Ladies' Day - Two Sides

Courtesy of Teresa Genaro

The history of racing in this country reveals a curiously ambivalent attitude towards its female equine athletes.  The Old Gray (trotting) Mare may have been racing's first equine star, and from racing's beginnings in this country, colts and fillies regularly raced against each other.  Ruthless won the fourth running of the Travers in 1867, while a filly, Sarah B., won the first running of the Champagne.

Of course, the girls have their own races, too, though we sometimes have to wonder at their names:  the Matron, oddly named for a race for two-year-olds, and particularly so given that for its first ten years (1892 - 1902), it was open to colts, too. And soon at Keeneland, we'll have the Spinster, a most unfortunate and unattractive name for a race for two-year-olds fillies, one that does not augur well for their future careers as broodmares. 

In September of 1914, the two-year-old Comely raced in the Fall Highweight at Belmont; she raced against older horses, she raced against colts, she gave them sixteen pounds...and she won, according to a contemporary account, in a hand ride by a length and a half. 

Later in the century, Shuvee dominated her own sex at two and at three; at four, she became the first-and only-mare to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and she came back the next year to do it again.

1986 brought us the magnificent Personal Ensign, whose perfect race record is no less impressive than Cigar's win streak, and she, too, took on the boys and won, in the 1988 Whitney. 

Intersex racing is a rarity in this country though it thrives overseas, as this weekend's Arc highlights, with the undefeated Zarkava taking on boys and older horses.  It's bad enough that the trend in this country keeps females and males from competing in the same race, but in this year's Breeder's Cup, they're not even competing on the same day. 

Three weeks from today, I'll be doing pretty much what I'm doing now:  working.  And while I am, some of this year's most exciting races, with many of this year's most exciting horses, will be taking place.  Working at a school does not particularly lend itself to catching a few races streaming live, so like the majority of race fans in this country, I'll miss the Filly and Mare Sprint, the Filly and Mare Turf, and the Filly and Mare Classic (sorry, I just can't bring myself to call it the Ladies' Classic).  I'll miss Indian Blessing, Ginger Punch, Hystericalady, Backseat Rhythm, Wait A While. 

Over the last century and a half, female horses have established over and over again that they are as exciting and as dominant as the males; they've demonstrated their mettle and their talent.  I guess, though, they haven't proved that they're good enough to race on the biggest racing day of the year. 

Teresa Genaro writes regularly about racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.  



Counter-point courtesy of Patrick Patton

I like Ladies' Day.  I've been asking for Ladies' Day for quite some time, and I'm not the only one, but now that it's here seems like many are against it.  And, no one is saying they like it anymore.  It seems like we've driven off by terms like "sexist" and who can blame us.  Well, I'm not going down without a fight. 

It's not sexist.  This argument is just flat out wrong.  When you hear, ‘putting the filly's on Friday and the colts on Saturday is [sexist, demeaning, and/or wrong].'  Well that's a false statement.  Races restricted to F&M are on Friday, but Saturday's races aren't restricted to the colts.  It's open company with some restrictions based on age.  The fillies and mares have all the right in the world to run on Saturday if they so wish.  And, please Zenyatta, think about it.  There are purists out there who see this split around "company" to be very fair. (And, I'm hoping you leave some comments below!)

"The Ladies' Classic".  I admit this name could go, and have pointed that out on my blog, but is it really just the name you're mad at?  Please don't let that ruin a great day of racing.  My guess is they rename it again next year.  F&M Classic sounds nicer, and is clearly what people want. 

It's not bad business.  The BC set out to create 2 days of championship racing, not one kinda-sorta-like a championship day and one "real" one.  They fix this by doing what every other track does in the nation, building to a main event.  All the tracks I've been to, when I'm lucky enough to be there on a Gr I or Gr II, has other graded stakes or stakes races supporting that finale.  Those under-card races generate more handle paired up with the big one than if they stood alone. 

How well would a Juv Turf, F Juv Turf, Turf Sprint, Marathon, Mile card do?  Pretty poorly!  We can debate whether or not the BC watered things down too much later, but for now it is what it is.  What the Breeders'Cup is saying is that the F&M Classic is strong enough to carry a card.  They didn't think any other race could do it.  That's respect. 

Friday!!!  They can't race on Sunday.  While Friday isn't as good as Saturday, it isn't as bad as you might think.  In my office we watch TV, usually CNBC, but on special occasions we have watched a Yankees & Mets day game, the Masters, the US Open (golf & tennis), and we'll watch the Breeders' Cup.  You'll say, well those people watching in an office won't bet.  And, you're right, but those people also might get excited enough to bet on Saturday who weren't thinking about it.  Using a whole day to drum business up for Saturday seems like a great idea.  We'll see how it goes.

Give it a shot.  I don't know what is going to happen on Friday.  I'm not exactly sure what Ladies' Day means outside what I've heard about Ascot.  The bar is set very low for expectations on this one, so lets hope the BC doesn't just barely clear it, but goes all out to shine a light on the women of this sport.  If they don't do that, then I'll be in the "don't like it" camp, but I'm willing to give it a shot.



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