Sometimes a great story just falls into your lap. Recently, on the FB page for “Zenny’s Tribe” (a group formed by those of us who met on Zenyatta’s web site a few years ago, when Dottie Ingordo Shirreffs was “the voice of Zenyatta”), Stephanie left the story that appears below.

We were so moved by its sincerity and message that THE VAULT asked for Stephanie’s permission to tell her story here. And Stephanie very kindly obliged and is the co-editor of what follows. 

THE VAULT also wishes to thank KAREN GOGUE and CASEY PHILLIPS for their generosity in providing video and photography. 


Trainer Carl O'Callaghan talks to Mike Smith after the latter had completed a work on Kinsale King (2011).

Trainer Carl O’Callaghan talks to Mike Smith after the latter had completed a work on Kinsale King in preparation for The King’s return to Dubai. (2011)

There is so much wrong in just about any industry these days. It’s no secret the Thoroughbred industry has its fair share of wrongs. Social media has allowed many of us access into a world we could only watch on TV or at the track, from the stands. With that, we have seen the down side of what happens to horses when things don’t go right. At times, catastrophic accidents that we all wish did not happen and make us cringe, at other times there are major injustices to the animals that bring us to tears and overwhelming anger.

On the positive side, many trainers have been much more approachable over the past few years, allowing us, the fans, to be engaged and to visit their barns. To all of them a HUGE thank you. I believe that most truly care about their charges and want what’s best for them.

But it is one of these visits that I want to tell you about today: Carl O’Callaghan opened up his barn to fans of his beloved Kinsale King to celebrate the big beautiful bay champion’s 8th birthday. In meeting and loving on Kinsale King and visiting the other horses in the barn, I met Hedger — a lovely 4 year-old colt, whom I knew nothing about. Upon returning home that day after a great day of racing and meeting great people back at the O’Callaghan barn, I looked up Hedger.

Stephanie helping KINSALE KING enjoy his 8th birthday at the O'Callaghan stable.

Stephanie helping KINSALE KING enjoy his 8th birthday at the O’Callaghan stable. This was to prove a fateful day for Stephanie.

Carl and KINSALE KING at the Champ's birthday party.

Carl and KINSALE KING  (Stephanie in the front row)  at the Champ’s birthday party.

Hedger had only run 6 times and had hit the board twice, but was still a maiden. I added him to my virtual stable and within a few weeks, noticed he was entered at Golden Gate in a $5000.00 claiming race. I sent Carl O’Callaghan a message and asked if Hedger enjoyed his job or if he would be better suited to another career. After a couple of back and forth conversations, I said that I would like to buy him. Carl said that Hedger was a very nice horse and if he was not claimed, I could have him. Well, Hedger was claimed.

Karen Gogue (another member of Zenny’s Tribe) took this video of Hedger, Carl O’Callaghan and members of O’Callaghan’s stable, getting ready to head into a race (May 13, 2013):

Carl promised me he would keep an eye on him, and I told him that I would do the same. The wait was not that long, but felt like forever. Finally, Hedger was entered in another race. I called Carl, and we got the money in place and hoped to get him that July 13th. As fate would have it, Hedger clipped heels and went down, and so no claim. Thankfully, he was fine. But another wait.

Next time was August 3rd and Carl was good to his word. Five minutes after the race, I got a text from him: “Call me”. Hedger was mine!! AND HE BROKE HIS MAIDEN. That was 3 days ago and Carl has brought Hedger home to Hollywood Park!  As if that was not enough to do for someone you hardly know, Carl has arranged his vet care and now he will go and spend 30 days relaxing at a great place, before coming home to me. And just yesterday, Carl told me he might keep Hedger with him a little longer before sending him “to camp.” He plans to start him under saddle as a “non-racing horse” for me and is even going to help get Hedger down to me when the time comes.  He really has been unbelievably great.   

"And Hedger was mine!" Stephanie and Hedger getting to know one another.

“Hedger was mine!” Stephanie and HEDGER getting to know one another.

I can not thank Carl enough for all of the help he has given to get Hedger off the track and to start him in a new career, even if that career is just to be my pleasure horse. In time, Hedger will let us know what he is supposed to do.  

HEDGER with his new owner, STEPHANIE.

HEDGER with his new owner, STEPHANIE.

Thank you Carl O’Callaghan for taking care of this guy and making me a very happy new owner. Oh…and if the rest of your don’t know, Carl donates his time to the wonderful organization, “Wish Upon A Teen.” His new book, “Wish’s Derby,” starring Kinsale King , has just been published and all proceeds go to benefit “Wish Upon A Teen.”. Buy the book. It’s a beautiful story. I believe you can order on line at  http://www.wishuponateen.org. Or, if you are in San Diego, Carl will be at Macy’s in UTC for his second book signing on August 22nd. Carl is an all around AMAZING guy!

…. I now own Hedger, thanks to Carl. I just want people to know that good things happen too.


CARL O’CALLAGHAN: “…An all around GREAT guy”

KINSALE KING and Carl O'Callaghan

KINSALE KING and Carl O’Callaghan

Those who know trainer Carl O’Callaghan won’t be surprised to learn that he is the “leading man” in Stephanie’s story. Carl is one of those people who inspires others — be they 2- or 4-legged — to be the very best they can be. And, like most who possess this exceedingly rare gift, Carl doesn’t really think about it. It’s just who he is.

Kinsale King sure recognized what made Carl special, developing from a shy, intimidated horse with some pretty serious foot issues, to the champion whose victory at Meydan in 2010 in the Dubai Golden Shaheen brought racing fans the world over to their feet. Below is Kinsale King’s win at Meydan, followed by his run at Ascot in the 2010 Golden Jubilee a short time later. Both attest to what horses do when someone believes in them — and teaches them how to realize their potential. But the heart and the courage — that’s another story altogether. These are qualities of greatness.

From his first look at Kinsale King to the Champ’s retirement in July 2013 (to become Carl’s stable pony), man and horse were touched by magic. Perhaps Carl’s appreciation for the courage and heart of his champion came from a part of his life where he came face-to-face with the challenges of realizing a dream. Or maybe it’s another dimension of O’Callaghan’s giftedness as a trainer, the kind of person that just knows horses and understands what they’re all about — from the inside out. Either way, Carl and Kinsale King are best mates — and this quirky gelding, with his bad feet and huge heart, would walk through fire for the man he loves.

Kinsale King and Carl O'Callaghan -- proof that this life is an inter-species affair.

KINSALE KING and Carl O’Callaghan — proof that this life is an inter-species affair.

Carl worked his way from his native Ireland through various odd jobs, to exercise rider and training assistant, to where he finds himself today. Where he finds himself is a good place, by his own standards: in his own stable. O’Callaghan’s training style is very much hands-on and, like any great teacher, he takes his horses from where they are to as far as they can go. But he relies on the horse to tell him and has the patience to work with horses in a horse-centred way. He’s always thrilled to be interviewed or to enter the winner’s circle, while appreciating every one of his charges’ efforts on the track — win or lose. His barn is a place that warmly welcomes anyone who shares a love of thoroughbreds and perhaps especially the racing fan.

A page from WISH'S DERBY, by Carl O'Callaghan. Ruben's message to WISH (aka KINSALE KING) is indicative of the values and belief's that shape Carl's life.

A page from WISH’S DERBY, by Carl O’Callaghan. Ruben’s message to WISH (aka KINSALE KING) is indicative of the values and beliefs that shape Carl’s life.

O’Callaghan is a man who is constantly seeking ways to give back some of the joy his career — and his journey with Kinsale King — have brought him. Horseshoes and bridles have been donated to charities, and The King has also created a MONEIGH. Another initiative has found expression in a children’s book for the charity for which Carl serves as ambassador, WISH UPON A TEEN. A collaborative effort involving photographers like Barbara Livingston and illustrator Drew Zimmerman, a 17 year-old who is part of WISH UPON A TEEN, “Wish’s Derby” tells the story of a colt who learns to overcome a number of challenges to win a race, supported by the coaching of a very wise goat (Ruben, O’Callaghan’s stable goat).

Someone Loves His New Mom: Hedger and Stephanie.

Someone loves his new owner: HEDGER and Stephanie. Photo and copyright, Casey Phillips.

Carl — Stephanie and Hedger want you to know that “THIS ONE IS FOR YOU.” You are special — a busy trainer who took the time to match up a special woman with a colt who will now be specially-loved every day of his life.

Thank you.

You make the heart sing.

NEWS FLASH: Welcome to the new look of THE VAULT! Although we loved the former design, this one offers more space and scope and should make reading and viewing our articles an even more pleasurable experience. Enjoy!

The Queen’s Plate is Canada’s most storied and prestigious thoroughbred race and the first jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown. It is also the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America. Its history began in 1860, when Queen Victoria gave the race “Royal Assent” and even the most cursory glance into Plate history reveals a palimpsest of great Canadian thoroughbreds and the men and women who left an indelible signature on both the horse and the sport.

There are precious few books about the Queen’s Plate and only a miserly smidgeon of other research sources. Canadians tend to be rather myopic when it comes to their own racing narrative, preferring instead to hitch their sensibilities to the UK, USA or Australia. But the Queen’s Plate stubbornly persists and celebrated its 154th running recently, despite those who view it as a poor cousin to the Kentucky or Epsom Derbies or other prestigious races like the Melbourne Cup. The Queen’s Plate could teach us a good deal about perseverance: after all, it is older than Canada herself, who only became a nation in 1867.

Before taking a summer hiatus from writing to research and ruminate about new subjects for THE VAULT, I thought that I’d end on a note of unabashed national pride and share with our readers a glimpse into a few of Canada’s most distinguished turf characters, all of whom owe the Queen’s Plate for their distinguished place in Canadian thoroughbred history.

THE VAULT will be back again in mid-August with more stories of horse racing past and present.

Until then, my very best wishes to each of you and thank you again for your support, encouragement and fabulous correspondence. Have a lovely summer!

Queen Victoria, as depicted by Sir Edwin Landseer, with her companion, John Brown, inaugurated the Queen's Plate and the tradition of presenting the winner with a pouch from the sovereign, containing 50 guineas.

Queen Victoria, as depicted by Sir Edwin Landseer, inaugurated the Queen’s Plate and the tradition of presenting the winner with a pouch from the sovereign, containing 50 guineas, in 1860. “The Plate” has been run every year since then.

The early years

In 1902, LYDDITE won the QUEEN'S PLATE for owner Nataniel Dymant of Orkney Stud.

In 1902, LYDDITE won the QUEEN’S PLATE for owner Nataniel Dymant of Orkney Stud, Ontario.

Let's Go To The Races! As early as 1910, Old Woodbine was a fashionable place to see and be seen.

Let’s Go To The Races! As early as 1910, Old Woodbine was a fashionable place to see and be seen.

Queen Victoria gave her royal blessing to the inaugural running of the Queen’s Plate in 1860, offering its winner a  “a plate to the value of Fifty Guineas.” The plate itself has long since been replaced by a gold trophy, but the historical connection between the race and the British monarchy remains. The name of each winner of the Queen’s Plate is communicated directly to Britain’s reigning monarch (HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 2013) who, in turn, hand inscribes a note of congratulation that is sent to the owner of the winning horse, together with a purple velvet bag emblazoned with a royal crest and containing 50 British sovereigns.

In its 154 runnings, the Plate has been both a “King’s Plate” (King Edward VII, King Edward VIII and King George VI ) and a “Queen’s Plate” (Queen Victoria and the present Queen, Elizabeth II), since it takes its name from the ruling British monarch of the day. In an annual ritual enacted since the 19th century, the Plate is attended by the Queen’s representative, Canada’s Governor-General, who arrives in a horse-drawn landau that would otherwise be occupied by a British monarch were s/he to be present. And the monarchy has, indeed, graced the Queen’s Plate; although Queen Victoria never managed it, both the present Queen and her father, King George VI have been in attendance. The Queen has been in attendance on several occasions, most recently in 2010.

The parents of Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI and his queen (later known as the Queen Mother) arrive for the 1939 Queen's Plate. (Photo and copyright, City of Toronto, Canada)

The parents of Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI and his Queen (later known as the Queen Mother) arrive for the 1939 Queen’s Plate in a horse-drawn landau reminiscent of the one they would use at Royal Ascot. (Photo and copyright, City of Toronto, Canada)

Queen Elizabeth II arrives at Woodbine on July 4, 2010 for the Queen's Plate, won that year by BIG RED MIKE. (Photo and copyright, The Toronto Star)

Queen Elizabeth II arrives at Woodbine on July 4, 2010 for the Queen’s Plate, won that year by BIG RED MIKE. (Photo and copyright, The Toronto Star)

BIG RED MIKE moves out of the pack to win the 2010 Queen's Plate. (Photo and copyright, The Toronto Star)

BIG RED MIKE moves out of the pack to win the 2010 Queen’s Plate. (Photo and copyright, The Toronto Star)

Queen Elizabeth II congratulates the winning jockey, Eurico Rosa Da Silva. (Photo & copyright, The Toronto Star)

Queen Elizabeth II congratulates the winning jockey, Eurico Rosa Da Silva. (Photo & copyright, The Toronto Star)

In the early years, the Queen’s Plate was….well….”colourful,” to say the least. Originally, the Plate was open only to owners who were British subjects living in Ontario and thoroughbreds born in Ontario. As well, entrants  had to be non-winners, although either sex and all ages were permitted. Originally raced in 3 heats, the goings on during each heat prompted any number of stories, from jockeys dumping their weights before the race, to horses having their names altered to deter scrutiny so that a “ringer” (a much better horse, probably not bred in Ontario) might win, to American owners masquerading as Ontario natives. Add that to a boisterous crowd, a race that travelled nomad-fashion all over Ontario until finally settling in Toronto (with Queen Victoria’s approval) and racing etiquette of the time, and you have a Queen’s Plate with all the thrills of a Wild West Show.

The King/Queen's Plate finally settled at Old Woodbine, in the young city of Toronto, in 1883. This photo shows Opening Day at Old Woodbine in 1926.

The King/Queen’s Plate finally settled at Old Woodbine, in the young city of Toronto, in 1883. This photo shows Opening Day at Old Woodbine in 1926.

For our money, the most colourful Queen’s Plate in those early years has to go to the Plate of 1865, won by the 4 year-old LADY NORFOLK (1862):

Run on June 7 at London, Ontario, the first heat was won by STONE PLOVER, owned by a Mr. Harry Chappel, who gave his home as Sandwich, Ontario. But the judges disqualified STONE PLOVER after his winning of the second heat, having discovered that Mr. Chappel was a native of Detroit. Accordingly, the second heat went to a horse called Beacon, who had come in second. However, it was discovered that BEACON’S jockey had pulled the weights assigned to his horse out of the saddle pads and thrown them into the infield before the start of the second heat. So BEACON was disqualified too.

The fillies LADY NORFOLK and NORA CRIENA (who had raced a year earlier under the name “SPRING”) had finished next in the first two heats to the now-disqualified STONE PLOVER and BEACON. Desperate to award the Queen’s Plate to someone, the judges determined that they would be the only two horses invited back for the third, and final, heat. 

NORA CRIENA broke sharply and, although never more than a length ahead of LADY NORFOLK, prevailed. But for reasons no longer recorded, two months after Nora Criena’s victory, the Queen’s Plate was awarded to Lady Norfolk. To this day, no-one has been able to explain why.

INFERNO (1902) a blood-red colt by HAVOC (1892) out of BON INO (1884) was a grandson of HIMYAR (1875) and the SEAGRAM family's first Plate winner.

INFERNO (1902) a blood-red colt by HAVOC (1892) out of BON INO (1884) was a grandson of HIMYAR (1875). He was without question one of the very first Canadian thoroughbred champions, winning just about every carded race in Ontario in his day. His owners, the SEAGRAM family of Seagram distillers fame, won the Plate an astounding 20 times between 1891-1935.

Joseph E. Seagram pictured in 1869 on his mare, BLACK BESS.

Joseph E. Seagram pictured in 1869 on his mare, BLACK BESS.

J.E. Seagram's King's and Queen's Plate winners depicted on the label of Seagram's whiskey.

J.E. Seagram’s King’s and Queen’s Plate winners depicted on the label of Seagram’s whiskey. Seagram’s passion for thoroughbred racing did much to make it an acceptable pastime of the establishment in Canada.

Horses at Old Woodbine gather near the starter's stand, circa

Horses at Old Woodbine gather near the starter’s stand, very early in the 1900’s. (Photo and copyright, the City of Toronto)

Let’s hear it for the girls!

Fillies and mares like NORA CRIENA and LADY OF NORFOLK figured prominently in the winner’s circle of the Plate throughout its long history, long before women were permitted to attend race meetings. In its first century, the Plate was won by fillies or mares some 28 times and, in 1925, when a filly named  FAIRBANK won, the first five finishers were all fillies.

This photo was taken at Old Woodbine in the same year, 1925, that the filly,       won the Plate.

This photo was taken at Old Woodbine in the same year, 1925 that the filly FAIRBANK won the Plate. The first 5 finishers that year were fillies. (photo and copyright, the city of Toronto)

But by the 1940’s colts became dominant in the winner’s circle, at least in part because entry requirements had broadened to include the whole of Canada and narrowed, to specify only 3 year-olds. From 1943-2013, only seven fillies have taken home the 50 sovereigns: Charles Hemstead’s PAOLITA (1940) in 1943; E.P. Taylor’s CANADIANA (1950) in 1953; E.P. Taylor’s FLAMING PAGE (1959) in 1962; Conn Smythe’s (of NHL trophy fame) JAMMED LOVELY (1964) in Canada’s centenary (1967); Ernie Samuels’ DANCE SMARTLY (1988) in 1991; DANCETHRUTHEDAWN(1998), DANCE SMARTLY’S daughter, in 2001; and Donver Stables’ INGLORIOUS (2008) in 2011. And while PAOLITA and CANADIANA won the Plate at a distance of 1 1/8 miles, in 1957 the distance was set at 1 1/4 miles, where it has remained.

Plate-winnning ladies tend to be special for other reasons as well: YOUNG KITTY (1925) , who took the Plate in 1928, won the Coronation Stakes, Clarendon Plate, King’s Plate, Breeders’ Stakes, William Hendrie Memorial Handicap and the Connaught Cup Handicap; CANADIANA retired as the greatest money-winning filly in Canadian racing history and was voted the 1952 Horse of the Year, FLAMING PAGE became the dam of NIJINSKY II and granddam through a daughter, FLEUR, of the Epsom Derby winner, THE MINSTREL. DANCE SMARTLY remains the only filly to ever win a Triple Crown in mixed company in North America and became a Blue Hen producer after her retirement.

Although many of their images have been lost over time, below is an album of those that have survived.

Joseph E. Seagram's YOUNG KITTY, the 1928 winner of the King's Plate.

Joseph E. Seagram’s YOUNG KITTY, the 1928 winner of the King’s Plate.

SALLY FULLER took the QKing's Plate in 1935 for the Seagrams.

SALLY FULLER took the King’s Plate in 1935 for the Seagrams.

PAOLITA, owned by  comes home in the 1943 King's Plate.

PAOLITA, owned by Charles Hemstead, comes home in the 1943 King’s Plate.

With EDDIE ARCARO in the irons, E.P. Taylor's CANADIANA being led in to the winner's circle at Woodbine in 1953.

With EDDIE ARCARO in the irons, E.P. Taylor’s CANADIANA being led in to the winner’s circle at Woodbine in 1953.

Mrs. E.P. Taylor leads in FLAMING PAGE. The daughter of BULL PAGE won the Queen's Plate in

Mrs. E.P. Taylor leads in FLAMING PAGE. The daughter of BULL PAGE won the Queen’s Plate in 1962.

Conn Smythe with JAMMED LOVELY tries to persuade his filly to accept the honours in

Conn Smythe with JAMMED LOVELY tries to persuade his filly to accept the honours in 1967.

the Queen of Canadian racing, DANCE SMARTLY, with Pat Day in the irons speeds home to take the Queen's Plate for owner Ernie Samuels' in

The Queen of Canadian racing, DANCE SMARTLY, with Pat Day in the irons, speeds home to take the Queen’s Plate for owner Ernie Samuels’ in 1991. The daughter of DANZIG would end her 3 year-old season undefeated, winning the Canadian Triple Crown, the Canadian Oaks, the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and the Molson Export Million Stakes among others. Canada crowned her Horse of the Year in 1991 and she would take the honours as well for Champion 3 year-old in both the USA and Canada that same year.

Champion DANCETHRUTHEDAWN, by MR. PROSPECTOR out of DANCE SMARTLY, a brilliant daughter of the Queen of Canadian racing.

Champion DANCETHRUTHEDAWN, by MR. PROSPECTOR out of DANCE SMARTLY. The brilliant daughter of the Queen of Canadian racing became the first filly of the 21st century to win the Queen’s Plate and the second of DANCE SMARTLY’S offspring to win the coveted title. A son, SCATTER THE GOLD, also by MR. PROSPECTOR, would open the 21st century of Canadian racing with his 2000 Queen’s Plate win.

INGLORIOUS becomes the first filly of the 21st century to capture the Queen's Plate in 2011.

In 2011, INGLORIOUS (HENNESSY ex. NOBLE STRIKE by SMART STRIKE) became the second filly of the 21st century to capture the Queen’s Plate for owners Vern and Donna Dubinsky.

Those fabulous colts

And what about the colts?

Well, as you might expect, many Plate winners represented the very best of Canadian thoroughbred bloodlines and training. Among the very best were horses like HOROMETER (1931), BUNTY LAWLESS (1935), KINGARVIE (1943), McGILL (1947), CANADIAN CHAMP (1953), NEW PROVIDENCE (1956), VICTORIA PARK (1957), CANEBORA (1960), KENNEDY ROAD (1968), l’ENJOLEUR (1972) and NORCLIFFE (1973). Of these, EPIC (by Bunty Lawless); McGILL (by Bunty Lawless), CANEBORA (by Canadian Champ) and KENNEDY ROAD (by Victoria Park) were sired by King/Queen’s Plate winners.

By the mid-twentieth century, Edward Plunkett Taylor — commonly known as E.P. Taylor and “Eddie” to his friends — would exercise an indelible influence on the shape of Canadian racing in just about every conceivable way. In fact, Taylor would raise the Canadian thoroughbred to worldwide acclaim when he bred the King of Canadian Racing, NORTHERN DANCER.

E.P. Taylor with his first (King's) Plate winner, EPIC, who won in 1949.

E.P. Taylor with his first (King’s) Plate winner, EPIC (1946), who won in 1949.

In 1947, as the newly appointed director of the Ontario Jockey Club (OJC), E.P. Taylor embarked on a bold plan to bring horse racing in the Toronto area up to the same standards as leading racetracks in North America. Travelling to Hollywood Park in its Golden Era, a plan began to take shape in his head. Acquiring local racetracks (Hamilton, Thorncliffe, Long Branch, Dufferin and Stamford), Taylor began by consolidating their racing charters into three major race venues: Fort Erie, Greenwood (aka “Old Woodbine”) and a to-be-built “New Woodbine.”

Old Woodbine, pictured above, took the name Greenwood when New Woodbine opened.

Old Woodbine, pictured above, took the name Greenwood when (New) Woodbine opened in 1956.

The (New) Woodbine clubhouse bespoke glory days ahead.

The (New) Woodbine clubhouse bespoke glory days ahead.

The sumptuous infield at Woodbine, viewed from the stands.

The sumptuous infield at Woodbine, viewed from the stands.

Woodbine as it looks today.

Woodbine as it looks today.

A year later on June 12, 1956, on 780-acres in the Township of Etobicoke, (New) Woodbine opened. Complete with a one-mile oval dirt track and seven-eighths turf course, Woodbine also featured an infield worthy of the greatest landscaper, complete with ponds and waterfalls. The clubhouse was a feat of modern architecture, streamlined and spacious. Right down to the starting gates, designed with the greatest attention to the safety of horse and jockey alike, Woodbine was the image of what horse racing in Canada could — and should — be. To this day, its Queen’s Plate surface is the safest in any weather of any racetrack in North America.

At the same time, Taylor was dominating the Queen’s Plate, winning it a total of 11 times for his Windfields Farm, making him the second only to J.E. Seagram in the stats of most-winning owners.

Modern Times

Increasingly, Canadian-born 3 year-olds to win the Queen’s Plate reflect the cross-fertilization of American and Canadian bloodstock.

The TEDDY line, through a son of BULL DOG who was acquired by E.P. Taylor and named BULL PAGE, was responsible for Queen’s Plate winners NEW PROVIDENCE and FLAMING PAGE. CHOP CHOP, a grandson of GALLANT FOX and another descendant of the TEDDY line, stood at E.P. Taylor’s National Stud, where he sired VICTORIA PARK  and was Canada’s leading sire seven times. The mighty BUCKPASSER was the sire of the 1975 and 1976 Queen’s Plate winners L’ENJOLEUR and NORCLIFFE, respectively. And NORCLIFFE’S best son, GROOVY (1983), would become one of America’s racing darlings. So it continues: the mighty DANZIG (1977), a son of NORTHERN DANCER, sired DANCE SMARTLY and GIANT’S CAUSEWAY (1997), a son of STORM CAT (1983), sired the 1997 Queen’s Plate winner, MIKE FOX (1994).  Since 1990, 15 winners of the Queen’s Plate have been sired by stallions bred and born in the USA.

The gorgeous NORCLIFFE

The gorgeous NORCLIFFE, a son of the champion, BUCKPASSER, shows that good looks can, indeed, be inherited.

Owned by Canada's SamSon Farm, Plate winner, EYE OF THE LEOPARD now stands at Calumet. He is a son of the incomparable A.P. INDY.

Owned by Canada’s SamSon Farm, the 2009 Plate winner, EYE OF THE LEOPARD now stands at Calumet. He is a son of the incomparable A.P. INDY.

The continuing domination of colts over fillies from the 1940’s until today reflects the growth of the Canadian thoroughbred industry in general, spear-headed by the leadership of the Seagram family, E.P. Taylor, Ernie Samuels and, more recently, Gustav Schickedanz, Frank Stronach and Eugene Melnick. And even though Woodbine, like so many other North American race tracks, has been threatened by changing times, the Queen’s Plate forges on and reminds Canadians on an annual basis that horse racing is still another sport that brings Canada pride.

The names of contemporary Queen’s Plate winners are well-known to Americans, as well as members of the thoroughbred milieu worldwide.

Below, we let another medium do the talking as a way of celebrating some of the finest Canadian colts of the last fifty years. Each of these victories dazzle and delight — while reminding the modest folk of Canada that our native-grown thoroughbreds have always been and continue to be champions of the highest calibre.

Protect your 50 GUINEAS, Canada. And protect your horses.

Each have played an enormous role in the development of a country and its culture.












THE QUEEN’S PLATE: The First Hundred Years by Trent Frayne. 1959: The Jockey Club Limited, Canada (Printed and bound in Canada by HUNTER ROSE LTD.)

THE CANADIAN HORSE RACING HALL OF FAME:  http://www.canadianhorseracinghalloffame.com

Royal Ascot 2013 closes today (Saturday, June 22) and on today’s card is the prestigious DIAMOND JUBILEE. As well, the HARDWICKE promises to be a corker with some really good older horses in the running.


Trainer Luca Cumani’s Mount Athos (2007) is the acknowledged favourite here. The 6 yr. old son of the late, great Montjeu comes into the Hardwicke with a career record of 20-7-0-1 and has won over every conceivable surface. The sentimental favourite, however, will be Lady Cecil’s Noble Mission (2009), who is a full brother to Frankel and will have Tom Queally aboard. While in no way Frankel’s equal, Noble Mission has shown great improvement since last year and won at this distance last time out. Below is a look at Noble Mission from a year ago, racing at Newmarket:

Another interesting colt is Universal (2009) by Dubawi, whose BM sire is the mighty Giant’s Causeway. Universal has won his last 3 starts at this distance. John Gosden’s Aiken (2008) is another who shouldn’t be overlooked. The bay son of Selkirk has raced over 2 miles in his career of 10 starts and although he hasn’t won since this time last year, he came in second last time out and has the brilliant William Buick to pilot him home in a relatively small field. Trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who should never be overlooked, runs a 4 yr.old son of Investic Derby winner Sir Percy, called Sir John Hawkwood (2009). This horse won his last 2 starts at the Hardwicke distance and runs over any surface, so Sir John might well be a threat. Finally, Roger Varian runs Ektihaam (2009) , a 4 yr. old son of Invincible Spirit, who can be counted on to come strongly at the finish.

This is a very evenly-matched field, making for a really exciting race.


The Diamond Jubilee is for sprinters and this year’s gang should give racing fans a good deal of excitement as they roar towards the finish.

Installed as favourite is the popular Society Rock (2007), a 6 yr. old son of super-horse, Rock of Gibraltor (1999). “The Rock” — as Rock of Gibraltor was called in his racing days — was a staggeringly good, solid competitor, who won seven Group 1’s in a row, including the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas as well as the St. James Palace Stakes, retiring to Coolmore a millionaire. In 2002, “The Rock” was voted World Horse of the Year — and Society Rock, having earned almost a million BPS to date, is one of his best sons. What makes Society Rock rather unique in this field is that he carries two American Triple Crown winners in the fifth generation of his dam’s family: Secretariat and Chris Evert (who won the Triple Tiara). On this, the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown, it’s magical to realize that a descendant of “Big Red’s” will be tearing up the turf at Royal Ascot 2013.

Have a look here at Society Rock just nipping Gordon Lord Byron at the finish in the 2012 Betfred Sprint Cup:

A really exciting entry is the Australian mare, Sea Siren (2008) by Fastnet Rock (2001). A winner of over a 1 million (AUS), Sea Siren has made 15 starts, with a record of 6-3-1, with the result that she starts as third favourite in the betting. She will have the services of crack jockey, Ryan Moore and races for Coolmore. Other fillies running are Intense Pink (2009), Rosdhu Queen (2010) and Mince (2009). Of these, Rosdhu Queen and Mince are the strongest, but neither is a match for Sea Siren if she runs true to form. She is a really wonderful mare. Check out her storming home in the Hong Kong Gr. 1 Manikato Stakes in October 2012.

Gordon Lord Byron (2008) by Byron is another highly-regarded entry. The gelding’s career record stands at 20-4-6-3 and he’s a 6f specialist who’s last win came in March at Dundalk. Although he’s lost this year to Society Rock, Maarek (2007) is a veteran who has already earned over a quarter of a million in his 27 starts. Primed in June at 5f where he finished second, Maarek looks ready to run a very good race. The grey, Lethal Force (2009), ran second to Society Rock last time out in May over 6f and is already a winner at this distance. His pedigree favours a shorter distance and he may very well be the one to give Society Rock and Sea Siren a battle toward the finish.

It will be interesting to see if the Aussies can grab a Group 1 again this year at Royal Ascot.

SPECIAL NOTE: Part III of THE VAULT’S Royal Ascot coverage will be posted Friday, June 21st and cover the closing day. (The fields are still unconfirmed for several races on the Saturday, making the addition of a third article prudent. AA)

This second of a three-part series covers some of the top races and horses on DAY THREE, Thursday, June 20 and DAY FOUR, Friday, June 21. Please note that the fields in each race covered below are still shifting somewhat, but every effort has been made to focus on top thoroughbreds confirmed in the running at this time, with a particular emphasis on those who are likely to be less-familiar to non-UK viewers.

WHERE TO WATCH: HRTV is covering the key Royal Ascot races, beginning at 9:00 A.M. (approx.) over each of the 5 days.

FOR RACE CARDS and COMPLETE RACE SCHEDULE, please visit LET’S GO TO THE RACES at http://www.letsgototheraces.blogspot.ca

AT THE RACES (UK) at http://www.attheraces.com/ascot/list.aspx?lid=pa+news also offers complete Royal Ascot coverage and will post all races on its YouTube channel by the end of each day.

RACING POST (UK) hosts its own Royal Ascot site, complete with race cards for each race and articles: http://royal-ascot.racingpost.com


The following Royal Ascot races are reviewed below:


FRIDAY, JUNE 21 : the ALBANY STAKES featuring FRANKEL’S half-sister JOYEUSE and a host of other precocious 2 YR. OLD fillies; the KING EDWARD VII STAKES featuring BATTLE OF MARENGO, MUTASHADED, BRASS RING and DYNAFORMER’S son, ESHTIAAL; and the CORONATION STAKES featuring another anticipated battle between two fabulous files, JUST THE JUDGE and SKY LANTERN.


THE RIBBLESDALE STAKES (3 yr-old fillies, Fillies Grade 2. Distance: 1 m  4 f)

This race might be a real corker because, despite the apparent superiority of Alive Alive Oh (2010), all of the contenders do best over soft-yielding turf. At present, it looks as though the turf will be firm-hard, leading several trainers to flirt with withdrawing their fillies from Ascot altogether.

ALIVE ALIVE OH wins for trainer Tommy Stack and enters the Ribblesdale as the filly to beat.

ALIVE ALIVE OH wins for trainer Tommy Stack. She enters the Ribblesdale as the filly to beat.

What makes Tommy Stack’s filly a prohibitive favourite is that she’s managed 2 impressive wins in her 3 starts, beating Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s  Magical Dream most recently and running third to their very good colt, Magician, in her maiden almost a year ago. Of course, a lot can change in a year, but Alive Alive Oh only seems to be getting better. The dark bay daughter of The Duke of Marmalade (see coverage of him in Part 1, under St. James Palace Stakes) walked away from the field to win brilliantly over Magical Dream in her last outing on May 7th over yielding turf.

The Lark, trained by Michael Bell, is a daughter of the outstanding world-class sire, Pivotal (1993) who had 100 SW in 2012, both fillies and colts. She arrives at Ascot with 4 races under her belt and a record of 4-1-0-2, although her only win came back in October 2012.

Coolmore-Ballydoyle has 2 confirmed entries and may run a third. Definitely in the mix for the Ribblesdale are Magical Dream and Just Pretending. The former, a daughter of Galileo(1998) has a record of 6-2-1-1 but hasn’t chalked up a victory since September 2012. Giant’s Causeway (1997) is the sire of Just Pretending, who has won twice in her 4 starts to date, running third to a superstar in Just The Judge in her last start, the 1,000 Irish Guineas. However, on May 12th (2013) in the Derrinstown Stud 1,000 Trial, under Joseph O’Brien, she came home first in a close finish. Say, another Galileo filly, may also contest the Ribblesdale but we will need to wait until mid-week to know for certain.

Lady Cecil, who has been extended a trainer’s licence in light of the recent death of her husband, Sir Henry Cecil, comes into the Ribblesdale with a lovely Juddmonte filly, Riposte. Sir Henry was still nominating horses to Royal Ascot in the last days of his life and there can be no doubt that Riposte is here because she deserves to be. The daughter of another super sire, Dansili (1996) is, of course, trained by Sir Henry and she will have Tom Queally to guide her home. The filly comes into the race with a record of 2-1-1-0, but the fact she’s been so lightly raced ought to be subscribed to her trainer’s illness and not to her abilities. And: Riposte is the only other serious contender other than Alive Alive Oh to have won over firm – hard ground.

RIPOSTE under Tom Queally shown here beating the filly MUTHMERA

RIPOSTE under Tom Queally shown here beating the filly MUTHMERA at Newmarket this May. The ground was listed as Firm, making her a particularly strong contender in the Ribblesdale.

THE GOLD CUP ( 4 yr-olds & up, Group 1, part of the British Champions Series. Distance: 2m 4f)

The Gold Cup is a marathon of a race and this year’s version sees some really good horses entered. Winners here will shout stamina, as did the most famous of all Gold Cup winners, the mighty Yeats (2001) who won it an unprecedented 4 years in a row.

Aidan O'Brien's magnificent YEATS has set the Gold Cup standard. Now retired, he performs the dual function of siring both jump and flat thoroughbreds.

Aidan O’Brien’s magnificent YEATS has set the Gold Cup standard. Now retired, he performs the dual function of siring both jump and flat thoroughbreds.

Simenon (2007), a 6 yr. old campaigner and son of Marju (1988), has raced 21 times with 4 wins, one being in the Ascot Stakes over good-soft ground at Royal Ascot a year ago. This fellow is bound to be the sentimental favourite, although he will get some play at the betting pools as well. Interestingly, the gelding has raced over fences too. His last time out, Simenon finished 4th of 17 in the Stan James Chester Cup (over fences). This is one hard-working, talented and gutsy thoroughbred and Yeats would have loved him for it. Fittingly, Simenon stands at current odds of 7-1. Here he is, winning the Ascot Stakes in 2012:


The Gold Cup will also be graced by an entry from Her Majesty the Queen in the form of the filly, Estimate (2009), who is currently the favourite. She was a gift from Prince Khalid Abdullah to Her Majesty as a baby and was selected from Juddmonte’s top breeding stock that year. The daughter of the late great German sire, Monsun (1990) won the Longines Sagaro Stakes her last time out, but also took home the Queen’s Vase at Ascot last year. In 6 starts, Estimate has only been out of the money once, chalking up 3 wins and 2 shows (3rd). No question that this talented lady will be another sentimental choice to take the honours, it being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

ESTIMATE poses with HM The Queen after winning the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot in 2012.

ESTIMATE poses with HM The Queen after winning the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in 2012.

After Simenon and Estimate, the other really good horses running in the Gold Cup seem to pale by comparison. However, expect the 9 yr.old Rite of Passage to run in very good form. Currently the second favourite, the chestnut gelding by Giant’s Causeway is another sturdy character, having started 9 times on the flat(record of 6-0-2) and 3 times over jumps (record of 2-0-1). Versatile as well as talented, Rite of Passage has already won the Gold Cup once — at Royal Ascot in 2010. His last start, in October 2012, was on British Champions Day, where he walked off with the Group 3 Long Distance Cup beating Saddler’s Rock, Colour Vision and Fame and Glory in the process. However, that was over soft-yielding ground and the conditions at Ascot look to favour hard-firm this year.

Co-favoured at 7-1 with Simenon is Saddler’s Rock (2008). Even though he hasn’t had a win since last August, the 5 yr. old son of the fantastic Sadler’s Wells is trained by John Oxx, the man who took Sea The Stars to racing glory. Oxx was already a leading Irish trainer before Sea The Stars, having trained the brilliant filly Ridgewood Pearl, as well as Sinndar, winner of the Investic Derby, Irish Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for Oxx’s main client, the Aga Khan. If the turf plays good-firm, look for Saddler’s Rock to run a blinder.

SADDLER'S ROCK won't appreciate soft ground, but if the Ascot turf plays good-firm, look to see this son of Sadler's Wells run possibly his best race to date.

SADDLER’S ROCK won’t appreciate soft ground, but if the Ascot turf plays good-firm, look to see this son of Sadler’s Wells run his best race to date.

Last but not least is Godolphin’s Colour Vision (2008), last year’s Gold Cup winner. And even though the grey son of Rainbow Quest(1981) hasn’t scored since Frankie Dettori left Godolphin, he’s a versatile horse who has won over good to soft ground, making him a serious contender in this year’s field.

An elated Frankie Dettorri rides back to the winner's enclosure after COLOUR VISION'S win in the 2012 Gold Cup.

An elated Frankie Dettori rides back to the winner’s enclosure after COLOUR VISION’S win in the 2012 Gold Cup.


THE ALBANY STAKES ( 2 yr. old fillies, Group 3. DISTANCE: 6 f)

Excitement will be in the air as Day Four of Royal Ascot kicks off with Frankel’s little half-sister, Joyeuse, taking on a field of fairly accomplished babies. Of course, these are juveniles and have only just gotten started, making the task of choosing a winner pretty demanding.

Joyeuse, by Oasis Dream (2000), broke her maiden at first asking at 6f over ground labelled “good.” Meaning that neither the distance nor the probable state of the Ascot turf should bother her. Joyeuse was trained by Sir Henry Cecil for owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah and will have her big brother’s jockey, Tom Queally, back to guide her. Here’s a look at the compact and feminine-looking filly on her very first time out. Quite apart from the race, the hijinks at the gate and Queally’s struggles keeping Joyeuse on-track — a little like his early battles with Frankel who, like this young lady, just wanted to run — provide a great insight into what it’s like when babies first race!


As much as the fans will be behind Joyeuse and Queally, there are a number of other good fillies running against the pair. From Godolphin comes Fire Blaze, a daughter of Dubawi (2002) and Wedding Ring, a daughter of Oasis Dream (2000), both of whom also won their maidens and like the turf good-firm. In the case of the latter, her win came at 6f and she will be under the excellent tutelage of Mikhail Barcelona. Lady Kristale is undefeated and has started twice; like the previous 3 fillies, she has won at 6f and will like the good to firm going at Ascot.

SANDIVA and Pat Smullen race home in the Coolmore Stud Fillies Sprint for trainer, Richard Fahey.

SANDIVA and Pat Smullen race home in the Coolmore Stud Fillies Sprint for trainer, Richard Fahey.

Trainer Richard Fahey’s Sandiva is by Footstepsinthesand (2002), a son of Giant’s Causeway(1997). Sandiva has been very impressive in her 2 winning starts to date, her most recent win coming in the Coolmore Stud Fillies’ Sprint Stakes at 6f. Expect this baby to be right there in the thick of it. Coolmore-Ballydoyle have entered Wonderfully, as well as Bye Bye Birdie, but it is the former who seems a better bet. By Galileo (1998), Wonderfully’s BM sire is the great Danehill (1986); she comes in off a maiden win at 6f and is still another filly who will appreciate good-firm footing. Last but not least is Princess Noor, By Holy Roman Emperor(2004) who is a maiden winner at 6f on an all-weather surface. Princess Noor will be ridden by William Buick, another fabulous young jockey and one in the same league as either Joseph O’Brien or Tom Queally.

The Albany appears to be a very evenly-matched field and should be a thrilling race.

Jockey William Buick, shown here in 2010 at Meydan aboard Sheema Classic winner Da Re Mi, gets the ride on the talented Princess Noor.

Jockey William Buick, shown here in 2010 at Meydan aboard Sheema Classic winner DAR RE MI, gets the ride on the talented Princess Noor.

KING EDWARD VII STAKES (3 yr. olds, Group 2. Distance: 1 m 4f)


Fourth in the Investic Derby to Ruler of the World, but undefeated in 3 starts prior to it, including the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes in May (above) there is no question that Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s Battle of Marengo is the colt to beat in this year’s running of the King Edward VII at Ascot. In his 7 starts, the son of Galileo (1998) has only ever been out of the money in his recent Derby run and has 5 wins to his credit. But the handsome bay won’t be left all alone at the wire.

Roger Varian has confirmed the undefeated Mutashaded, a lightly-raced but competent son of the mighty Raven’s Pass (2005), winner of the 2008 BC Classic. Mutashaded’s 2 wins have come over firm and heavy (wet) turf, showing his versatility. Two other colts that are only getting better are Brass Ring and Eshtiaal. Both have won their last 2 races and Brass Ring seems to do best over good-firm going. Trained by the winning John Gosden for Prince Khalid Abdullah, Brass Ring’s last win came at the King Edward distance, but his competition is a distinct step up for the son of Rail Link(2003), a sire who won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as a 3 yr. old.

RAIL LINK, Juddmonte's Arc winner of 2008, shown here with his ecstatic jockey. The stallion is represented by Brass Ring and

RAIL LINK, Juddmonte’s Arc winner of 2008, shown here with his ecstatic jockey. The stallion is represented by Brass Ring and SPILLWAY in the King Edward VII.

Eshtiaal will be of particular interest to North American racing fans. Racing for Hamdan Al Maktoum, the colt is a son of Dynaformer(1985) and his BM sire is Kingmambo(1990). Eshtiaal has won on both soft and good ground, something that bodes well for him. But like Brass Ring, he is taking a huge step up in company in the King Edward.

All in all, this race looks like a romp — albeit a prestigious one — for Battle of Marengo.

We lost him in April 2012, but Three Chimneys' much-loved DYNAFORMER will be represented by ESHTIAAL in the KIng Edward VII Stakes.

We lost him in April 2012, but Three Chimneys’ much-loved DYNAFORMER will be represented by ESHTIAAL at Royal Ascot in 2013.


THE CORONATION STAKES ( 3 yr. old fillies, GROUP 1, part of the British Champions series. DISTANCE: 1m)

For hard-wired racing enthusiasts, the Coronation is shaping up to be a modern Battle of the Titans between two brilliant fillies: Just The Judge and Sky Lantern.

The Charlie Hills-trained Just The Judge, won the Irish 1,000 Guineas last time out, running the mile on turf that was good-firm. Her career record stands at 5-4-1-0 and she has also handled soft ground with aplomb. Her sire, Lawman (2004), winner of the Prix Matchless at 2 and of the Prix de Jockey (G1), Prix Jean Prat(G1) and Prix de Guiche (G3) at 3, is a son of the great Invincible Spirit (1997).  Just The Judge is his second highly successful filly in earnings, after Forces of Darkness (2009) who began her career in France like her sire before moving to the USA this year.

Sky Lantern, trained by the excellent Richard Hughes won the QUIPCO 1,000 Guineas, beating Just The Judge by a nose, in her last start. Piloted by the talented Richard Hughes, the grey filly has a career record of 7-4-3-0. She prefers the ground to be good-firm, but has also won over a soft surface. Her sire, Red Clubs (2003) is a son of the late, prominent sire Red Ransom (1987) who produced more than 100 SW’s. Red Clubs continues the Roberto bloodline in style, having won the Cartier European Champion Sprinter in 2007; at stud, he has also sired two other champion fillies, The Gold Cheongsam (2010) and Vedelago (2009), who races in Italy.

But why say more? Below are Just The Judge and Sky Lantern in each of their winning 1,000 Guineas races. Clearly, their encounter at Royal Ascot will bring the kind of suspense and drama that makes thoroughbred racing so thrilling.



NOTE: Part III of THE VAULT’S Royal Ascot coverage will be posted Friday, June 21st and cover the closing day. 

As Royal Ascot kicks off (June 18-22) there will be an understandable nostalgia in the air. After all, last year saw Frankel and Black Caviar grace the Ascot turf and it’s hard to imagine any thoroughbred rising to those heights in 2013.  

However, it looks as though the hugely talented Camelot will be in attendance and the crowd will be delighted to greet the colt who almost clinched the first British Triple Crown since Nijinsky in 1970. As well, Frankel’s little sister, Joyeuse, is running in the Albany Stakes. Trained by Sir Henry Cecil for Khalid Abdullah, her appearance will bring with it a huge range of emotions. And Dawn Approach, who was to skip Royal Ascot altogether, is set to go in the St. James Palace Stakes if he turns in a good work on Thursday, June 13th.

And then there’s the Queen Anne Stakes, where Dubai World Cup winner, Animal Kingdom, makes his final start before heading off to stud duty in Australia. 

There have also been some notable defections, among them Snow Fairy, Black Caviar’s little (half-) brother, All Too Hard (who was retired), as well as Soft Falling Rain, Shea Shea, Farrh and the world’s highest-rated turf horse, Cirrus des Aigles. And don’t expect to see Ballydoyle’s Derby winner, Ruler of the World. He will be aimed at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes which run at Ascot in July. Nor does it look as though champion St. Nicholas Abbey will put in an appearance following his historic win at Ascot last month in the Coronation Cup.

But make no mistake about it: Royal Ascot is the most glittering 5-day event of the British flat racing season, a place where legends are crowned and rising stars are anointed. 

In the midst of preparing this article, news arrived that Sir Henry Cecil had died. 

This article is dedicated to a man who was undoubtedly one of the finest trainers ever and begins, fittingly, with Frankel’s romp in last year’s Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. Despite his battle with a horrible disease, Sir Henry Cecil said, “…I had to be there, for Frankel.”

And, indeed, he was. 


This review is Part I of a two-part feature.

Part II, a review of the top races between June 20 & 21 will be posted on THE VAULT on Wednesday, June 19.


The following races are reviewed in this article:

Opening Day, JUNE 18  — The Queen Anne Stakes (featuring Animal Kingdom), The King’s Stand (featuring Reckless Abandon and Shamexpress), The St. James Palace Stakes (sure to be a thriller, with Dawn Approach taking on Magician, Toronado and Dundonnell), The Coventry Stakes (2 year-old colts) and The Windsor Castle Stakes (featuring the promising daughter of British legend, Attraction).

Day Two, June 19, The Prince of Wales Stakes (featuring Camelot, Al Kazeem, The Fugue and Red Cadeaux).

WHERE TO WATCH: HRTV is covering the key Royal Ascot races, beginning at 9:00 A.M. (approx.) over each of the 5 days.

FOR RACE CARDS and COMPLETE RACE SCHEDULE, please visit LET’S GO TO THE RACES at http://www.letsgototheraces.blogspot.ca

AT THE RACES at http://www.attheraces.com/ascot/list.aspx?lid=pa+news also offers complete Royal Ascot coverage and will post all races on its YouTube channel by the end of each day.

Tuesday, JUNE 18

* Please note that all entries are accurate as of 13-06-2013

THE QUEEN ANNE STAKES (Grade 1, part of the British Champions series. Distance: 1 mile) 

Looking over the course at Royal Ascot. (Photo and copyright, Steve Cargill)

ANIMAL KINGDOM (centre) looks over the course at Royal Ascot. (Photo and copyright, Steve Cargill)

No question: at Royal Ascot 2013, THE race is the Queen Anne and THE horse is Animal Kingdom (2008). At least, that’s how many Brits see it.

Fresh off his impressive win in the Dubai Gold Cup, the son of Lesroidesanimaux brings a presence to UK racing that fans across the pond are lapping up. British papers have featured articles on the elegant Animal Kingdom and his under-stated trainer, Graham Motion, weekly. And racing sites like At The Races and Racing Post have posted an array of videos, of which this is one:

Of course, all of this excitement is old news for North American racing fans, who fell in love with the strapping chestnut when he won the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Not that they’ll be any less thrilled this coming Tuesday. The colt already sits in the betting at the very top of the heap and it must be said that the Queen Anne is Animal Kingdom’s to lose. What Graham Motion has been teaching the champ since he arrived in April in the UK is how the Brits do things — notably, the demand of the Ascot turf, that features ups and downs rather than a straight, flat surface. However, after a number of very strong works, it’s fair to assume that Animal Kingdom knows what to expect.

Animal Kingdom: portrait of a champion. (Photo and copyright, Steve Cargill)

ANIMAL KINGDOM with John Velasquez after a work over the Ascot course. The Queen Anne Stakes will likely be the colt’s final race, after which he departs for stud duty in Australia.(Photo and copyright, Steve Cargill)

Although entries have yet to be finalized, Aidan O’Brien will likely run at least 2 horses against the Dubai World Cup winner, the best of these being Declaration of War (2009). The 4 year-old son of War Front(2002) last raced in May at Newberry, where he finished 5th in a field of 12. However, he has won 5 of his 7 career starts and is likely to be partnered by Joseph O’Brien, a decided advantage. Trainer John Gosden is likely to run the mare, Elusive Kate (2009) who last raced in October 2012 against the colts at Ascot and finished in 3rd place against the likes of Excelebration. The daughter of Elusive Quality(1993) will need to show that she has the will to compete. A more important  competitor, running in the colours of HRH Princess Haya of Jordan and also trained by Goseden is Gregorian (2009). This colt has finished either first or second in his last 4 races and is likely the one who will give Animal Kingdom the most trouble, if he fires. And fire he must, since Graham Motion’s superstar is by far the very best in the field.

Ballydoyle's DECLARATION OF WAR will seek to de-rail ANIMAL KINGDOM.

Ballydoyle’s DECLARATION OF WAR will seek to de-rail ANIMAL KINGDOM.

KING’S STAND STAKES (Grade 1, part of the British Champions series. Distance: 5 furlongs)

UPDATE (June 16) : Mick de Kock’s SHEA SHEA (South Africa) is now confirmed for this race.

This race is a sprint for 3 year-olds and up and promises to be hotly contested, despite the possible defection of Mike de Kock’s Shea Shea. If he doesn’t run, the favourite will be 3 year-old Reckless Abandon (2010), a son of Exchange Rate (1997) trained by Clive Cox, who has only lost once in a total of 6 starts. Last year’s Prix Morny and Middle Park winner was third in the five-furlong Temple Stakes at Haydock last time out and is an honest type who can be counted on to try his very best.


RECKLESS ABANDON in action, showing his scope and powerful stride.

But Reckless Abandon is unlikely to get off easy. He will be facing the Australian Shamexpress (2009) who has won 2 of his 3 starts this year and, according to trainer Danny O’Brien, the colt is coming up to the race in fighting form. Shamexpress won the Newmarket Handicap (AUS) last time out and finished going away. Also fancied are Richard Lynam’s Sole Power (2007) who enters with a track record of 34-6-6-5 and John Gosden’s Swiss Spirit (2009), a son of super sire, Invincible Spirit (1997). Cheveley Park Stud’s Kingsgate Native (2005) may be a veteran, but he has already beaten Swiss Native and lost by only a length to Sole Power recently, making him a serious contender. Also re-appearing is the veteran Medicean Man (2007) who won last time out at Haydock on June 7. Pearl Secret (2009) lost last time out, but this was his very first defeat in 5 career starts.

The white-faced Pearl Secret will be easy to spot and deserves to be considered a serious contender, since he has only lost once in 5 starts.

The white-faced PEARL SECRET will be easy to spot and deserves to be considered a serious contender, since he has only lost once in 5 starts.

ST. JAMES PALACE STAKES (GROUP 1 for 3 year-old colts, part of the British Champions series. Geldings barred. Distance: 1 mile)

This is one of England’s most prestigious races for 3 year-olds. First run in 1834, its initial running turned out to be a walkover for a great British thoroughbred called Plenipotentiary (1831). It has been won by a veritable who’s who of champions since then, including the mare Sceptre, Rock Sand, the much-loved Captain Cuttle, the fabulous Brigadier Gerard, Kris, Kingmambo, Giant’s Causeway and Frankel in 2011.

Plenipotentiary (1831), the first winner of the St. James Palace Stakes, took the honours in a walkover.

PLENIPOTENTIARY (1831), the first winner of the St. James Palace Stakes, took the honours in a walkover.

The incomparable Sceptre, who was the rival of the brilliant Pretty Polly, pictured in this intaglio print during her racing days.

The incomparable SCEPTRE, who was the main rival of the brilliant PRETTY POLLY, pictured in this intaglio print during her racing days.

Not only is he beautiful, but Giant's Causeway was also a much-loved champion in the UK. The "Iron Horse" would not only win the St. James Palace but sire a son who won it 5 years later.

Not only is he beautiful, but GIANT’S CAUSEWAY was also a much-loved champion in the UK. The “Iron Horse” would not only win the St. James Palace in 2000, but also sire a son who won it 5 years later, SHAMARDAL.

This year, the drama is shaping up to lie principally between Dawn Approach, Dundonnell and Toronado. The Jim Bolger-trained Dawn Approach is seeking to regain some respect, having run a very rank race in the recent Investic Derby.  Bolger believes the colt’s uncharacteristic effort in the Derby — he finished last — was caused by a smack in the ribs that he sustained leaving the gate, causing him to never really settle.

Dawn Approach eyes the camera, as if to say, "Look out on June 18th lads!"

DAWN APPROACH eyes the camera, as if to say, “Look out on June 18th lads!”

Dundonnell is owned by Khalid Abdullah, Frankel’s owner-breeder, and trained by Roger Charlton. This colt has been in the money 6 times in his 7 starts and won at Newmarket his last time out. Toronado is a son of High Chaparral. Trained by Richard Hannon, the colt has only ever lost once in 5 starts. This will be the third time that Toronado and Dundonnell face-off against one another. Here’s a sample of what we can expect from these two:

Aidan O’Brien was able to confirm that Magician will definitely start in the St. James Palace and it is on this son of the mighty Galileo that O’Brien will pin his hopes for victory. Coolmore-Ballydoyle will also run Gale Force Ten, George Vancouver and Mars, although it seems unlikely that any of these will better either Dawn Approach (unless he runs another stinker) or favourites like Toronado. Magician comes to the St. James Palace with a record of 6-3-1-0 and has won his last 2 races, including the Irish 2000 Guineas (below).

Coming in undefeated is the lightly raced Mutin(2010) from the stable of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. A son of the multi-millionaire Kentucky Dynamite (2003), who hails from the Mr. Prospector line through his sire, Kingmambo, this colt will like the distance and, if the course is fast, should excel.

Trainer George Margarson’s Jammy Guest is by the very talented Duke of Marmalade; although the colt has only been out of the money once in 3 starts, the St. James Palace is a huge step-up in class for him. A 5-time Group One winning son of Danehill, Duke Of Marmalade comes from a family that includes the likes of A.P. Indy, Lemon Drop Kid and the former Classic winner Summer Squall, sire of Horse of the Year Charismatic. The family has met with great success in the southern hemisphere, through stallions like Bite The Bullet, Spectacular Spy, Honor Grades and the red-hot Statue Of Liberty. All to say that Jammy Guest just might well be ready to take a really good run at Dawn Approach, Magician or Toronado.

The dramatically handsome DUKE OF MARMALADE hails from the same family as A.P. Indy, Lemon Drop Kid and Summer Squall.

The dramatically handsome DUKE OF MARMALADE hails from the same family as A.P. Indy, Lemon Drop Kid and Summer Squall.

COVENTRY STAKES (Group 2 for 2 year-olds. Distance: 6 furlongs)

Information about entries in this coveted event for the youngest thoroughbred remain sketchy at the time of this writing. However, there is a strong possibility that three of Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s most promising babies will be entered. Stubbs (2011), by Danehill Dancer, has only lost once in his 3 starts, coming in third on his very first attempt. Sir John Hawkins (2011), a son of Henrythenavigator, makes only his second career start after winning his maiden but is already considered one of the best of the Ballydoyle juveniles. Last, but hardly least, is Coach House (2011). The son of Oasis Dream(2000) has already won 2 of his 3 starts and is another rising star.

The absolutely gorgeous Stubbs, under Joseph O'Brien, powers home.

The absolutely gorgeous STUBBS, under Joseph O’Brien, powers home. Photo and copyright, HEALY RACING PHOTOS.

SIR JOHN HAWKINS and Joseph O'Brien (left) wins from INTENSIFIED and SUDIRMAN for trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo HEALY RACING.

SIR JOHN HAWKINS, ridden by Joseph O’Brien (pink & blue striped cap) wins at first asking from INTENSIFIED and SUDIRMAN.
Photo and copyright, HEALY RACING PHOTOS.

WINDSOR CASTLE STAKES (A listed race for 2 yr. old colts and fillies. Distance: 5f)

The filly FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH is by OASIS DREAM but her dam, ATTRACTION, became a modern legend.

The colt FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH is by OASIS DREAM but her dam, ATTRACTION, became a modern legend.

The story of this race regardless of its outcome has to be Fountain of Youth. Every British racing fan will be watching to see if he has the talent of his dam, the great Attraction (2001), whose story and achievements made her a heroine of the turf.

Attraction was born with crooked forelegs and her owner, the Duke of Roxburghe, knew there was no point sending her into the sales ring. So he sent her off to his trainer and the rest, as they say, is history. And what a history: with her front legs rotating like egg-beaters, Attraction became the only filly (until 2007, when she was ousted by Finsceal Beo) to won both the English and Irish Guineas. Nor did it end there. Unbeaten in 7 starts, Attraction annexed the Coronation, Sun Chariot and Cherry Hinton Stakes as well. In 2003, Attraction was rated at 118, making her the third best 3 year-old in the world.

ATTRACTION is pictured here in a painting by       . As a broodmare, she has been a success: Fountain of Youth being her third winning foal.

ATTRACTION is pictured here at her home, Floors Stud, on the Scottish border. As a broodmare, she has already been a success but Fountain of Youth may be her best yet.

Wednesday, June 19

* Please note that all entries are accurate as of 13-06-2013.

THE PRINCE OF WALES STAKES (GROUP 1 for 4 year-olds and up, part of the British Champions series. Distance: 1 mile, 2f)

This race is shaping up to be a  smallish, selective field with horses like Camelot (2009), Al Kazeem (2008), The Fugue (2009) and Red Cadeaux (2006) set to do battle. Of these 4, arguably the least known to racing fans outside of the UK is trainer Roger Charlton’s Al Kazeem. But the son of Dubawi has already beaten Camelot once, in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, which was his last outing, and is not to be overlooked. Not only did he take down Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s golden boy, but Al Kazeem has come back after an injury that put an end to his 2012 season to win his last 3 races, improving his track record to 10-5-4-0. Below is the running of the Gold Cup (May 26, 2013):

Windsor Palace (2005) will again serve to keep the pace honest for Camelot, who will have Joseph O’Brien in the irons. The veteran campaigner, Red Cadeaux (2006) last ran second to Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup and can also be counted on to run a good race. A multi-millionaire with earnings of 3, 275, 933 BPS in 36 starts, the gelded son of the late Cadeaux Genereux (1985) is a stalker who comes from off the pace, like Al Kazeem.

Red Cadeaux is a veteran of 36 races and a multi-millionaire who last ran second to Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup.

Red Cadeaux is a veteran of 36 races and a multi-millionaire who last ran second to Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup.

The Fugue(2009) is the only lady in this heady field and, before we count her out, it should be said that she is also the best rested of all the entries, having made her last run in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup, where she finished 3rd to Zagora after a less-than-ideal trip. In fact, bad trips have plagued this feisty daughter of Dansili, who is owned by Andrew Lloyd-Weber and trained by the great John Gosden. Despite not always getting the best of chances, The Fugue has only been out of the money once in 8 career starts. And….not only is she one gorgeous gal, but her BM sire is Sadler’s Wells.

Here’s The Fugue, who gets hopelessly stuck behind horses, rallying to take third in a race she should have won — the BC Filly & Mare Turf (2012):


In 1968 a filly named Dark Mirage captured the hearts and minds of the racing public when she became the first winner of what is now called the “Triple Tiara.”  

Yet, unlike Sir Barton, Dark Mirage’s story has been all but forgotten. Is it because she was “only a girl”?

Dark Mirage depicted here in a print by

Dark Mirage depicted here in the walking ring at Belmont Park, under jockey Manuel Ycaza

To say that the scruffy dark brown filly was a disappointment would have been the understatement of the year.

Impeccably bred by Duval A. Headley, the petite foal was by Persian Road II (1955), a son of the mighty Persian Gulf (1940). Persian Gulf’s sire, Bahram (1932), had won the British Triple Crown in 1935. Bred by HH Aga Khan III, who was noted for breeding some of the very best thoroughbreds of the early-mid twentieth century, Bahram’s stud career began brilliantly. Not only did he sire champion Persian Gulf in his first crop, but also Big Game, Parthia and Turkhan, all winners of prestigious Group 1 races in the UK, as well as over 400 other winners between 1940-41. When the Germans occupied France during WWII, the Aga Khan fled to Switzerland and Bahram was sold to the American syndicate of Walter P. Chrysler Jr., Alfred G. Vanderbilt II, James Cox Brady Jr. and Sylvester Labrot Jr. So it was that Bahram arrived in 1941 to stand at Sagamore Farm in Maryland and, later, at North Wales stud farm in Virginia. Prior to being sold to Argentina in 1946, Bahram sired winners of some 660 races, whose collective earnings exceeded 2 million USD.

The filly’s dam, Home By Dark (1959), was a daughter of Meadow Stables’ champion and 1950 HOTY, Hill Prince (1947) and her BM sire was a stallion called Sunday Evening (1947), a son of the legendary Eight Thirty (1936). Although Dark Mirage was her most prestigious offspring, Home By Dark also produced the stakes winners Gray Mirage and Bold Impulse. The former filly would go on to become an important broodmare whose progeny include the daughters Nobilaire, First Mirage and Mountain Sunshine, all of whom produced stakes winners. Another daughter of Home By Dark, Dusky Evening, produced the dam of Java Gold.

As well, Dark Mirage’s had other individuals in a pedigree that was loaded with talent : Princequillo (1940), Hyperion (1930), Bubbling Over (1923), Fairway (1925) and Swynford (1907) appeared within her first 5 generations. Further back, through Home By Dark, the tiny filly traced to The Tetrarch (1911), Domino(1891) and his descendant, the great Ben Brush(1893), sire of Sweep (1907) a Belmont Stakes winner who was also the BM sire of 2 Triple Crown winners: War Admiral (1934) and Whirlaway (1938).

The filly’s breeder, Duval A. Headley, the former trainer of Menow, hailed from a family that was itself American thoroughbred royalty. Hal Prince Headley, who owned Alcibiades and her son, Menow, the sire of the wonderful Tom Fool, was Duval’s uncle and the two formed a close training and breeding partnership.

Persian Gulf, mighty on the turf and in the shed was Dark Mirage's great grandsire.

Persian Gulf, mighty on the turf and in the shed was Dark Mirage’s great grandsire.

Hill Prince, Dark Mirage's BM sire, was the star of Christopher Chenery's Meadow Stable at its peak.

Hill Prince, Dark Mirage’s BM sire, was the star of Christopher Chenery’s Meadow Stable at its peak.

SUNDAY EVENING_ancestress of DARK MIRAGE_1616768830_o

Sunday Evening had won the Spinaway as a 2 year-old and went on to produce Home By Dark, Dark Mirage’s dam. Home By Dark never raced since she was born deaf, but she produced 10 foals, several of which were successful on the track. Dark Mirage was the best of them.

Duval A. Headley, shown here with the champion, Menow, whom he trained for his uncle, Hal Prince Headley.

Duval A. Headley, shown here with the champion, Menow, whom he trained for his uncle, Hal Prince Headley. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

Home By Dark’s little daughter had been small at birth, but even by the time she had matured, Dark Mirage only stood 15.1 hands and weighed a mere 710 lbs. (most horses weigh in at something like 1,000 lbs. when they go into training). None of which endeared her to Duval Headley. So it was that she went to Keeneland’s 1966 Summer Sale, where she brought $6,000 USD from racing enthusiast Llloyd I. Miller, described as a “real classy gent” by his trainer, the irascible Everett W. King.

Everett W. King captured by the whimsical pen of PEB.

Everett W. King captured by the whimsical pen of Peb.

In these days of stable tours and engaging trainers, Everett King would have been considered a complete misfit. He was a crusty character who had little time for such niceties.King ran a tough ship and no-one escaped his barbed tongue if they stepped out of line, be they human or horse. He liked the privacy of his stable and he loved his horses. Not a cotton-candy kind of love, mind you. More the kind built on respect.

Said trainer Leroy Jolley of the Plainview Lounge, a bar owned by King across from Belmont Park: “Kingie’s bar is some kind of tough joint. Joe Frazier and five bodyguards wouldn’t dare walk in there on a Saturday night. But Kingie is right there. He doesn’t back off from anybody. He’s the toughest 55 year-old guy I’ve ever met.”

When Dark Mirage arrived at King’s stable, he must have been rather surprised, since she was the size of a child’s pony and, as it turned out, a munchkin with a temper as fiery as his own. It was not so much that she’d been mistreated as ignored and she’d already learned a defensive repertoire that was designed to keep her safe from larger members of the herd. Training horses is enough like teaching to assume that, as happens in the classroom, the ones that fight you the most are the ones you never forget. Students that are difficult often are also responsible for teaching a teacher how to teach — if the teacher lets them. So we imagine it went, between the tough trainer and the “Tiny Tigress,” as she came to be known by her racing public.

A conformation shot of Dark Mirage -- all 15.1h of her!

A conformation shot of Dark Mirage — all 15.1 hands of her!

The filly with the bay coat so dark that it looked black had an average 2 year-old season, making 15 starts with a record of 2-3-2. The attention Dark Mirage got had more to do with her size and some of the press even saw fit to write slapstick vignettes about her:

“…When horse trainer Everett King first looked into a stall at the yearling owner Lloyd I. Miller had brought to him, he though there had been a terrible mistake.  The animal quivering in the corner looked less like it belonged in a stall than a kennel.  Or a cage.

Did you trap it or buy it?’ King demanded.  ‘She’s just little.  She’s a filly,’ he was told.  ‘I can see that,’ snapped King.  ‘But a filly what?’

 ‘Back home,’ he added, ‘we make stew out of bigger varmits than that.  What do you feed it – cheese?  Put it in a room and every woman there would jump up on a table and holler.  Better not let it out or the rooster might eat it.  Or if it gets in the chickens a farmer might shoot it.  And put a collar on it or they’ll take it to the pound.’

 They named the filly ‘Dark Mirage’, and for days, they kept checking it for antlers or to see if it chased cats.

‘Our biggest worry was someone would step on it’ King recalls. ‘We told the boys before they stuck a pitchfork in a pile of straw, to blow on it first and see if Dark Mirage was under there’………”

Jim Murray of the The Los Angeles Times (1969)

It’s doubtful that King ever read this kind of story or, if he did, he treated it as nonsense. The trainer had seen a spark in his tiny filly that made him think her second racing season might be different. If anyone would know, it would be Everett King, who had a reputation for being particularly excellent with fillies. The other thing King knew about was a thoroughbred’s heart — and he knew that a big heart could come wrapped up in a tiny package.

Dark Mirage’s 3 year-old campaign began in defeat, in March at Aqueduct, where she finished fourth, 7 1/2 lengths from the winner under jockey Ron Turcotte. It would be the final defeat of her career.

After this race, it seemed as though Dark Mirage had gone to bed a girl and awoken a woman. Something had clicked and the click might well have come in the form of a 25 year-old brunette called Tuesdee Testa, who was the wife of King’s stable manager, Al. The young woman who wanted to ride professionally and who would become the first woman to ever ride competitively at a major American racetrack (Santa Anita), was Dark Mirage’s regular exercise rider and buddy, the one who walked her, fed her and often groomed her. Tuesdee loved her Tiny Tigress and they established an instant rapport, in part because a woman who wanted to be a professional jockey in the 1960’s and a thoroughbred no taller than a pony shared a lot in common: the need to fund the courage to realize their destinies in the face of huge obstacles.

Tuesdee Testa with Dark Mirage. The filly loved Tuesdee, who groomed her and exercised her. She would become the thoroughbred the young woman would never forget. They both had obstacles to scale: the filly because of her size and temperament, the woman a male-dominated sport.

Tuesdee Testa with Dark Mirage. This was the thoroughbred that Tuesdee would never forget. As she told a journalist, “Next to my husband and my daughter, Dark Mirage is the one I love best. She’s my baby.” Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun.

At a time when (male) jockeys boycotted races where female jockeys were riding and the presence of a woman in the post parade drew hisses and worse, Everett Kelly had nothing but praise for Tuesdee “I’ve had a few riders, and I’ve never had one as good as she is at the beginning. She has better hands and knows more about handling horses than Sammy Boulmetis did when he was starting out…she can do it all.“ (NOTE: Samuel L. Boulmetis Sr. , born in 1927, was a skillful jockey who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1973. Of all the horses Boulmetis rode, the best was the great mare Tosmah, whom he guided to no less than 7 major stakes victories against fillies and colts.)

Dark Mirage’s transformation made itself known in her next race — a 7f allowance. She literally walked away from the rest of the field, winning by 9 lengths. King then raced her in the Prioress, where she again prevailed, followed by the La Troienne, where she scooted across the finish 3 lengths ahead of her rivals. Manuel aka “Manny” Ycaza was now her permanent jockey and under his guidance, Dark Mirage would win another 6 consecutive races. In the Kentucky Oaks, the talented Ycaza and the “mighty mite” won by 4 1/2 lengths, going away.

The original Filly Triple Crown was hosted at Belmont Park from 1957-2002 and again from 2007-2009. In 1968, it was comprised of the Acorn Stakes, the Mother Goose and the Coaching Club American Oaks. King figured his little girl was ready to step into the line of fire. By the time she ran in the Acorn, Dark Mirage was very fit — and showing an irrepressible spirit around the barn. Her day was not complete without harassing her team. But now Dark Mirage showed no meanness; instead, she had graduated to becoming an equine prankster. Growled the trainer to a journalist, “You just can’t turn your back on her these days. You gotta watch her all the time.” Had she not had the benefit of an experienced rider in Tuesdee and a savvy trainer, keeping Dark Mirage happy within herself throughout the Triple Crown trail would have been impossible. But, as things turned out, Dark Mirage and Manny Ycaza made the their race to stardom look like a walk in the park.

In the Acorn and the Mother Goose, Dark Mirage set new track records, equalling the Belmont track record in the Acorn. In the CC American Oaks, she put on a performance for the ages.  Taking the lead midway, Dark Mirage doubled her distance from the other fillies all the way home. At 6 furlongs she led by 3, at the mile by 6 and at the wire, by 12. Ycaza hardly moved in the saddle and Dark Mirage sailed to victory in 2:01.4. It was the fastest CC Oaks ever clocked and the fans roared her home from the eighth pole to the finish. Wrote Steve Cady in the New York Times, under the header Some Ponies Can Grow Ten Feet Tall : “…When she reached the finish, ears cocked and neck bowed, she was galloping along with no more apparent effort than a saddle horse out for leisurely bridle-path canter.”

Mr. Lloyd’s pint-sized filly had won the 3 races of the Triple Crown for fillies by a combined margin of 28 lengths.

Here is an album of Dark Mirage’s Triple Crown, concluding with film footage of the races themselves. The quality of the video is not great, but it does enable readers to see this fabulous filly in action.



Dark Mirage in the walking ring before the CC American Oaks, Manny Ycaza up.

Dark Mirage in the walking ring before the CC American Oaks, Manny Ycaza up.


Dark Mirage_race pix_FIRST Filly Triple

The very first winner of the Triple Crown for fillies made her next two public appearances in the Monmouth and Delaware Oaks. Dark Mirage won the former by 4 lengths. The latter was almost an honorary race, given the fact that Delaware suspended betting (because the filly was a pro at creating huge minus betting pools every time she ran) and Dark Mirage won it by 2 lengths. Shortly after the Delaware Oaks, the Tiny Tigress came up with a minor ankle injury and was given some R & R for the remainder of the season. It surprised no-one that she won Champion Three-Year Old Filly honours as 1968 came to a close.

Dark Mirage as photographed by Bob Coglianese. Photo and copyright, Bob Coglianese.

Dark Mirage as photographed by Bob Coglianese. Photo and copyright, Bob Coglianese.

Once the injury had healed, King shipped his Queen out to California, where she would begin her 4 year-old campaign. Rumours were already flying as to her “first date” once she was retired. Speculation was that Dr. Fager topped the list and this only added to her cachet as the West Coast eagerly awaited Dark Mirage’s racing debut.

The Santa Maria Stakes were chosen as a good season opener for the Triple Crown winner. Princessnesian, an older mare, was also entered, but the connections of Gamely avoided her. The Santa Maria showed the racing world that Dark Mirage hadn’t lost any of her determination or ability: walled in by other runners, jockey Eddie Belmonte finally found an opening and the filly dived through it and into the clear, leaving Princessnesian — who went on to win the 1969 Hollywood Gold Cup against the colts — a head too short at the finish. A small margin of victory, to be sure. But considering the rough trip, it felt as good as a length. In this footage, Tuesdee Testa is shown aboard her favourite thoroughbred just prior to the day of the race.

On February 26, 1969, Tuesdee Testa made history riding the Everett King- trained Gallarush at Santa Anita, becoming the first woman jockey to ever ride at a major American race track. She and Gallarush finished last, but Everett King didn’t see it as a blemish, asserting that Tuesdee didn’t have enough “quality” under her to do any better. On March 1, 1969, Tuesdee was back in the saddle again and won aboard Lloyd Miller’s Buz On. And even though horse and jockey had been roundly booed in the post parade, when it was all over King was quick to point out that even the immortal Eddie Arcaro hadn’t won his first race in only his second start. It should have been a day that Tuesdee would remember as the realization of a dream. But it didn’t turn out that way.

Dark Mirage, running in the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap the same day, carrying an additional 130 lbs. over a sloppy track, broke down.

Here’s Leon Rasmussen’s account in the Thoroughbred Record (March 8, 1969):

“…Not enough can be said for Belmonte. As soon as he sensed Dark Mirage was not right he began to ease her and when they stopped, he quickly jumped off, took off the tack and held the filly’s injured right foreleg in his hand until the horse ambulance arrived.

The trouble began at the start, when Sinking Spring, breaking from next to the outside in post position 9, veered sharply toward the rail. As a result, Dark Mirage, breaking from post position 5, was severely jarred. Belmonte immediately took hold of Dark Mirage ‘ to give her some confidence. When she changed her lead going to the turn, I thought something was wrong and when I asked her to run a little bit and she had nothing, I knew something had happened.’ 

Adding to the trouble at the start was what looked like a large piece of cellophane paper — perhaps a Baggie — which had blown onto the track at the clubhouse turn. Swiftsure Stables’ Hooplah, who was setting the pace at the time, tried to jump it, and Dark Mirage , who many thought had stumbled shortly before, also tried to jump the paper.”

Everett King ran to his filly, Tuesdee at his heels.

At first, it looked as though the dislocated sesamoid in her right foreleg would heal. Only 2 days after the race, King reported that the filly was walking on the injured leg, albeit gingerly. The trainer expected her to race again. So Dark Mirage was put into a cast and, with the constant attention of a stellar veterinary team, began the long road to recovery. Her owner announced her retirement and, as had been anticipated, she was booked to Dr. Fager.

The problem was that the new injury was near one that had sidelined the filly at the end of her 3 year-old season. Dark Mirage fought gallantly, but her body just couldn’t do it. The bones refused to heal and the filly’s good foreleg began to buckle under the extra weight. After still another round of surgery, it became clear that nothing else could be done for Dark Mirage and she was put down in July, 1969.

The Tiny Tigress was buried at Tartan Farm (now Winding Oaks Farm) in Ocala, Florida. Nearby lies the grave of Dr. Fager, who was to be her first suitor.

The photo of Dark Mirage, shown here at Santa Anita is captioned: " Her long winning streak has ended."

The “Tiny Tigress” retired on the crest of a winning streak of 10 races and a combined winning margin of 51 3/4 lengths. Dark Mirage is pictured here on the cover of the March 8, 1969 Thoroughbred Record.


Dark Mirage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974: http://www.racingmuseum.org/hall-of-fame/horses-view.asp?varID=55

Here at THE VAULT, we’re thinking about the fillies and colts who tend to fly “under the radar” as Oaks and Derby day draw near. After all, our sport would be awfully dull if the favourites always won.

 Along the trail to the first Saturday in May, thoroughbred experts are busy vetting their instincts and know-how to come up with a likely winner. There are all kind of statistics to pour over: past performances, pedigrees, sire records, profiles of trainers and jockeys. And, when the posts are drawn, there will be debates about the impact of starting positions on performance.

Of course, all of this cogitating is what makes horse racing exciting.

With the inevitable focus on favourites, it’s easy to forget that every one of the colts or fillies entered in the Oaks or the Derby are there because they’ve earned it. Collectively, these 3 year-olds rank in the top 1% of all thoroughbreds born in the same year. They are athletes trained to perfection, cared for down to the last detail and, more often than not, loved by their handlers, owners and fans. 

As they parade before the stands on their way to the starting gate, we celebrate their accomplishments and the stories that brought them to Churchill Downs. In those opening moments before the field is set on its way, each filly and colt moves in a shining light of possibility. 

And, for the true racing fan, that’s what it’s really all about.

(NOTE: This article is based on the leader board (@ http://www.kentuckyderby.comfor the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby as of April 22, 2013)

There have been some stunning Derby upsets: Exterminator, who won in 1918, and Dark Star, who defeated Native Dancer in 1953, to name two of the most famous. Others include Donerail (won in 1913), Bold Venture (won in 1936) and, more recently, Thunder Gulch (1995).  And without question we must add the brilliant fillies Regret, Genuine Risk and Winning Colors who raced into history as members of an elite triad:

The Kentucky Oaks, inaugurated in 1875, has a no less prestigious history. Marking the start of Derby weekend, it is still seen as a bit of a “light weight” in comparison to the main event. But there are moments when the fillies deliver a champion so moving and so talented, that they manage to dwarf the colts.

……She stepped onto the track at Churchill Downs undefeated and, accordingly, the favourite in that year’s Kentucky Oaks. Her performance on that day was absolutely mind-boggling. Although Rachel Alexandra was neither a long shot nor an underdog, her resounding victory reminded everyone that great horses aren’t the sole domain of breeders like Coolmore, or trainers with enormous stables.

The place she won in our hearts on that day stands in memory as definitively as Secretariat’s Belmont, or Zenyatta’s triumph in the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic.

Kentucky Oaks 2013

Like the Derby, the Oaks has also known its fair share of upsets. The hugest (at 47-1) was Lemons Forever in 2006, who routed the favourite, Balance. But other fillies who flew under the radar until they came across the finish line ahead of the field include: Heavenly Cause (defeating De La Rose, Wayward Lass and the favourite, Truly Bound, in 1981), Seaside Attraction (who beat the undefeated Go For Wand in 1990), Luv Me Luv Me Not (1992), and Farda Amiga (who defeated Take Charge Lady and Habibti in 2002).  For all the statistics and analysis, nothing can dull the prospect of that pesky spirit of racing who, every so often, blesses a thoroughbred that was “under the radar.” Here are a few fillies that just might surprise us all.

 1. ROSE TO GOLD (Friends Lake ex. Saucy [Tabasco Cat])

Rose To Gold with jockey Calvin Borel. Photo and copyright, Steve McQueen.

Rose To Gold with jockey Calvin Borel. Photo and copyright, Steve Queen.

The chestnut daughter of Friends Lake is not exactly a long shot for the Oaks, having won 5 of 7 starts since her maiden at 2 and carrying second-highest points in the field.

However, Rose To Gold comes out of a lesser-known stable and is trained by Sal Santoro, who is hardly a household name. Her sire is useful if not brilliant, having yet to produce a superstar in his 6 foal crops to date. Then again, breeders can be fickle and in an environment where stallions like Smarty Jones get little respect, it’s tough to blame a sire for getting more modest winners. Rose To Gold’s pedigree also boasts the likes of A.P. Indy, together with Kentucky Derby winners Spend A Buck, Seattle Slew and Secretariat on top. Her dam, Saucy (Tabasco Cat ex. Sierra Madre by Mr. Prospector) has produced 6 foals to date, of which Rose To Gold is by far the most distinguished.

The question about Rose To Gold centres on the fields she’s taken on, or “Who did she beat?” She comes to the Kentucky Oaks out of Grade 3 stakes company, suggesting that stepping up to take on the likes of Dreaming of Julia will require that she’s at her absolute fittest. And it will be the filly’s first start at 1 1/4 miles. However, Rose To Gold has already romped in the slop to win the Fantasy Stakes and assuming that Calvin Borel — her steady jockey to date — gets the nod to ride her in the Oaks, we can count on her getting a very strategic ride.

2. SILSITA (Macho Uno ex. Naturally Wild [Wild Again])

The ravishing Silsita.

The ravishing Silsita.

Macho Uno’s elegant daughter, Silsita, has won 2 of her 4 starts and only ever been out of the money once. Her most recent win came in the Bourbonette, which she took in a head bob, although at the finish she looked as though she could easily go further than the mile. And, in prevailing to win the Bourbonette over a very determined Marathonlady, she showed that toughness that we associate with her grandsire, Holy Bull.

Although the best she has beaten is Pure Fun, and Flashforward proved too much for her in her second start on January 3, Silsita remains a “work in progress,” improving steadily over her last 2 races. Trained by the accomplished Todd Pletcher, we should assume that Silsita’s entry in the Oaks speaks loud about what he thinks of this filly. Silsita’s dam, a daughter of the great producer, Wild Again, made 33 starts, retiring with a record of 6-9-6 and earnings of $293,134 USD. The filly is Naturally Wild’s third foal to date and all have been modestly successful.

Holy Bull’s granddaughter may be poised to make the finest effort of her career on May 3.

3. SEANEEN GIRL (Spring At Last ex. Afternoon Krystal [Afternoon Deelites])

Spring At Last hails from the line of Deputy Minister and his dam,

Spring At Last hails from the sire line of Deputy Minister and his dam, Winter’s Gone, is 4 X 3 to both Ribot and Flower Bowl, through the spectacular brothers His Majesty and Graustark.

Winstar’s Spring At Last retired a black-type winner and millionaire: among his wins, the Godolphin Mile in the UAE, where he met up with international competition. His first crop are 3 year-olds this year and, if first crops mean anything in terms of a trend, his forte appears to lie with fillies. Spring In The Air and Spring Venture rank 1 and 2 as his most successful progeny, with Seaneen Girl in the number 3 slot. One can only hope that Spring At Last has transmitted some of Ribot’s invincibility to his young daughter:

Racing at 2, Seaneen Girl finished her juvenile season with a win at Churchill Downs in the Golden Rod Stakes.

Seaneen Girl winning the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in November 2012.

Seaneen Girl winning the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in November 2012.

Having made 7 starts in her career, winning 2 and finishing in the money another 3 times, this filly is honest and has performed consistently as a 3 year-old. She may have been beaten previously by Flashy Gray and Unlimited Budget, but Seaneen Girl has a very canny trainer in Bernie Flint, who has chalked up a sizeable number of winners and been the leading training at several different race tracks, including Churchill Downs.

Even though Seaneen Girl is stepping up in class to take on some serious talent, there is no doubt that she will try her best to run them down. The fractions in her last 2 races compare nicely against the recent performances of favourites like I Dream Of Julia.With a pedigree that includes names like Dynaformer, Waquoit, Graustark (4 X4), Roberto, Princequillo and Secretariat, Seaneen Girl has enough blue blood to do battle with the very best.


1. LINES OF BATTLE (War Front ex. Black Speck [Arch])

Make no mistake about it: Lines of Battle is a very fine specimen who, if he shows up for the Derby, arrives at Churchill Downs with the second-highest earnings in the field. His last race was a win in the UAE Derby (above) and he carries a decidedly American — and deep — pedigree. War Front is proving a very good sire and the colt’s dam, Black Speck, is a half-sister to Dynaformer and she has already produced other black-type winners.

The magnificent Lines of Battle at work prior to winning the UAE Derby.

The magnificent Lines of Battle at work prior to winning the UAE Derby.

The key factor mitigating against his being a resounding Derby favourite is that it remains unclear whether or not his connections have been able to de-code the requirements to win the Kentucky Derby. Aidan O’Brien has certainly been knocking at the Derby door, and no-one would contest his brilliance. However, Coolmore’s Derby entrants consistently arrive close to Derby day and this means their colts have had little time to acclimatize to the change of scene and the deep Churchill track. Lines of Battle will find himself in the same situation as previous Coolmore entrants, although he does have a dirt pedigree, something that many of the other O’Brien trainees have lacked. The impeccably bred son of War Front will get 2 works over the track prior to the Derby, but it should be noted that several of the hottest contenders have been at Churchill for several weeks.

In terms of running style, Lines of Battle tends to be a closer and, in a race where stalkers and closers have the decided advantage, he may indeed give Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien a much-covetted crown.

2. ITSMYLUCKYDAY (Lawyer Ron ex. Viva La Slew [Doneraile Court])

Although there are stamina questions about the mile and 1/4 being the best fit for this colt, it’s impossible not to love the honest Itsmyluckyday. He’s got all the bling that made us love his daddy, Lawyer Ron. He’s also chalked up a lot of running experience under trainer Eddie Plesa Jr’s tutelage: Itsmyluckyday makes his 11th start on the first Saturday in May.

Itsmyluckyday pictured after his win at Gulfstream.

Itsmyluckyday pictured after his second place finish to Orb in the Florida Derby.

In the Florida Derby, the colt was well-beaten by Orb, but he also chalked up a second defeat of Shanghai Bobby and Frac Daddy in as many starts. Itsmyluckyday always gives 100% +. And he’s a stalker, another advantage in a Derby where there are no speed horses. But this colt has speed when he needs it: he ran the Gulfstream Park Derby in 1:09 flat in his first start of 2013 (below). In a word, Itsmyluckyday was brilliant in that race, although the competition was not up to the standards of his subsequent Holy Bull win.

But this determined colt is coming along very nicely and he may just do his daddy proud come Derby day!

3. WILL TAKE CHARGE (Unbridled’s Song ex. Take Charge Lady [Dehere])

Aside from the important fact that this colt has done everything right coming up to the Derby, his dam was a superstar who had the kind of heart that makes falling in love with thoroughbreds easy. Will Take Charge is her second offspring, after Take Charge Indy, to show his mettle on the track.

Here is Take Charge Lady battling it out with HOTY Azeri in the 2003 Apple Blossom:

The white-faced Will Take Charge is a big colt, still growing into himself, but he’s willing, rates off the pace nicely and comes with a cavalry charge at the end, as befits his name. If there is reticence about his chances, it might be that he has never gone over a mile and 1/16. But his win in the Rebel was breathtaking and in this, his final pre-Derby prep, Will Take Charge out-duelled his talented stablemate, Oxbow, in a manner that was reminiscent of his dam’s battle with Azeri:

And last, but hardly least, Will Take Charge is trained by HOF trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.

Need we say more? The combination of legendary Lukas and Will Take Charge's heart and pedigree may very well land them in the Winner's Circle on May 4.

Need we say more? The legendary D. Wayne Lukas is tied for most Triple Crown victories with the late, incomparable Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons.


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