Pedigree expert Laura Joy looks back on some classy females who beat the colts, ahead of Tuesday's bid for Irish Derby glory on Saturday.
On Saturday, Tuesday will jump from stall 1 in a historic bid to join an illustrious roll of honour.
Few fillies have tried to take on the colts in the ultimate Classic tests, even fewer have succeeded. Having already proven her pole position at the top of the fillies' middle-distance division on the day of her third birthday, Tuesday's accomplished trainer says she’s getting stronger every day. Bold connections are serving us with a Classic to savour as the Derby and Oaks form is put to the test.
Only two fillies have succeed in the Irish equivalent since the turn of the last century. Does Tuesday have what it takes to join racing immortality? Let’s find out.
Salsabil, meaning a spring or a fountain in paradise, only graced the world with her presence for nine years, but decisively made her regretfully short time count.
In a nine-race career she sparkled in five stellar Group 1 wins amongst seven career victories. The highlight is subjective but there’s no denying there is something extra special about a filly beating the colts, a sentiment fresh in our minds after Enable’s recent domination.
In the 1990 renewal of the Irish Derby, Salsabil did exactly that. In doing so, she propelled her young sire Sadler’s Wells to his first of his fourteen champion sire titles, with just his second crop of three year olds on the ground.
Salsabil followed her 1000 Guineas win with a five length demolition of the 1990 Oaks field before attempting to become the first filly since Gallinaria in 1900 to win the Irish Derby.
A yearling purchase for Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, she joined his broodmare band at Shadwell for just five breeding seasons before succumbing to cancer. Of her five foals, three won stakes races but none came close to her lofty achievements. Two of her four daughters also died young, and we can only dream of seeing the likes of her again.
Just as we saw with American Pharoah ending the US Triple Crown drought in 2015 since Affirmed in 1978 only for Justify to emerge three years later, along came Balanchine in 1994.
Following an unbeaten two year old season for Peter Chapple Hyam, Balanchine was purchased privately by Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum from her breeder Swettenham Stud. Unlike Tuesday, Balanchine contested the 1000 Guineas on her seasonal debut where she finished a gallant second to Las Meninas by a short head.
Skipping the Irish 1000 Guineas, she went straight to Epsom where she won the Oaks by two and a half lengths. Following that dominant display, she went to the Curragh to contest a competitive renewal of the Irish Derby. Facing Derby runner up King’s Theatre, second only to aforementioned Shadwell’s homebred Erhaab at Epsom, she dismissed the subsequent champion 3yo colt and King George winner by four and a half lengths.
Shortly after, colic struck and despite placing in the Group 2 Prix Foy the following season, she failed to recapture the dazzling form that took the Curragh Classic in such style. Nonetheless, her devasttaing 1994 Irish Derby success was etched into the record books forever, and no filly has emulated her efforts since.
Across the pond, taking on the colts is a more regular occurrence though it’s far from frequent. We saw Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath gallantly tackle the boys in a hot Preakness Stakes (US Triple Crown second leg) where she finished a luckless fourth.
Back in 2007, one Kentucky Oaks victress accomplished a rare Classic double when she captured the Belmont Stakes by a head from subsequent Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Curlin.
A winning bid of $1.9 million was required to secure this daughter of A P Indy, ironically named Rags To Riches. Out of exceptional producer Better Than Honour, herself a Grade 2 winner, Rags To Riches was following up her own half-brother Jazil’s Belmont Stakes success in 2006. Better Than Honour bred five winners, two Classic winners and four stakes winners. Her only non-black type winner Teeming (Storm Cat) produced Grade 1 winner Streaming (Smart Strike) from her seven winners.
These days, top colts Cezanne (Curlin) and Greatest Honour (Tapit) are keeping her legacy alive. Whilst Rags To Riches is yet to strike in stakes as a broodmare, she has three producing daughters and there are far worse bets than taking a chance on their regal bloodlines.
To the matter on hand, fortune favours the brave and history shows there is a guaranteed appreciation of a filly who can take on the boys.
Very few will begrudge Tuesday if she can successfully propel herself into a group of elite fillies, destined to be remembered forever. But what of the monumental task ahead of her?
Epsom Oaks winner Qualify attempted the feat in 2015 where she finished sixth of eight whilst New York Girl was seventh to Santiago in 2020.
Perhaps more intriguing is the 1997 Irish 1000 Guineas runner up Strawberry Roan. At the time of her bid for glory, she was a half-sister to Derby winner Generous (Caerleon) with her full sister, Irish 1000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks winner Imagine, yet to be conceived.
Impeccably bred, Strawberry Roan finished eighth under Frankie Dettori, beaten 24 lengths by Desert King. Whilst Tuesday has added the Epsom Oaks to her placed efforts in both Guineas, it’s a reminder of the magnitude of the task in hand.
If anyone has the profile and the people around her to do it, it is of course the regally bred and equally talented Tuesday. But should she fall short, let’s remember she’s a Classic winner in her own right and just savour the battle we are set to enjoy.
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