Fillies in the Triple Crown
by Greg Melikov - 05/29/2009
Nearly 94 years ago fillies ruled the Triple Crown roost. Regret was the 5-2 favorite to win the 1915 Kentucky Derby. The daughter of Broomstick didn't disappoint, whipping 15 males.
Rhine Maiden was 6-1 in the 1915 Preakness Stakes. The daughter of Watercress, a half-sister to 1911 winner Winter Vale, triumphed.
Ruthless defeated three other horses in the inaugural Belmont Stakes in 1867. The daughter of Eclipse 2 won by a head.
This could be another Triple Crown year for the female set, but that depends on what the owners of 2009 Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra decide.
After the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro went a half-mile in 50 1/5 over a sloppy Churchill Downs surface in a driving rain on Monday, co-owner Jess Jackson announced the decision would be made next Monday.
Meanwhile, another decision promised Monday was put off until next week - naming a rider for Mine That Bird. Calvin Borel had been given until then to decide whether he'd climb back aboard the Kentucky Derby champ.
However, after the Preakness runner-up went four furlongs in 51 seconds over a sloppy Churchill Downs surface with Borel in the saddle, trainer Bennie "Chip" Woolley Jr. said:
"We will hold off on naming a rider out of respect for Calvin. He won the Derby for us. He deserves the time it takes to make the right decision. I'd like to have closure on this, but it is the nature of the business.
"You've got two good horses vying for the same rider. Nobody likes to be in this situation. Both horses are at the top of their game, and it is a tough choice for the rider and it is tough for the trainers."
Borel also has put off a decision on which horse to ride because his first choice is Rachel Alexandra. He has guided her to five straight victories.
Mine That Bird "worked super; he got over the ground good," Woolley pointed out. "I am tickled with where we are right now. He's been a little on the hook, so we're just trying to get him to settle."
Fillies have done well in Triple Crown events dating back to the late 1800s. Overall, one-third of 114 female runners hit the board.
In the Belmont, 10 that ran in 22 races finished in the money - 45 percent. In addition to Ruthless, Tanya won in 1905 and Rags to Riches scored in 2007.
Nearly 40 percent of fillies in 53 editions of the Preakness hit the board. In addition to Rachel Alexander and Rhine Maiden, three others were victorious: Florcarline, 1903; Whimsical, 1906; and Nellie Morse, 1924.
During the past 13 years, nine winners of the Preakness lost in the Belmont, including Big Brown last year.
More than 25 ½ percent of the 39 Kentucky Derby runners finished in the money. The winners, in addition to Regret, are Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988.
During the past 20 years, five Derby champs were defeated in the Belmont.