Notwithstanding the tired clichés being flung about these days (“Year of the Girl” is particularly overdone), 2009 will long be remembered as an extraordinary year for horse racing’s fillies and mares—and rightly so. Goldikova successfully defended her G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile title, while the legendary Vodka finally captured the G1 Japan Cup. Trainer Bobby Frankel set Ventura on an abbreviated, yet ambitious campaign, including a victory against males in the G1 Woodbine Mile and a career-capping victory in the G1 Matriarch after Frankel’s death. And, what more can be said about undefeated G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic victress Zenyatta, and the brilliant filly Rachel Alexandra, dominating winner of the G1 Kentucky Oaks and G1 Mother Goose, not to mention the G1 Preakness, G1 Haskell and G1 Woodward against males?
While a few superstars have fittingly captured the attention of not only industry publications, but also mass media sources, there were so many more quality filly and mare performers this year that have been overlooked. Thankfully, individuals like the excellent Sid Fernando provide coverage beyond North America, chronicling the racing exploits of those often unheralded by the English-language press.
One of the primary projects I undertook with the launching of Fillies First was keeping track of a particularly-under recognized group—those fillies and mares who successfully raced world-wide in graded (or group) races in open company (i.e. against male competitors). In America, where mixed gender racing is rare, it is a broadly-held misconception that fillies and mares are rarely competitive at the highest levels against males (and, boy, didn't Rachel and Zenyatta smash that stereotype this year?). By keeping record of these achievements, even I was surprised by just how well female horses performed in open company at this level.
All told, in 2009, there were 321 (!) times when fillies and mares won, placed or showed in group/graded open company races—at all ages, over all distances and on all surfaces. Ninety-two were at the highest (G1) level, including 35 G1 victories, all of which as visible in the left-hand column on this blog.
So, in a year when either Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta will be named “Horse of the Year,” let’s take time to appreciate some achievements of these lesser-heralded 2009 G1 winners—fillies and mares who performed at their peak and thrilled us with their spirit:
Culminate, 5yo, NZ-G1 Otaki Maori (February 20):
Tuesday Joy, 5yo, AUS-G1 Chipping Norton S. (March 7):
Sangseung Ilro, 3yo, KOR-G1 Korean Derby (May 17):
Bambera, 3yo, VEN-G1 Clásico José Antonio Páez (May 24):
Lady Shatzi, 4yo, PER-G1 Clasico Jockey Club del Peru (June 28):
Jolie’s Shinju, 4yo, SING-G1 Singapore Derby (July 12):
Set Alight, 4yo, IND-G1 President of India Gold Cup (September 13):
Daffodil, 4yo, NZ-G1 Windsor Park Plate (September 19):
Allez Wonder, 4yo, AUS-G1 Toorak Handicap (October 10):
Headway, 3yo, AUS-G1 Coolmore Stud S. (October 31):
Belle Watling, 3yo, CHI-G1 Clasico El Ensayo-Cristal (November 1):
Cuan Linda, 3yo, CHI-G1 St. Leger Cristal (December 5):
Bambera, 3yo, and Vivian Record, 3yo, PUR-G1 Clásico del Caribe (December 6):
Daryakana, 3yo, HK-G1 Hong Kong Vase (December 13):
Jacqueline, 3yo, IND-G1 Indian 2000 Guineas (December 20):