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History challenge: Test your knowledge of the Demoiselle Stakes
Because it is the only graded stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles, the Demoiselle Stakes, which will be run for the 92nd time Saturday at Aqueduct, is closely watched by followers of the sport looking for future stars.
A year ago, trainer Todd Pletcher won his fourth Demoiselle with Unlimited Budget, who was making only her second career start.
A decade ago, Ashado parlayed a second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to a victory in the Demoiselle. The following two seasons, she was voted champion of her sex with victories that included the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
In 1979, one of only three fillies in history to capture the Kentucky Derby, Genuine Risk, won the Demoiselle.
French for a "young lady," the Demoiselle was first run in 1908 at Empire City Race Course in Yonkers, N.Y. The track opened for trotters in 1900 and was purchased in 1907 by grocery store magnate James Butler, who immediately converted it to a Thoroughbred track.
The Demoiselle was contested almost entirely at Empire City, with some interruptions, until 1942, when it was moved to Jamaica Race Course. The event has called Aqueduct home since 1959.
Empire City reverted to harness racing in the early 1950s under the name Yonkers Raceway. Standardbred racing continues there today.
Test your knowledge of fillies who have captured the Demoiselle.
1. Melisande was so well thought of as a 2-year-old in 1908 that she made her first career start in the ninth running of the Laureate Stakes on May 26 at Belmont Park. She won. On Aug. 17, she captured the inaugural running of the $1,500-added Demoiselle Stakes, leading from wire to wire as the odds-on favorite.
A chestnut filly by Disguise, Melisande was not considered a champion that year. That honor went to her stablemate, future Hall of Fame inductee Maskette.
Melisande had probably the greatest connections a horse could have at that time. Her trainer and rider are both members of the Hall of Fame, and her owner and breeder is almost certain to be a future Hall inductee under the new “pillars of the turf” category introduced this year. Name the three men.
2. The winners of the 1939 and 1940 runnings of the Demoiselle were both near-unanimous choices for champion 2-year-old filly in their respective years, but neither lived up to expectations in future years.
The 1939 winner was owned by the young Alfred G. Vanderbilt. The filly, a winner of four stakes races at age 2, had been named by a Long Island, N.Y., woman in a contest sponsored by the monthly magazine Turf & Sport Digest.
The 1940 winner was bred by Samuel D. Riddle, owner of Man o’ War. The bay filly, winner of six stakes at age 2, was sired by champion Equipoise, considered at the time by many horsemen and turf writers as the best and most popular racehorse to set foot on the track since Man o’ War. Name the two fillies.
3. In 1972, Hollywood Park staged a $250,000 match race – pitting that year’s eventual Eclipse Award-winning mare, Typecast, against Convenience. It was a ding-dong battle, with Convenience holding off a final lunge by Typecast, the 2-5 favorite, to win by a head.
Two years later, the Inglewood, Calif., track tried to repeat that excitement with, what remains to this day, the richest match race ever run in America – $350,000 winner-take-all – featuring the eventual 3-year-old filly champion that year against a sensational West Coast filly.
The race turned out to be almost a non-event with the filly who won the Demoiselle Stakes the prior year winning the match by “50 lengths.” Name the two fillies.
4. Eugene V. Klein, owner of the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League, sold his interest in the Chargers in 1984 to devote more time to his hobby of breeding and racing Thoroughbreds.
The Breeders’ Cup series was inaugurated that same year. For the next six years (1984-1989), Klein started 27 horses in Breeders’ Cup races, winning six, a record for owners that to this day has not been surpassed, despite the passage of time and the increase in number of Cup races. Klein died in 1990.
Among Klein’s Breeders’ Cup winners was this two-time Eclipse Award-winning filly who captured the Demoiselle Stakes two weeks after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs. Name her.
5. On Nov. 28, 1998, this bay filly by Deputy Minister was beaten a nose in the 77th running of the Demoiselle. But after the horses crossed the finish line, the stewards put up the inquiry sign.
The first filly across the finish line, Tutorial, had drifted in under right-hand whipping, interfering with the eventual second- and fifth-place horses. Tutorial was placed fifth, the first winner ever to be disqualified in the long history of the race.
As it would turn out, the filly placed first would end her career with only one stakes win – a race in which she finished second.
Almost 10 years to the date, on Nov. 2, 2008, this same filly would go on the auction block at the Fasig-Tipton fall select mixed sale and sell for $14 million – a world record for a broodmare. Name her.
1. When Empire City was converted to Thoroughbreds in 1907, the blue-bloods in the racing establishment initially snubbed their noses at the upstart track. By the second season, James Butler’s track, located about 12 miles north of Central Park, was accepted as the new kid on the block.
The 1908 Demoiselle Stakes showed just how quickly things changed. The winner Melisande was from the powerful Castleton Stud of James R. Keene, who along with his son Foxhall bred, owned, and raced nearly 70 stakes winners from the early 1890s to the early 1910s.
While records are sketchy in some years, the Keene racing stable frequently led the nation in earnings.
Of Melisande’s trainer, turf historian Ed Bowen wrote, “In 50 years James Rowe Sr. trained 32 champions. Nobody else in the history of the American turf can make such a claim . . . ”
Even more incredibly, a record 10 horses trained by Rowe reside in the Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Riding Melisande on that cloudy afternoon in New York was Joseph A. Notter, who set a record that year for earnings by a rider ($464,322) that would last until 1923.
Among Hall of Famers ridden to victory by Notter were undefeated Colin in the 1908 Belmont Stakes, Whiskbroom II in all three of the colt’s American starts in 1913, and the filly Regret in the 1915 Kentucky Derby.
2. Now What, winner of the 1939 Demoiselle Stakes and champion 2-year-old filly, was by Chance Play, out of the mare That’s That.
Alfred G. Vanderbilt purchased Now What privately in 1938. Fittingly, the filly made her debut in the Nursery Stakes at Pimlico, the track where her owner served as president. She finished second.
In addition to the Demoiselle, Now What captured the Astoria, Arlington Lassie, and Spinaway stakes.
Vanderbilt stopped on her in August to save her for the big 3-year-old races. In 11 starts the following year, she went winless and was retired.
Level Best, champion 2-year-old filly of 1940, made her stakes debut in the Demoiselle on July 4 and cruised home first by more than eight lengths at odds of 5-1.
She went on to capture the Saratoga Sales, Old Colony, Richard Johnson, and Autumn Days stakes. In addition, she won a race called the Special Event at Keeneland, designed for the best juvenile fillies on the grounds.
Level Best won only one stakes race each year at ages 3 and 4.
3. Chris Evert was owned by sportswear manufacturer Carl Rosen, who named the filly for the future world’s No. 1 women’s tennis star who was a spokeswoman for his fashion line.
Starting late in the year at age 2 in 1973, Chris Evert won the Golden Rod and Demoiselle stakes.
At age 3, she won the Eclipse Award with victories that included the Acorn and Mother Goose stakes, and Coaching Club American Oaks – three races then called the Triple Crown for Fillies.
On July 20, 1974, Chris Evert traveled to the West Coast for her only appearance outside of New York in her championship season. She met the much-talked-about Miss Musket in the richest match race in history. Miss Musket was owned by Oregon lumber magnate Aaron U. Jones.
The Western filly was a slight favorite, but after making several runs at Chris Evert, she was dead tired and was eased in the stretch by jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. Rather than simply putting eased on the running line, the chart caller used lengths behind – 50.
Chris Evert was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.
4. Jockey Angel Cordero Jr. brought the chestnut filly Open Mind from 16 lengths back to capture the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, drawing away in the end. That was the first year the series was held at Churchill Downs.
To ensure the title of champion 2-year-old filly, trainer D. Wayne Lukas started Open Mind two weeks later in the Demoiselle Stakes, where she again came from far back to win.
At age 3, in addition to winning the Kentucky Oaks, Open Mind also captured the Acorn, Mother Goose, and CCA Oaks (via disqualification). The series was then known as the Triple Tiara, to avoid conflict with the recently formed Triple Crown Productions Inc. She was again crowned champion of the year.
Open Mind won 12 starts – seven of them Grade 1 stakes – out of 19 career trips to the post. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
5. Better Than Honour retired in 1999 with earnings of $250,920, but her only stakes win was the Demoiselle – on a disqualification.
The dam of two consecutive winners of the Belmont Stakes (Jazil in 2006 and champion filly Rags to Riches in 2007), Better Than Honour also foaled Casino Drive, winner of the 2008 Peter Pan Stakes.
Better Than Honor was sold for a record $14 million to Michael Moreno’s Southern Equine Stables, which had owned a 70 percent interest in her prior to the sale.
The broodmare was not in foal at the time of the sale and later battled a uterine infection. She has since produced another stakes winner – Man of Honor – who captured the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Marathon.