06/26/2010 3:14PM

The Other Triple Crown


In the latest reconfiguration of the filly triple crown/tiara, which I wrote about in a Sunday DRF column, this year's version consists of the Acorn, the relocated-to-Saratoga CCA Oaks, and the Alabama. The change, apparently made to include the Acorn (on the Belmont Stakes undercard) to boost sponsorship visibility, is particularly illogical for racing purposes if you consider the following chart of the major Grade 1 dirt races in the division and the 3-year-old filly champions (highlighted in yellow) they have produced over the last 20 years:

(Sky Beauty was the last filly to win any version of a filly triple crown, when she won the Acorn, Mother Goose and CCA Oaks in 1993. She added the Alabama for good measure, but lost the title after finishing fifth to Hollywood Wildcat in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.)

Only one of the last 20 Acorn winners has been the divisional champion at year's end, as opposed to seven Kentucky Oaks winners, seven Alabama winners, six Mother Goose winners and four CCA Oaks winners.

In all, 14 of the last 20 champion 3-year-old fillies has won one at least of those four races, and 10 of the 20 won two. In the six years where the champion did not win one of those four races, there was either an inconsistent division where an unconventional campaign prevailed (Wait a While in 2006, Xtra Heat in 2001), or a filly's achievements against elders in the fall proved decisive (Surfside in 2000, Hollywood Wildcat in 1993, Saratoga Dew in 1992 and Dance Smartly in 1991.)

The chart below lists victories by 3-year-old fillies in the fall's five major Grade 1 races for three-and-up fillies on the main track:


It's interesting to note that from 1990 through 1998, nine consecutive champion 3-year-old fillies beat their elders in a Grade 1 at least once in the fall. Since then, only two have: Ashado in the 2004 Distaff and Rachel Alexandra in the Woodward last year. (Surfside clinched the 2000 title by running second in the Distaff to Spain and then beating older males in the then-G2 Clark Handicap.)

So what races should make up a filly triple crown if we're going to have one? I'd vote for the Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose and Alabama. I know, it stretches over almost four months, but those seem like the righjt three races and at least that trio would be at three different tracks. The Acorn just seems to have lost its championship relevance and the CCA Oaks is no longer a stamina test at Belmont but a prep for the Alabama on opening weekend at Saratoga.

Such a series would require two things: Stability, and a bonus. The constant reshuffling of the series --Acorn-MotherGoose-CCA Oaks through 2003, Mother Goose-CCA Oaks Alabam through 2009, Acorn-CCA Oaks-Alabama this year -- has confused everyone. A meaningful bonus could make the series a goal, and restore some attention to the division's major races.

George Quinn More than 1 year ago
Hey Steve, did you see the Rachel Alexandra hats that NYRA jumped the gun on? Now that she is blowing them off and going to the Jersey Shore to pick on softer again? A sure sign she is not the same horse. I mean the Lady's Secret? Ungraded? And she has to ship to boot? What gives?
Gary C More than 1 year ago
If you are wonderring why racing is in decline all you have to do is look at the Julu 3 & 4 card and see that 50% of the races are for NY Breds.
Saratoga_Mike More than 1 year ago
The Saratoga condition book is out, and it contains races for $10k nw2 life and open $12.5k claimers. Wow.
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
walt p: I'm quite aware that the likelihood of anyone at Churchill Downs throwing themselves on their sword by tinkering with the Oaks is nil, and alluded to that more than once in my abbreviated comment. Since you fired up the ack-ack on what will, won't or should fly, keep me posted when that Cotillion spruce goose you floated gets in the air.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Malcer: You could conceivably flip-flop the Acorn and Mother Goose as I would do it and have the Acorn be the prep for the Kentucky Oaks on the Wood Memorial Card in April (but still lengthened to 1 1/8 Miles as an Oaks prep). Yuwupi's idea of the Oaks on the same card as the Derby will never fly, nor should it. Oaks day is the second biggest day in the sport with over 100,000 in attendance now, and is big in its own right. As for why I would use the Cotillion at Philadelphia Park over the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico for the second leg, it comes down to mainly money: There is no way Maryland officials right now could make the Black-Eyed Susan a $750,000 race whereas the Cotillion is already a $750,000 race and is probably a lot closer to becoming a Grade 1 than the Black-Eyed Susan ever will be. The CCA Oaks being 1-2 weeks after the Belmont also makes sense since as I would do it, the Cotillion would be on Memorial Day. I should note the Delaware Oaks (Grade 2) at Delaware Park could also be installed as the second leg of a new Triple Tiara and run on Memorial Day if Delaware were to agree to do that (with the same conditions as I would do for the Cotillion with the race lengthened to 1 3/16 Miles).
El Angelo More than 1 year ago
I'm all for revamping and creating a series for the fillies, but the idea that it's going to get 1/10th of the press the Triple Crown gets is wishful thinking.
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
The only thing I see standing in the way of a serious filly triple crown series is the obvious resistance of Churchill Downs to tinkering with the Oaks. If that could be overcome then running the filly races on the same card as the current triple crown seems the easiest way to jump start the Triple Tiara. Oaks/Derby on the first saturday in May, Black Eyed Susan/Preakness two weeks later, and the Belmont/CCA Oaks three weeks from that. A large enough bonus concept and some purse juicing make it an eminently doable deal excepting for the Kentucky Oaks problem. More than likely the series will continue to founder as the petty fiefdoms guard their own turfs and the water keeps draining from the tub.
Mickey More than 1 year ago
Steve: Nice article from before.... I saw someone added Mom's Command...which at the time she was tops! Also..someone else mentioned Sky Beauty....what a filly..and what a shame that on the 2 most important days she ever raced (BC races) she didn't show up......outside of that she was something special..and if I am correct in remembering is the last horse to carry 130 lbs in NY and win (outside of the Fall highweight hdc)...
PEM More than 1 year ago
Steve; Love the concept. After looking at your chart of past winning 3yo fillies--and then thinking back to the 1998 Mother Goose-Soaring Softly, Banshee Breeze, Countess Diana, Keeper Hill and of course the victor-Jersey Girl-in fact so many great fillies-classy fields--virtually no comparison to the short and just not-so-deep field assembled yesterday. So maybe the concept of a serious set of challenges to create real interest in order. A series of half million to 750K races with a bonus at the end of the tunnel. That would get people talking. So far I'm with you.... Here's my biggest issue with your Ky Oaks/Mother Goose/Alabama plan--you wind up with 2 races at NYRA tracks. Now I have no issue with NYRA-best racing in the US for my money-but a race in a third region-just seems a little more "triple crown-like" in sentiment. My thought-move the Arlington Oaks to Beverly D/Million weekend. Sure it's poly--all the more intrigue! Sure it's a Grade 3--but a half million or better on the line with a "kicker" for a triple-tiara winner? That would change the status of that race quickly enough. The ideal spacing of these races-early May/late June/mid August allows for all contestents to be fresh and in top form. Bigger fields-better fields-more interest. Maybe another series with contestants like back in 98! Of course SOMEBODY has to pony up the million dollars or so--but it would be seen as a very positive gesture-especially by female race fans. Best, PEM
mr.sunday More than 1 year ago
That was some run by Yanks Music in 96.Too bad she got hurt before the BC Classic.I forgot how good a trainer Leo OB was back then.