Thoroughbred Fillies Excel in Canadian Triple Crown Races

by TerryMcNamee

In America, it is a big deal when a filly takes on colts in the Triple Crown. But in Canada, fillies not only enter these big races, they often win.

By Terry McNamee © 2013

When Inglorious won the 2011 Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, she joined a long list of fillies that have won at least one of Canada's Triple Crown races. It's something unique that sets the Canadian Crown apart from the American one. Very few American fillies have even competed in the American Triple Crown of racing, which consists of the Kentucky Derby at 1-1/4 miles, the Preakness Stakes at 1-3/16 miles and the Belmont Stakes at 1-1/2 miles. All three races are run on dirt, although at three different tracks and various distances that have changed occasionally over the decades.

Few Fillies Have Done Well American Triple Crown Races

Three fillies have won the Derby since its inception in 1875: Regret in 1915, Winning Colors in 1980 and Genuine Risk in 1988. Five have won the Preakness since it began in 1873: Flocarline in 1903, Whimsical in 1906, Rhine Maiden in 1915, Nellie Morse in 1924 and finally, 85 years later, Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

Only three fillies have won the Belmont, which was first run in 1867. Ruthless claimed the inaugural running and Tanya won in 1905. It was more than a century before another filly, Rags to Riches, accomplished the feat in 2007.

No filly has ever won more than one of the big three, and only two have been on the board in more than one. The best record is by Genuine Risk, who was first in the Derby, second in the Preakness and second again in the Belmont. Derby winner Winning Colors was third in the Preakness.

Things are much different in Canada.

 The Canadian Triple Crown begins with the Queen's Plate (or King's Plate, depending on the monarch of the day), currently run on Polytrack but until recently run on dirt. The distance today is 1-1/4 miles. The second race is the Prince of Wales Stakes on dirt over 1-3/16 miles, followed by the Breeders' Stakes, currently at 1-1/2 miles on turf.

While the distances are the same as in the American Triple Crown, the races are later in the year and the dates may vary from one year to the next. They take place between mid to late June and mid-August. But the difference in the filly stats in these three races compared to the American classics is astounding.

Rags To Riches prior to winning the 2007 Belmont Stakes
Rags To Riches prior to winning the 2...
Photo by Naoki Nakasgine/Wikimedia Co...
Eight Belles with trainer Larry Jones. Second in the 2008 Derby. She broke both front ankles at the finish line.
Eight Belles with trainer Larry Jones...
Photo by Jerry Yates/Wikimedia Commons
Rachel Alexandra winning the Kentucky Oaks before winning the Preakness in 2009
Rachel Alexandra winning the Kentucky...
Photo by Lee Burchfield/Eikimedia Com...

Two Fillies Have Won Canada's Triple Crown

There are two filly winners of the Canadian Triple Crown: Queensway in 1932 (before the term "Triple Crown" was actually created) and Dance Smartly in 1980. Genthorn is the only other filly to finish in the top three in all three classics. In 1952, she was second in the Queen's Plate, third in the Prince of Wales and then won the Breeders.

Four fillies have won two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown. Lyddite and Butter Scotch won both the Plate and the Breeders. Song of Even (1961) and Young Kitty (1928) each won the last two jewels in the Canadian Crown.

Gandria, Amberite and Tarahera were second in the Plate, then won the Prince of Wales. Jean Crest, Gay Sympathy, Attrisius and Mona Belle were third in the Plate and then won the Breeders. In 2012, fillies dominated. Irish Mission was second in the Queen's Plate and then won the Breeders' Stakes, while Dixie Strike was third in the Plate then won the Prince of Wales.

Hangin On a Star, Carotene and Belle Geste were second in the Prince of Wales, then won the Breeders. Momigi was third in the Prince of Wales prior to winning the Breeders.

Breaking it down by the individual races, as of 2012, 34 fillies have won and many have been second or third in the Queen's/King's Plate, North America's oldest continuously run sporting event. The first running was in 1860. Six fillies have won the Prince of Wales since it began in 1929. Another filly, Milwaukee Appeal, lost by a whisker in 2009. Twenty-eight fillies have outstayed the colts to win the Breeders' Stakes on turf. In fact, the very first running of this race went to a filly named Helen Leigh back in 1889.

Overall, only 11 fillies have won an American Triple Crown race, compared to 68 filly winners of a Canadian Triple Crown race.

Triple Crown winner Dance Smartly is the dam of back-to-back Queen's Plate winners, one of them a filly. Breeders Stakes winner Lyddite produced a daughter, Amberite, who won the same race 10 years later. To date, no American filly that won a Triple Crown race has ever produced a winner of a Triple Crown race.

Sam-Son Farm's Dance Smartly, Canadian Triple Crown winner and dam of two Queen's Plate winners.
Sam-Son Farm's Dance Smartly, Canadian Triple Crown winner and dam of two Queen's Plate winners.

Two Countries, Very Different Triple Crown Statistics

The big question here is, why the huge difference between the two countries?

One reason could be Canada's links to Great Britain, where fillies regularly take on the colts, and that Canadian owners, and trainers simply approach racing differently.

Leading trainer Mark Casse suggests it is a matter of the size of the foal crops in Canada. While the American classic races are open to 3-year-olds foaled anywhere, only horses foaled in Canada can compete in the Canadian Triple Crown races, which limits the number of eligible horses.

"I think the biggest reason is the difference of the pool of horses in Canada versus the U.S.,” Casse said. “The foal population that is eligible to run in Oaks and Plate is less than a thousand, and pool of horses that are eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby and Oaks is 35,000.

“The Kentucky Derby is a much tougher race to win, in my opinion,” he added. “Most US trainers, if they thought they could win the Kentucky Derby with a filly, they would not hesitate to run.”

However, many American owners and trainers do hesitate to race fillies against colts, even in a race like the Kentucky Derby. Gregory Ferraro, the director of the Center for Equine Health at the University of California- Davis, said in 2009 that there is little incentive to run fillies against colts, since there will be no big payoff down the road in terms of stud fees. Classic-winning colts can earn a fortune in the breeding shed, siring hundreds of foals, while a mare generally produces between five and ten foals on average in her lifetime.

“Most guys don’t want to get their fillies beat,” Ferraro said. “There’s just as much money to win in a race for fillies. It doesn’t increase her value that much to beat the boys.”

Even so, that may change when American owners and trainers think about what happened in Europe in October 2011. For the first time in history, fillies finished 1-2-3 in the prestigious $5.3-million Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France. The winner was the 3-year-old Danedream. Clearly, a good horse is a good horse — even if it's a filly.

The filly Danedream wins the 2011 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, France's premier race.
The filly Danedream wins the 2011 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, France's premier race.
Photo by Charles Roffey/Wikimedia Commons
Updated: 04/28/2016, TerryMcNamee
 
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