December 7, 2009

Remembering ... Lady's Secret

Things took a dramatic turn one day in the Summer of 1985. I was with my Dad and we were getting ready to see another renewal of the prestigious Test Stakes. To be perfectly honest, I was not there to see Lady‘s Secret. I wanted to see the New England sensation and recent winner of the Triple Tiara, Mom’s Command, up close at the beautiful Saratoga paddock. I had seen many horses in the paddock before, and many since, in which I was thoroughly impressed. Looks, demeanor, and sculptured physique are all things I notice when looking at a horse and I have seen multitudes of impressive horses over the past forty years. Something was different on this day though, I admired the horse I wanted to see, but I could not keep my eyes off one of the other horses in the field. The apple of my eye was a beautiful gray filly, not a big horse by any means, Lady’s Secret was a fantastic sight of alertness, health, and physical prowess. Saying that she had a gleam in her eye and a shine to her coat was an understatement. The Lady could not have impressed me more if she started to glow. To this day, I have never changed my opinion so sharply on a horse after seeing them in the paddock. My more experienced paddock partner agreed, and we watched as Lady’s Secret turned the corner of her career that day. She easily defeated the overwhelming favorite, Mom’s Command, and scored an easy win in the Test.

From there it was onward and upward for the career of the gray speedster. She came back to score eight days later in the Ballerina, and then rolled in the Grade 1s that Fall at Belmont, dominating the Maskette, Ruffian, and Beldame. This brought her win streak to eight consecutive stakes. I was thrilled to see her meteoric rise from good three-year-old sprinter to an absolute superstar, as the Iron Lady was now showing her mettle to the world. Lady’s Secret would enter the Breeders’ Cup Distaff as the hottest thing going. She was only derailed by the stretch running power of her two-time champion, and older stablemate, Life’s Magic. Lady’s Secret settled for 2nd in that Breeders’ Cup effort, but she would have her BC glory one year later.

Bred in Oklahoma, Lady’s Secret was a daughter of the legendary Secretariat. Her dam was a stakes winning daughter of Icecapade, named Great Lady M. She was trained by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas for owner Eugene Klein. Her amazing run in the Summer and Fall of her three-year-old year was quite enough to rest championship honors from Mom’s Command, but for Lady’s Secret, it was only a prelude to things to come. After such a busy and testing campaign at three, I wondered if she could keep it going the following year, but my worries proved unfounded. Lady’s Secret was even better as an older filly. 1986 would be a record setting season for the gray filly. She would consistently and mercilessly streak to the early lead and run her foes into submission, as they were forced to chase her tail, race after race. The marvelous season would end with her attaining the ultimate year end award in American racing.

In her Horse of the Year campaign at four, Lady's Secret won 10 of 15 races from coast to coast and never finished worse than third. I was lucky enough to see her many more times in person and marveled every time at her talent and her durability. She won a remarkable eight Grade 1 races that year including the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Beldame Stakes, Maskette Stakes, Shuvee Handicap, La Canada Stakes, Ruffian Handicap, Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap, and defeated males in the Whitney Handicap. To put that into greater perspective…Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta combined for a total of nine Grade 1 wins in 2009. The win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff was front running poetry in motion and placed an exclamation point on her championship season. I was alone at home and never sicker with a nasty case of Mono, but seeing that race on the television made me feel like a million bucks. She truly danced every dance and was ready for every challenge. Lady’s Secret was both a champion and an iron horse. She was both durable and successful at the summits of American racing.

Her final racing stats tell only part of the story for the Iron Lady. She ended up with $3,021,425 in career earnings, which was the highest of any female horse at the time, and 25 victories from 45 starts. To me, she was so much more than the awards or anything you could see on paper. Until the amazing developments of 2009, I considered Lady’s Secret to be the finest older mare I had ever seen. Lady’s Secret was ushered into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1992. I had been there when her career first took off and because of that, she was always special to me. From that day at Saratoga on, I was enamored with her beauty and her talent, with her class and courage, and with every exciting race she would run. You knew when you watched Lady’s Secret race, you were in for a show. Being a fan of Lady’s Secret certainly paid off handsomely in emotional investment.

Unfortunately, the Iron Lady never passed on her greatness to any of her twelve offspring. After more than ten years into her breeding career, the Great Lady was sold and transferred from Kentucky to California. The Great Lady passed away at the age of 21. She died suddenly on March 4, 2003 at Valley Creek Farm in California as a result of complications from giving birth. It is hard to believe that she has been gone now for nearly seven years, If I close my eyes, I can still clearly see the beautiful gray filly that I saw that Summer day at Saratoga. I remember you Lady’s Secret.


Susan said...

I thank you, for taking me back to all of our great ones. Keep it up,, and do Spectular what we used to call him (all of us jealous trainers) LOL guess

Brian Zipse said...

Susan, this is supposed to be Lady's Day!

LOL, OK, I'll bite what did all you jealous trainers call Spectacular Bid ???

LDP said...

Horses are poetry in motion, but you, Brian, are a poet with a keyboard. I always knew she was supposed to be great, but this gives me a better perspective on her greatness. Your second to last line, almost made me cry. I know exactly what you are talking about.

joani said...

when's the book coming out? This was a teaser. I echo the words of LDP.

Candice said...

Beautiful story! You bring a tear to my eye each and every week with these "Remebering. . . ". I love them and look forward to them.