Skip to main content

Famous Race Mares in History

Regret, 1915 Kentucky Derby winner

Regret, 1915 Kentucky Derby winner

Thanks for checking out my hub on famous race mares in history.  The horses chosen for this article are among my personal favorites, which is of course based only on my own opinions.  Yours may vary(and that's okay!).  I've tried to include both commonly known names as well as famous-but-less-talked-about ones.  When pictures cannot be provided(due to not being able to locate royalty free images of any given horse), I'll try to provide links instead.

So, if you are a thoroughbred racing fan, take a few moments and enjoy my selection of famous race mares.  This hub is also great if you're new to the sport and interested in learning a bit of history and a bit about the horses who made it.

This hub inspired by today's excellent victory by Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness Stakes



Genuine Risk

Genuine Risk

Lady's Secret

Lady's Secret

The Mares

Listed in no particular order...

Regret - (Broomstick x Jersey Lightning; b. 1912, d. 1934). Regret is best known as the first filly to ever win the Kentucky Derby, in 1915. She was also the first of only four horses to ever win all three of Saratoga's 2 year old stakes events(the Saratoga Special Stakes, Sanford Stakes and Hopeful Stakes.) Regret raced through her 5 year old season and was then retired to the Whitney Farm in Lexington, KY with 11 lifetime starts, 9 wins, and $35,000 in earnings. She ultimately failed to produce as a broodmare, producing only one major stakes winner out of 11 foals. She died at age 22.

Regret was inducted in to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1957.

Ruffian - (Reviewer x Shenanigans; b. 1972, d. 1975). At almost 17 hands tall and jet black, Ruffian is considered by many to be not only one of the greatest race fillies of all time, but one of the best racehorses of any gender of all time. Ruffian made a total of 11 lifetime starts, winning all but her final, and ultimately fatal, match race against 1975 Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure. Prior to her final start, she had won over varying distances(from 5 and a half furlongs to a mile and a half), had set new or equaled existing track records, and won the 1974 Eclipse Award for Outstanding 2 year old Filly.

During her final race, Ruffian hit the starting gate with her shoulder at the beginning of the race, but despite any discomfort she was in continued to run, and maintained a small lead over Foolish Pleasure. But very suddenly and shockingly, she snapped both sesamoid bones in her right front leg. Her rider, Jacinto Vasquez, tried in vain to pull her up, but she refused and continued to run on the severely damaged leg. Afterward, she underwent surgery to repair it, but upon waking up from anesthesia she began to thrash wildly, undoing all repair work that had been done to her, along with creating even further injury. She was humanely euthanized a short time after. Ruffian is buried in the infield at Belmont Park in New York.

Ruffian was inducted in the Racing Hall of Fame in 1976.

Genuine Risk - (Exclusive Native x Virtuous; b. 1977, d. August 18, 2008). A lovely chestnut mare, Genuine Risk is most well known for being the second filly in history to win a Kentucky Derby(1980). She had a total 15 career starts with 10 wins, 3 places, and 2 shows. She began her breeding career in 1982 with her very first mating being to Secretariat, but the end result was, unfortunately, a stillborn foal. Over the span of 17 years and several breeding attempts, Genuine Risk only ever produced 2 live foals, neither of which ever raced. She remained at Newstead Farm in Virginia until her death at age 31.

Genuine Risk was inducted in to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1986.

Go For Wand - (Deputy Minister x Obeah; b. 1987, d. October 27, 1990). Go For Wand was a spectacular bay filly who drew much comparison to Ruffian, right up to and including her fatal breakdown in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff during a stretch battle with champion older mare Bayakoa. While all track breakdowns are tragic, hers was particularly horrific due to the national live television coverage of the Breeders' Cup, as well as her fall occurring in the stretch in front of thousands of fans. She rose from the track and began heading toward the winner's circle, but track personnel were able to stop her and she was ultimately euthanized trackside. Sports Illustrated subsequently caused much controversy by choosing to print photographs of Go For Wand as she was "behind the blue curtain", the shield that is put up to spare fans from having to witness such stark reality, as the attending veterinarian administered the lethal dose.

This one is a bit near and dear-- as well as still quite raw, even though it's been 19 years now-- to me, as I was 14 at the time and was watching these events unfold on TV, like millions of other viewers. She was one of my favorite horses at the time, and like most, I'd been expecting another spectacular victory-- the worst thing I could have imagined at the time was a loss to Bayakoa. To this day I still have trouble even looking at photos of her without having a strong emotional reaction.

Go For Wand was inducted in to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1996 and can be seen here.

Dance Smartly - (Danzig x Classy 'N Smart; b. 1988, d. 2007). Dance Smartly was a Canadian bred mare who spent her 1991 season undefeated on the track, while winning the Canadian Triple Crown and becoming the first Canadian bred to win a Breeders' Cup race. At the time of her retirement, she was the number one money earning filly in the world(approx. 3.2 million dollars). She had a total of 17 career starts, with 12 wins, 2 places, and 3 shows. Dance Smartly also had a very successful career as a broodmare, including producing back-to-back Queen's Plate winners.

Dance Smartly sustained a serious injury in a paddock accident at Sam-Son Farm at age 19 and had to be euthanized.

Scroll to Continue

She was inducted in to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Racing Hall of Fame in 2003 and can be seen here.

Lady's Secret - (Secretariat x Great Lady M; b. 1982, d. March 4, 2003). Lady's Secret was a small grey filly who was nicknamed "The Iron Lady". She was the first and only horse to win 8 grade 1 stakes races in one season, and some of these wins came against colts. In 1986, she became the first filly since Gallorette(1948) to win the Whitney Handicap and capped off the year by winning the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Also in 1986, she was awarded the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Older Female, as well as the ultimate award, Horse of the Year, a rarity for fillies and mares. She retired at age 5 with 45 lifetime starts, 25 wins, 9 places, and 3 shows with earnings of just over 3 million dollars.

Unfortunately, she did not produce any foals that came close to her own level of talent, and died suddenly in 2003 as a result of complications from foaling.

Lady's Secret was inducted in to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1992.

Paseana - (Ahmad x Pasiflin; b. 1987, d. 2006).  Paseana was bred in Argentina and competed there very successfully before being relocated to the US at age 4, where she continued to dominate.  In 1992 at age 5, she won the Breeders' Cup Distaff, and ultimately was awarded the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Females that same year.  In 1993, she again started in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, only to lose by a nose to Hollywood Wildcat, but again managed to secure the Eclipse Award for Older Females.  She races for 6 seasons, ages 3-8, and retired with earnings just over 3 million dollars.  She had 36 career starts, 19 wins, 9 places, and 3 shows.

I was fortunate enough to see this mare race in person at Hollywood Park one year.

She experienced fertility problems as a broodmare and only ever produced one foal, in 2000.  In 2003, she died after hemorrhaging due to a ruptured abdominal blood vessel in Argentina.

Paseana was inducted in to the Racing Hall of Fame in 2001 and can be seen here.

Flawlessly - (Affirmed x La Confidence; b. 1988, d. 2002).  A turf horse, Flawlessly raced 5 seasons, from ages 2-6, winning grade 1 stakes races every year except her 2 year old year(wherein she won 2 grade 3 stakes races).  She won the Eclipse Award for Champion Female Turf Horse in 1992 and 1993.  She retired at the end of 1994 with 33 career starts, 19 wins, 4 places, and 3 shows with about 2.5 million in earnings.  She produced 2 foals by Storm Cat, one a filly named Flawlessness who died as a 4 year old of colitis-x and another filly who did not race.

I also had the priveledge of seeing this mare race in person at Hollywood Park.

Flawlessly herself died in 2002 at age 14 as a result of kidney problems.

She was inducted in to the Hall of Fame in 2004 and can be seen here.

Winning Colors - (Caro x All Rainbows; b. 1985, d. 2008).  Winning Colors is best known as the third filly to ever win the Kentucky Derby(1988) against an extremely talented field of colts that consisted of horses such as Risen Star, Forty Niner, Seeking The Gold, and Private Terms.  She rounded out her 3 year old season with a loss by a nose to Personal Ensign in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.  However, she was also given the Eclipse Award for Champion 3 Year Old Filly that same year.  She raced 7 times at age 4, but did not show the same spark, as she was hampered with some physical problems.  She retired at the end of her 4 year old year with a total of 19 career starts with 8 wins, 3 places, and 1 show and about 1.5 million in earnings.

As a broodmare, Winning Colors produced several foals, but none ever equalled her level of success.  She was euthanized at age 23 in February 2008 after experiencing complications from colic.

Winning Colors was inducted in to the Racing Hall of Fame in 2000 and can be seen here.

Meadow Star - (Meadowlake x Inreality Star; b. 1988, d. 2002).  Meadow Star was undefeated in her 2 year old season, defeating the likes of Dance Smartly, Flawlessly, and future rival Light Lite in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.  She won the Eclipse Award for Champion 2 Year Old Filly in 1990.  Her 3 year old year started off well but after her loss to Light Lite in the Coaching Club American Oaks, Meadow Star did not race again until September of that year, when she suffered yet another loss and was subsequently not raced again until April of her 4 year old year.  Winless in her 4 year old year, she was then retired to broodmare duties.  She retired with a total of 20 career starts, 11 wins, 1 place, and 2 shows with about 1.4 million in earnings.

Meadow Star produced 5 live foals, none of which matched her success.  She died in 2002 at age 14 while giving birth to a Fusaichi Pegasus foal, who also died.

Meadow Star has not been inducted to the Racing Hall of Fame.


Deborah on August 04, 2018:

Try looking for a filly named Dark Mirage. I think you would like her. She was born in 1965 and was the first 3 year old filly to win the New York Filly Triple Crown.Just to warn you there is not a happy ending,much like Ruffian.

Kimberly on August 02, 2016:

Ruffian also won the Filly Triple Crown, also known as the Triple Tiara. The Match race which was to be her final race(she had a 3/4 length lead over Foolish Pleasure) was also seen by a nationwide audience via CBS network! Her Movie was simply called Ruffian. Ruffian was almost 17 hands.

SilkDepartment on September 03, 2013:

Black Caviar would surely have to go down as possibly the greatest racemare ever. She's since retired and retired unbeaten - 25 starts for 25 wins incl an Australian record 15 Group 1 wins (only 1 in fillies & mares grade). She won at Royal Ascot and she also won twice when she injured herself in the race. Freak. Forgot to add the great Makybe Diva. She won Australia's biggest and most famous race the Melbourne Cup 3 consecutive years (the last 2 with mares weight carrying records), a feat never replicated in 150+ runnings of the race and a feat none of us will see in our lifetimes. She also won the best race in Australasia the WS Cox Plate, the WFA Championship race. She won an incredible $14 million (approx $13 million US) in stakemoney. Look out for another as well. She's racing now. She's had injury problems but still remains unbeaten at 8/8. Atlantic Jewel is a star on the rise (by the way she was the world's highest rated filly last year)

Ruffi-Ruffian on September 01, 2013:

How tall was Flawlessly?

colbert simon on February 01, 2012:

Great info Silk Dept

Michael C. on January 30, 2012:

There was a philly in retirement around my home in Huntingdon Valley, PA called Hell's Gal (late 60's). Don't know if she did well. Is there any way of finding out?

Alexander A (author) from Internet on December 24, 2011:

SilkDepartment, thanks a lot for your contribution! Always love to hear about others, particularly those from other countries. :)

SilkDepartment on December 24, 2011:

I'll add the names Wakeful (unplaced 3 times in 44 starts incl 25 wins & 12 seconds and amazingly won from 1100m - 4800m), Lets Elope (won Caulfield/Melbourne Cup Dbl, Australian Cup and was first past the post in Beverley D in USA but ridiculously had race taken off her on protest from 3rd horse !) , Sunline (winner of 32 races in 3 countries incl WFA Championship of Australasia the WS Cox Plate twice) and of course the super mare Black Caviar (still racing and remains unbeaten 16 starts for 16 wins & was rated Worlds Best Horse in early 2011)) to this list.

kajuntiger on February 14, 2011:

Great site with fantastic picks. Can you tell me the name of the movie about the career and death of Ruffian? I saw it and was swept away by the spirit of the horse, but I can't remember the name of the film or its producer.

Related Articles