In horse racing, fillies and mares typically race against each other in their own division. But sometimes a filly or mare is so talented that their connections decide to enter them in races against the boys.
Here are some times that the girls beat the boys:
Rachel Alexandra is one of the most recent and well-known examples of a filly that was better than the colts. After winning the 2009 Gr.1 Kentucky Oaks by 20 ¼ lengths (the female equivalent of the Kentucky Derby), Rachel’s connections decided to run her against the boys in the Gr.1 Preakness Stakes.
Rachel absolutely dominated her competition, beating Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and everyone else by one length. Doing so made her the first horse to win the Kentucky Oaks and the Preakness and only the second filly to ever even win the Preakness.
That year Rachel also won the Gr.1 Haskell Invitational against the boys by 6 lengths, beating that year’s Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird. Then she won the Gr.1 Woodward Stakes against older male horses, becoming the first filly to ever win that race. That victory also made her the first three-year old filly to beat older males in a New York Gr.1 dirt route race since 1887.
[Video: Watch Rachel Alexandra win the 2009 Preakness Stakes]
Winning Colors is easily recognized because of her striking grey coat and blaze. She made her first start against males in the 1988 Santa Anita Derby, winning by an easy 7 ½ lengths. She then did what few fillies have ever done: Winning Colors won the 1988 Kentucky Derby by a neck!
Unfortunately, Winning Colors did not perform so well in the other legs of the Triple Crown. She finished third in the Preakness Stakes and finished off the board in the Belmont Stakes. Nevertheless, she will forever be known as one of just three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby!
[Video: Watch Winning Colors win the 1988 Kentucky Derby]
Gallorette was an incredibly talented racehorse in the mid and late 1940s. She was even said to look more like a colt than a filly!
This filly faced the boys many times in her five year long career. At three years old she beat eventual Kentucky Derby winner Hoop Jr. and later won the Empire City Handicap over Belmont Stakes winner Pavot.
At four Gallorette won the Metropolitan Handicap and beat Stymie in the Brooklyn Handicap. Her victories against males are far too many to count; Gallorette raced an incredible 72 times, winning 21 one those starts! Throughout her career she ran against the likes of Stymie, Armed, and Triple Crown winner Assault.
Zenyatta is one of the most popular racehorses of all time. People were -- and still are -- obsessed with this late-closing, pre-race dancing, beautiful mare.
Zenyatta ran primarily against other fillies and mares, but she did run against the boys twice in her four year career. The first time she ran against the boys was the only time she beat them, but it was a victory that went down in horse racing history.
Zenayatta faced good horses like Gio Ponti, Mine That Bird, Summer Bird, Twice Over, and Richard’s Kid in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic. She closed in her typical late fashion, winning the race by one length.
She tried to do the same in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, but ultimately finished second to Blame.
[Video: Watch Zenyatta win the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic]
Belvoir Bay is a very recent example of fillies beating the colts. On November 2nd, she was the subject of an incredible story.
In 2017, California’s Lilac Fire spread to San Luis Rey Downs Training Center. Belvoir Bay and many other Peter Miller trainees were stabled there. She and other horses were set free from their stalls to run away from the fire. She was missing for a few days and it was feared that she may be dead. The fire had claimed the lives of 46 horses.
Fortunately, Belvoir Bay found her way to someone else’s stable. She was identified and brought back to the care of Peter Miller. Miller took her to the Equine Hospital where she spent two weeks recovering from cuts on her legs that she sustained while running away and received oxygen treatments to help her recover from smoke inhalation.
On that November 2nd at Santa Anita, Belvoir Bay loaded into the starting gates for the Gr.1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint against males. She broke quickly from the gate, set a blazing fast pace, and won in a record setting time! Belvoir Bay not only beat the boys, but beat all odds.
Now that’s some girl power!
[Video: Watch Belvoir Bay win the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint]
Obviously, there are countless other incredible fillies and mares that beat the boys that I didn’t mention here, so stay on the lookout for a part 2!
About the Author: Through her blog Champions of the Track, Kaeli Bartholomew works to grow the popularity of horse racing through stories, photos, and videos. She aims for her content to reach new fans and kindle the love of horse racing in current fans.
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