pedigrees. Charming Alibi, the dam of Dahlia, was one of them. She won several stakes races at the old Detroit Racecourse, winning 16 of 71 starts in all.

A Calbred, Charming Alibi was a daughter of Honeys Alibi, a decent SW son of Alibhai out of another great racemare who beat males, the Calbred Honeymoon. Honeys Alibi had appeal to Californians because of his dam, so that is why he had a stud career at all.

Charming Alibi's second dam was the Argentine-bred (exported in utero) and unraced Adorada, by the French horse Hierocles. A half-brother to chef-de-race Djebel, Hierocles won all of his 6 races, including two runnings of the now G1 Prix d'Ispahan, during the limited racing in France during WWII, but is found in few other pedigrees today.

The next dam was the globe-trotting Gilded Wave, a USA-bred by Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox. She was exported to Britain as a yearling, later on went to France, where she made Hierocles' acquaintance, and ended up in Argentina.

Guilded Wave's dam was French-bred, by the US-sired Sweeper II, out of US-bred and raced Frizette, who spent her entire stud career in France. Winner of the Rosedale S, then a major New York 2yo race, Frizette became one of the great foundation mares of the 20th Century. Myrtlewood, ancestress of Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew among others, was one of her granddaughters.

All in all, an appropriate background for world traveler like Dahlia.

03 Jul 2014 5:03 AM
Susan W.

GREAT article!  Thank you, Steve Haskin, for another very informative and enjoyable journey into the annals of horse racing.

03 Jul 2014 6:39 AM
Sail On

Thanks Steve. Ant the photos show her to have a beautiful head. How very strong she was.

03 Jul 2014 9:08 AM
peggy8

So nice that this great mare gets some coverage.I saw her at the barn days prior to that losing DC Int. race as well as viewed the race from a strategic point.  My stable ran a horse that day as well who got his nose got stuck in the gate-bad gate man! Anyhow, we were all amazed at how poorly the great Piggot rode Dahlia.  She was throwing her head sideways for quite a distance after coming out of the gate and pulled around indiscriminately throughout the race.  Had she been clear and not fought the whole way around we all thought she'd have won easily---not just me talking but the whole stable agreed on this. She was a fantastic horse and the reason I bred to the only son of Vaguely Noble I could find within a few hundred miles from my farm. I still have a daughter from the mare I got from that breeding who is by Spectacular Bid.

03 Jul 2014 9:17 AM
txhorsefan

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful repeat of one of your classic columns!  As always, I love reading about the tales you weave into a history lesson for those of us who love the horses.  I'm so happy for you to have the beautiful photo memories of your Mandy growing up with these wonderful horses, and I'm doubly happy you are kind enough to share them with your fans.  Thanks!!

03 Jul 2014 11:09 AM
Terlingua

Steve, Thank you for your fantastic story of Dahlia.  You always draw us in to the life of the horse or horses about which you write.

Pedigree Ann - Thank you for the additional information about Dahlia's bloodlines.

03 Jul 2014 1:12 PM
mz

Steve, add my "thank you" to all the others.

For all of you: this is why us old guys are spoiled about fillies and mares against the boys -- we grew up with Dahlia etc.

At least she got one breeding to Northern Dancer: Wajd, a very good filly herself at the races.

03 Jul 2014 4:55 PM
goldenlady

Great story, I'm glad it gives younger racing fans a chance to know about this wonderful mare.  And it was a real treat reading the names of so many horses that were a part of what was, for me, a truly golden era of racing, when horses ran frequently and didn't dodge competition.  Thank you for the memories.

03 Jul 2014 5:04 PM
The Equestrian Vagabond

At 11 years old, I was addicted to Thoroughbred racing, and Dahlia was my absolute hero. thank you for this wonderful write-up on her, reminding us of this grand dame of racing!

03 Jul 2014 9:52 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Wow!  What a story and what a horse!  No one can quite weave a story like Steve can.  There is nothing cuter than Mandy with these horses either.  Mandy and The Greats!  Dahlia seems like another horse who "got" the human connection. The ones that are gentle with kids just seem so special.

I think it is time to "lure" some of the European bloodlines for breeding to the U.S. as opposed to us shuttlebutting (the word I coined thanks to our Smarty!) our thoroughbreds out of the country so much.

Thanks for this article Steve.  It was a great read.

04 Jul 2014 1:47 AM
Gulchfan

wonderful article, Mr. Haskins...I was wondering if you could find out what happened to a grandson of Dahlia's, Skellytown (2003 g. by Thunder Gulch - Miss Dahlia), he last raced 4/3/11, and his last trainer was Kristin Mulhall, who is known for finding homes for her charges; I followed his career (including a 3rd place in the San Juan Capistrano - grandma would've been proud!), but he dropped off the radar, and I've never found him on a rescue facility's website, thank you

04 Jul 2014 3:53 AM
Arklecgc

I tried to post a copy of my racecard for the 1973 KG VI & QE Stakes, via Twit Pic, but for some reason it hasn't transferred to twitter. But what a field she beat on that day, coming from last to first and winning by about 6 lengths: Rheingold, Roberto, Hard to Beat, Parnell and Card King - quite a few good scalps. I'll try and post the racecard again. Unfortunately it's a png file, which can only go by Twit Pic.

04 Jul 2014 9:18 AM
Affirmedfan5

Loved your article. I both Dahlia and Allez France were great mares. I had a soft spot for Allez France since she was by Sea Bird and when I was young I was lucky enough to see her at Walmac Farm with her companion sheep. She had to be in a paddock by herself since she had her sheep with her.

04 Jul 2014 12:23 PM
derbylin

Thank you, Abigail, for posting those races Dahlia won so brilliantly.  

04 Jul 2014 3:29 PM
Matthew W

I saw Dahlia in the Hollywood Park Turf Invitational, once a prestigious race at 1 1/2 over the Lakeside turf course, uphill the final 100 yards and tough to win on the front end---well, Shoe moved the grande dame of the turf early, as they turned down the backstretch, and I was fairly impressed that she held them all at bay the whole length of the stretch, including my bet Caucasus, who hung alongside for second---the same two ran one/two in their previous encounter, perhaps Caucasus remembered that battle, where Dahlia reached over and bit her nemesis at the 1 1/16 pole! I'm not sure Dahlia ran very many more winning efforts after that race, but I do remember she had the look of a champion, and you never thought any less for her defeats, having by then insured her place among racing's greatest--her DC International, at three, where she smoked them in the stretch--sort of put the exclamation point on the year of Secretariat, as the year of the great three year olds--Dahlia, and Shoe, pumping her reigns, Harry Henson barking her revered name--and in those swingin' seventies you just didn't know it wasn't gonna get any better--I know that now.

05 Jul 2014 12:39 AM
Matthew W

An aside, Steve, as I have had little time of late to join these blogs, yours being my favorite--I want to congratulate you and remind your many fans that in January, BEFORE the graded stakes, during a terribly harsh winter, huddled before a small computer screen, one Steve Haskin put California Chrome at the top of his Derby list--based on observations gathered from a lifetime of understanding--all the way from New York--while a local racing form hack giving out FREE advice didn't even put him in his top four Derby picks on the 1st Saturday--that's why when someone asked me who I liked this year, I just told him to hang with Haskin, cuz I have seen it from you year after year after year--you see what others cannot--I hope you got some of that 5-2--and the early move by Social Inclusion in the Preakness likely cost him the Crown--and it IS sad that they seem to skip the middle jewell nowadays--and it IS harder to win the Crown--don't change a thing, this years Crown was witness to a miricle horse, truly a special animal--but you knew that, Steve--in January!

05 Jul 2014 1:38 AM
Steve Haskin

Matthew W, thanks for remembering and noticing. I appreciate it and hope some had him in their Future bets.

05 Jul 2014 8:56 AM
Steve Haskin

For those still hanging around here, Allez France gets her due in the next blog, to be posted Sunday evening.

05 Jul 2014 10:51 AM
Racingfan

Another great article Steve!  Thanks for the info about another amazing horse that many may not know about!  She was a great one!

Gulchfan - once when I wanted to check on a horse that I had been following, I sent an email to the track that the trainer was at (Santa Anita) and they forwarded my email to the trainer.  He was then nice enough to contact me back with updated info on the horse.  So, you may try emailing the track that Kristin is training at....?

06 Jul 2014 6:42 AM
MRO

We need more stories like this so that we never forget racing's history and all of the great ones.

06 Jul 2014 9:01 AM
Glorious Goodwood

I was a HUGE fan of Allez France,I just wished she could have won outside France like Dahlia.  Both tremendous fillies in those days, and the first two filly Millionaires :)  Great piece you wrote a legend of the turf.

06 Jul 2014 12:01 PM
Glorious Goodwood

Oh and a slight correction is needed for this article. Treve never raced in the USA.

06 Jul 2014 12:10 PM
Glorious Goodwood

Maybe somewhere down the line your incredible talents can do a write up on the GREAT Nijinsky. Highlighting not only his brilliance on the course, but the horrible mismanagement near the end of his 3 year old year by Vincent O'Brien and Co,  Cheers.

06 Jul 2014 12:30 PM
Steve Haskin

I meant to write The Fugue, not Treve. Thanks for pointing it out.

06 Jul 2014 1:25 PM
Howard da Walker

Buckpasser won 16 in a row. Got DQed once.,5 years ago I was speaking to Mr. Baeaza. He rode him Dr. Fager and Damascus. Said Buckpasser was troubled by poor feet. What a gentleman. Dr, Fager was my brothers favorite, Buckpasser mine. Of the 3 who was the best? On the track? Breeding shed?

07 Jul 2014 2:09 PM
nobledancer

Steve, thank you so much for resurrecting your wonderful article on the great Dahlia.  In re-reading all of her stellar accomplishments and recognizing the lofty position which she holds in the history of turf  racing in this country, I am somewhat amazed and saddened that many racing fans do not know her.  You are doing an admirable job of rectifying that.  As fate would have it, I was living in England at the time of "The Race of the Century," and was present at Ascot on that July day in 1975.  Grundy and Bustino won my admiration and respect, but it was Dahlia who stole my heart.  Once she came to California to stay in Whittingham's barn, I had the opportunity to see all of her races. Mandy is so fortunate to have known Dahlia on a much more personal level.  I bet she could choreograph and perform some kind of magical dance dedicated to this rarest of equine flowers.

08 Jul 2014 11:52 AM
Donna M

Steve,  thanks for the great story on Dahlia,  an amazing Mare I knew little of .   I will research her races and look forward to more of your stories from the past, thanks for making my day!

09 Jul 2014 12:32 PM
HoldFast Farm

Thank you Mr. Haskin, for sharing this wealth of info.  I always thoroughly enjoy reading your articles.  Yes, I believe Dahlia was the first mare to gross $1 mil, but that was world-wide.  The great mare Susan's Girl was the first to gross $1 mil strictly in N. America.  And please forgive my bias for Susan's Girl; Fred Hooper was my great-uncle and I'm lucky to own 2 mares who were directly sired by her greatest offspring, Copelan.  (One of whom is almost the spitting image of her!)  Eagerly looking forward to your next blog on Allez France...  

09 Jul 2014 1:21 PM
Tana Rae

At the time Dahlia was making a name for herself, I was a mere college student minoring in human history.  Little did I know about thoroughbreds.  Now, so many years later, it is thoroughbred history that appeals to me more than the latter.  Thank you for the umpteenth time for providing the thoroughbred history that I was simply unaware of and now find so utterly fascinating.  Dahlia.  I'd heard her name but that was it.  This is silly but my next rescue cat (there have been a few) will be named in her memory, thanks to your information. What a remarkable girl and such a trailblazer.  I can't imagine a horse traveling so many thousands of miles in the 70's and taking it all in stride which she seemed to do!  And beating so many fine horses, regardless of the sex.   I'm glad Mandy got to know such a gentle soul.  And I'm glad you shared her story.

10 Jul 2014 1:00 AM
Eliza

Mr. Haskin, thank you for this brilliant and eye-opening horse racing history lesson. It amazes me to write I was not familiar with Dahlia; I, who've followed thoroughbred horse racing most of my life. It sounds to me as if her connections should have gone a little easier on her. Then again, perhaps I am basing that opinion on how often thoroughbreds run in today's graded stakes races. I will be sure to pick up a book on Dahlia's life. I am thrilled to hear she lived until the ripe old age of 31.

10 Jul 2014 6:43 AM

Recent Posts

Recommended

Video

Social Media

More Blogs

Archives