Twilight Tear: 1944's Champion 3-year old Filly and Horse of the Year

Updated: Sep 3, 2019


Twilight Tear and her 1949 filly A Gleam at Calumet Farm. Keeneland Library Meador Collection. This image is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in print or electronically without written permission of the Keeneland Library.

Early Life (1941-1942)


Calumet Farm owes much of its early success to their foundation sire Bull Lea. The farm had purchased him as a yearling in 1936 and Bull Lea went on to win his owners ten of his twenty-seven starts. When he entered stud in 1940, Calumet sent some of their best broodmares to him.


One of those broodmares was Lady Lark, a daughter of the great broodmare sire Blue Larkspur. On April 2, 1941, Lady Lark gave birth to a beautiful bay filly. The filly grew up in the lush pastures of Calumet Farm, running, playing, and growing stronger. Meanwhile, Whirlaway was sweeping all three races of the Triple Crown, giving Calumet Farm their first Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown victory.


Things were looking swell for Calumet Farm and would get even better when Bull Lea’s first crop, including the Lady Lark filly, hit the racetrack.


Two-Year Old (1943)


The Bull Lea and Lady Lark filly was named Twilight Tear. She was gorgeous and sweet-natured. At maturity she would stand at 16hh.


Twilight Tear flourished under the care of Calumet’s trainer Ben A. Jones. She made her racing debut on June 25, 1943 at Washington Park, breaking slowly but recovering to win by ¾ of a length. Eight days later she was sent to the richest race for Juvenile Fillies, the Arlington Lassie Stakes (held at Washington Park that year, not Arlington). She proved the step up in class to be no concern, winning by 2 ½ lengths.


The talented filly was given a few months off of the races, returning for an Allowance race at Pimlico. She didn’t seem to care much for the sloppy track and finished third. She rebounded to win a prep race for the Selima Stakes. Again, Twilight Tear wasn’t a huge fan of the muddy track and finished second in the Selima.


Twilight Tear made her final start of her two-year old season in an Allowance race, wiring the field to win. Twilight Tear’s great year earned her co-Champion Two-Year Old Filly.


Three-Year Old (1944)


Twilight Tear made her three-year old debut against older males in the Leap Year Handicap. It marked the last time she would lose for eleven consecutive races.


The filly shipped to Tropical Park where she easily won two Allowance races. She then ran in the Rennert Handicap at Pimlico against another great horse from Bull Lea’ first crop - Armed. She defeated the Calumet colt easily, soaring home to a length and a half victory.


Twilight Tear stayed at Pimlico for the Pimlico Oaks where she won by three lengths. The filly continued with her winning ways, taking the Acorn Stakes, American Coaching Club Stakes, and Princes Doreen Stakes. She then faced the colts, including her Kentucky Derby and Preakness winning stablemate Pensive, in the Skokie Handicap. Twilight Tear not only won the race with ease but also set Washington Park’s track record 1:22 ⅗ for 7 furlongs.


Twilight Tear and Pensive met up again in an allowance race; the filly beat her dual classic winning stablemate once more. She beat the boys again next time out in the Arlington Classic.


In the Alabama Stakes, Twilight Tear had to give twelve pounds and lost by ¾ of a length. She was given a couple months off of racing and returned to win the Meadowville Handicap and Queen Isabella Handicap. Twilight Tear then finished out of the money in the Maryland Handicap while carrying 130 pounds.


Twilight Tear’s final race as a three-year old was the Pimlico Special. There she would be facing champion Devil Diver. She proved the horse to be no match, beating him by six lengths and equaling Seabiscuit’s record time.


1944 was an exceptional year for the Calumet filly. She had proven herself against both the best males and females in the sport. She earned herself two champion titles: Champion Three-Year Old Filly and Horse of the Year. She was the first filly to be officially crowned Horse of the Year, though Beldame had been given the unofficial title forty years earlier.


Four-Year Old Season & Retirement (1945-1954)


Twilight Tear raced just once as a four-year old and bled. She was retired with a record of 24:18-2-2 and over $200,000 in earnings. The beautiful filly returned home to Calumet Farm.

The champion racehorse turned broodmare raised foals in the same beautiful pastures and pristine barns that she grew up in. She was bred to Calumet’s beloved stallion Whirlaway twice and one of the foals, Coiner, won several stakes races. She also produced stakes winners A Gleam, A Glitter, and Bardstown.


Twilight Tear died while foaling on March 8, 1954. Her life had began and ended in the same Calumet barn.


Though it has been 75 years since Twilight Tear was dominating the racetrack, she is still remembered and loved by racing historians. She was Bull Lea’s first stakes winner, helping to get Calumet Farm’s foundation sire off the ground. Plus, her huge amount of success on the racetrack helped the farm to elevate themselves even higher in the industry. Because of her importance to Calumet Farm, her name will forever remain in horse racing history.




Author - Kaeli Bartholomew: I run Champions of the Track as a way to spread the love of horse racing through writing, photography, and videography. The best way to increase the popularity and respect for this sport is by sharing stories and memories! Thank you for joining me on my mission to improve and grow the sport of horse racing.



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Sources:

American Classic Pedigrees (Twilight Tear)

American Classic Pedigrees (Bull Lea)

Blood-Horse

Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame

Calumet Farm

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