November 29, 2009

Rachel, Zenyatta, Goldikova, Ventura, and Vodka

2009 will forever be known as the Year of the Filly and the Mare. The final year of the century’s opening decade has included the greatest string of performances by the female set in the history of racing. Today in Japan, it was more of the same, as Vodka won a thrilling edition of the Japan Cup. Yet another example of female domination that has been visible everywhere you look this year.

Rachel Alexandra has proven to be the best three-year-old of either gender in America. Her undefeated season included historic wins in the Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward. In each of those races she bested a loaded field of males and in the Haskell she defeated the soon to be champion three-year-old colt, Summer Bird, by an eye-catching six lengths. Zenyatta, the five-year-old supermare, became racing’s Queen, by capping her season with an impressive score in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The win likely ended the career, of the daughter of Street Cry, in spectacular and perfect fashion. Her 14 for 14 career record will go down in the annals of racing. Goldikova proved once again that she is the finest miler in the world as she repeated her smashing success of last year in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The French mare reportedly will come back for one more year and try to become the first ever three-time Breeders’ Cup champion. If anyone can give Goldikova a run for her money at a mile, it very could well be a mare, not a male. Ventura’s win in the Woodbine Mile was the most impressive middle distance turf race run in North America, save Goldikova in the Breeders’ Cup. Yesterday Ventura put a gold stamp on her marvelous career with an impressive win in the Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Today in one of the world’s richest races, girl power was in full force once again. The wonderful five-year-old mare, Vodka surged in mid-stretch and then held off a furious rally by her younger male opponent Oken Bruce Lee and won Japan’s most prestigious race. Great success is nothing new for the daughter of Tanino Gimlet. In 2006, Vodka was the champion juvenile filly in Japan. The following year she became the first filly to win the Japanese Derby in 64 years. In 2008, Vodka was named Japan’s Horse of the Year, a title she very well may defend after yesterday’s stirring victory. Sent off as the favorite in front of nearly 100,000 fans, many whom were there to root on the mare they adore, Vodka needed every ounce of her talent and courage to get the job done.

Vodka stalked the early pace and waited patiently to make her move until mid-stretch. She displayed an explosive turn of foot and opened up a quick daylight lead and the race was hers to win. Distance loving Oken Bruce Lee, the second choice in the 18-horse field, suddenly appeared in the middle of the track and it was soon clear that Japan’s heroine would be in for an immense struggle. Oken Bruce Lee was flying and gaining on Vodka with every powerful stride. As they hit the wire, it was too close to call. Vodka and her younger male counterpart and everyone watching would have to wait for the photo decision. It was Vodka, by a desperate nose.

The Japan Cup was the biggest of her seven grade 1 wins and the great mare has now won 10 of her 25 races, a record that was compiled against the best Japan racing has to offer, including consistently running against the males. For her career, Vodka has now won more than $13 million, with approximately $2.8 million coming from today’s victory. The win was sweet redemption for Vodka who was 4th and 3rd in the previous two runnings of the Japan Cup. This is most likely her final race, leaving a tremendous void for the Japanese race fans. Her popularity is to such a point that there is serious talk that Vodka will replace Sake as the national drink in Japan. Today we do what we have been doing all year long … raise your glass with me to toast Vodka and all the wonderful female champions of 2009.


LDP said...

This year will go down in the history books. I don't think there has ever been a year so completely dominated by females in so many countries. It is certainly a first for America, seeing as how it will be the first time that two females will be nominated for Horse of the Year. What a fantastic year it has been.

Jennifer Cook said...

This makes me want to say... I feel like Eight Belles might have been part of this party if not for that terrible misstep. RIP, girl.

ja.raymond said...

Here, here!! 3 cheers for the Lady Thoroughbirds of 2009!!!!

(I never realized the Japan Cup has been around that long!)

ja.raymond said...

OH! Brian, you forgot Informed Decision!!

Brian Zipse said...


Informed Decision is another example of the great females of 2009. The only reason I did not include her was, she did not race against the boys.

Anonymous said...

Here's some more variety to add the fun to the Ladies In Racing celebration.

The likely Horse Of The Year in Arabian racing is the undefeated filly Sand Witchh. She took her last race by a whopping 14 lengths. The runner up champion Burning Fancy further flatters the winner, her winning 5 out of 7 starts, running second twice to Sand Witchh herself (bested by a combined total of 32 lengths). Burning Fancy herself posted an 11 1/4 length win on October 17th, eclipsing that score with a 13 1/2 length triumph in the Mandolyn Hill Farm Stakes on November 20th. The mare that Burning Fancy left in the dust was Jessy's Princess, a 6 year old starter of 29 races, 16 wins and 26 total in the money.

As we celebrate, don't forget that many objected to Rachel Alexandra running in the Preakness at all- they would have denied her the chance at greatness. And many used Eight Belles to further discriminate against fillies facing the colts. I hope that the great fillies and mares, all over the globe, helped put that ploy to rest once and for all. Not only do fillies and mares win (and win BIG!) over the boys, they also do us the favor of racing past there third birthdays more frequently. Mares are the best candidates for pulling in and KEEPING the fans with us.

May there be more filly power in 2010.

Anonymous said...


6/7/09 WINS Woodbine Oaks

6/21 3rd by only a neck and a head in the Queen's Plate

7/12 2nd in a photo finish that took 10 minutes to decide in the Prince Of Wales.

The above three races are comparable to our Kentucky Oaks, Kentucky Derby and Preakness (by order if not distance) The second two against the boys.

Canada's own super filly of 2009 Milwaukee Appeal (15-5-5-3 $965,903). She also won the Starshoot Stakes, 2nd in the Alabama-Selene-Jammed Lovely Stakes too. In throwing a clunker in the Gazelle she still ran 4th and bested Stardom Bound (herself a filly gem when she was on synthetics)