Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Breeders Cup Preview Part I: The Best Filly in the World

There has been a run on high-achieving fillies in racing over the last decade. Putting aside very good mares that nobody remembers anymore like Sightseek, Banks Hill, Ribloetta, Ashado, and Proud Spell, we've been treated to a few memorable ones who have taken on the boys are done well.
  • From 2001 through 2003, there was no more entertaining sprinter in the world than the fleet filly Xtra Heat.
  • Azeri came from virtually nowhere to win Horse of the Year in 2002 and the Eclipse for leading older female horse in 2002, 2003 and 2004. There were arguments made seven years ago that she was one of the greatest gals ever.
  • Ouija Board won the 2004 and 2006 Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf and would have won 2005 if Intercontinental hadn't gotten lose on the lead. Beyond those three great performances, she won another 5 Grade 1's in England, Ireland and Hong Kong.
  • Rags to Riches destroyed her competition in the 2007 Kentucky Oaks, so much so that she made her next race the Belmont and won, being not only the first filly in a century to do so, but beating 2-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the process.
  • Eight Belles ran a great second in the Kentucky Derby, only to break down after the finish and be remembered more for issues about horse safety than the fact that she was very, very good.

And over the last two and a half years, the dominant names in horse racing haven't been males, they've been super girls Zenyatta and Rachel
Alexandra. The stories of them have been told over and over again--Zenyatta is now 19 for 19 and had a scintillating win in last year's Breeders Cup Classic, while Rachel Alexandra was 2009's Horse of the Year with dominant wins against her own sex and 3 superb wins against the boys in the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward. The debate has been raging on for the last 18 months about whether either is in the discussion with Ruffian for best filly ever.

Trouble is, neither has been the best filly in training for the last three years. That honor goes to...

...2-time defending Breeders Cup Mile winner Goldikova, who is virtually unknown outside of racing circles. And we're inclined to say that she's the better than Zenyatta even though she's lost 30% of her races because she's been facing top competition every single start. Here are Goldikova's summary stats, which begin to show how consistent and dominant she has been:

  • Since making her debut in September 2007, she has run 20 times, finishing in the money 19 times, finishing in the exacta 17 times.
  • She's earned over $5 million to date while never running in a race with a purse over $2 million. In fact, she's only run for a 7-figure purse three times: the two BC Miles and the French Oaks.
  • She's run and won repeatedly in France, England and the United States. By contrast, Zenyatta has only left California twice, both times to run in Arkansas.
  • At her specialty distance of a mile, she's 12-for-15, and finished second in her other three starts.
  • She has won 11 Grade 1 races.

Let's repeat that one: she's won eleven Grade 1 races. Here's the list of European horses that have won 10+ Grade 1 races: Goldikova, Miesque and Dahlia. That's three of the greatest fillies in European turf history; some very, very heady company.

  • She has beaten the males seven times in Grade 1 races. This includes Paco Boy, who's the second choice in this year's BC Mile, Kip Deville, who won the '07 Mile, and strong performers like Byword. This is really where she separates herself from Zenyatta, who's only run against the males once. Wouldn't it have been fun to see Zenyatta take on the males again earlier this year in the Pacific Classic or Whitney? Alas.

We're not here to denigrate Zenyatta, she's an all-time talent and one of the greatest fillies ever. But when you watch on Saturday, tune in a little early to see Goldikova go for her 12th Grade 1 win and an unprecedented 3rd win in the BC Mile. She's the most accomplished horse you'll see all day.


stalusk said...

It's incredible how fillies/mares have domainted world racing in the last ten years. Interestingly, Goldikova wasn't able to contain the Aga Khan's Zarkava in her classic year. Then you have Sunline and Makybe Diva in the southern hemisphere, the girls have been amazing....

El Angelo said...

I didn't get into the Aussies because I really don't know Southern Hemisphere racing, but you're absolutely right. And Zarkava was excellent too.

And again, this doesn't even take into account conventional Very Good Mares like Spain, Flute, Wait a While, Storm Flag Flying, and Fleet Indian. Just amazing all around.

stalusk said...

We have been spoilt here in Australia by the exploits of Sunline and Makybe Diva and they were incredibly popular amongst all sports fans.

A new female star is on the horizon here in the shape of sprinting mare Black Caviar, who is unbeaten in seven starts, most of them against the males.