04/20/2015 3:06PM

Kentucky Derby fillies as broodmares

Amber Chalfin
Eight Belles finishes second to Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.

One might assume that only top fillies would dare contest a Kentucky Derby – and one would be correct in that assumption. As broodmares, these 40 classic distaffers went on to comprise a pretty solid group of matrons, with 18 of them producing stakes winners and several exerting a notable-to-profound influence on the American Thoroughbred.

Although a stakes producer, Regret was far from the most important future broodmare to emerge from the Derby. More impressive was the sextet of Cleopatra (15th in 1920), Prudery (third, 1921), Alcibiades (10th, 1930), Nellie Flag (fourth, 1935), Althea (19th, 1984), and Serena’s Song (16th, 1995).

Cleopatra produced juvenile champion Pompey. Alcibiades produced juvenile champion Menow, the sire of Hall of Famer Tom Fool, and is an ancetress of international racehorse and sire Sir Ivor. Prudery was that rarest of rare gems – a mare capable of producing two American classic winners – Whiskery (who avenged his dam in the 1927 Derby) and Victorian (1928 Preakness).

The best of Nellie Flag’s stakes-winning trio were champion mare Mar-Kell and Kentucky Oaks victress Nellie L., and she subsequently traced in the bottom line to the great Forego and 1976 Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes. Althea’s four stakes winners would include a Japanese champion, while her descendants numbered Grade 1 winner/top American sire Arch. Serena’s Song, produced five stakes winners and is the third dam of 2015 Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Honor Code.

But heartbreak and disappointment has been over-represented in this group.

Genuine Risk famously produced just two unraced foals in 18 years of trying; Misweet never produced a foal, Ben Machree only one. Cupecoy’s Joy was plenty fertile, but her offspring were abysmal – three winners from 12 foals, not one a stakes winner.

The last four Derby fillies have especially sad stories. Excellent Meeting died during colic surgery at age 8 in 2006, while same-crop cohort Three Ring suffered a fatal skull fracture after flipping in the Belmont Park paddock six weeks after the Derby; Eight Belles broke down catastrophically in both fore ankles immediately after finishing second in 2008; and Devil May Care – 10th in 2010 – was euthanized the following year due to cancer.

Fillies in the Derby
1875  Ascension    10th; Gold Mine    15th
1876  Lizzie Stone     6th; Marie Michon    7th
1877  Early Light     8th
1879  Ada Glenn     7th
  Wissahickon     9th
1883  Pike’s Pride     6th
1906  Lady Navarre   2nd
1911  Round the World    6th
1912  Flamma    3rd
1913  Gowell    3rd
1914  Bronzewing    3rd; Watermelon     7th
1915  REGRET    1st
1918  Viva America    3rd
1919  Regalo     9th
1920  Cleopatra    15th
1921  Prudery    3rd&; Careful     5th
1922  Startle      8th
1929  Ben Machree    18th
1930  Alcibiades    10th
1932  Oscillation    13th
1934  Mata Hari     4th; Bazaar; 9th
1935  Nellie Flag     4th
1936  Gold Seeker     9th
1945  Misweet    12th
1959  Silver Spoon     5th
1980  GENUINE RISK   1st
1982  Cupecoy’s Joy   10th
1984  Life’s Magic     8th, Althea     19th
1988  WINNING COLORS   1st
1995  Serena’s Song   16th
1999  Excellent Meeting    5th; Three Ring    19th
2008  Eight Belles    2nd
2010  Devil May Care   10th

1906 – Lady Navarre suffered backstretch interference but closed to finish second, beaten two lengths by favored Sir Huon.
1912 – Flamma acted up at the start and got away poorly, but closed well for third, beaten a neck and five lengths.
1913 – Gowell, at 87-1, came from behind to finish third, two lengths back of 91-1 winner Donerail. It took a new track record to beat her.
1914 – Bronzewing raced last for half a mile, before closing for third, beaten 9 1/2 lengths by Old Rosebud.
1918 – Viva America tired at 29-1 after leading for nearly half the race on a muddy track. She was overhauled in the stretch and beaten eight lengths by the only horse with longer odds, Exterminator.
1921 – Prudery, part of a favored H.P. Whitney entry, stalked the pace, went wide into the stretch, and finished third behind E.R. Bradley’s entry of Behave Yourself and Black Servant, beaten six lengths by the winner.
2008 – After a world of trouble, Eight Belles found a clear path in the stretch to finish second by 4 3/4 lengths behind favored Big Brown. She broke down fatally pulling up on the clubhouse turn.

Derby Fillies as Broodmares

1875 – Ascension, stakes producer.
1876 – Lizzie Stone, dam of three stakes winners, including important handicap stars Ten Stone and Sabine.
1879 – Ada Glenn, stakes producer.
1911 – Round the World, dam of major stakes winner and 1920s $154,000-earner Golden Prince.
1914 – Bronzewing, stakes producer.
1915 – Regret, dam of stakes winner Revenge; ancestress of First Fiddle.
1918 – Viva America, dam of Arlington Futurity winner Toro Nancy.
1919 – Regalo, stakes producer.
1920 – Cleopatra, dam of three stakes winners, including champion Pompey. Ancestress of Hall of Fame champion Tom Fool.
1921 – Prudery, dam of three stakes winners, including champion and 1927 Kentucky Derby winner Whiskery and 1928 Preakness winner Victorian.
1921 – Careful, ancestress of champion Dedicate.
1930 – Alcibiades, dam of four stakes winners, including champion Menow. Ancestress of champion Sir Ivor.
1934 – Mata Hari, dam of major stakes winner and sire Spy Song.
1934 – Bazaar, stakes producer.
1945 – Nellie Flag, dam of champion Mar-Kell and ancestress of champions Forego and Bold Forbes.
1959 – Silver Spoon, stakes producer.
1984 – Althea, dam of four stakes winners, including champion Yamanin Paradise. Ancestress of Grade 1 winner and sire Arch.
1995 – Serena’s Song, dam of five stakes winners, including Group 1 winner Sophisticat. Ancestress of 2015 graded stakes winner Honor Code.

Maynard Runkle More than 1 year ago
What about Winning Colors? She won the Derby in 1988 and almost ruined Personal Ensign's perfect record in the Breeder's Cup Distaff although she was only three and had run in the Derby and Preakness where she was in the money. Did she produce offspring and if so, what were they like? She produced ten foals and one, Golden Colors, is a group three winner in Japan. Winning Colors was euthanized in 2008. Risen Star, Secretariat's son was third in her Derby and went on to win the Preakness and Belmont. Stallions have hundreds of chances and most of them do no better prercentagewise with their progeny's race results.
Mary Simon More than 1 year ago
Winning Colors failed as a broodmare. She produced ten foals, nine starters, six winners--but not a single stakes winner. A couple of her daughters became modest stakes producers in foreign countries.
Maynard Runkle More than 1 year ago
What about her Group III winner Golden Colors? Just because it was in Japan it doen't count? Hmmmm! Six out of ten winners and she's a failure. That is a bit harsh and her daughters in foreign countries can hardly be expected to send sons and daughters to the Oaks or Derby, can they?
Mary Simon More than 1 year ago
Golden Colors was Group 3-placed in Japan. Not a stakes winner. Winning Colors failed as a broodmare.
Maynard Runkle More than 1 year ago
According to Barbaraanne Helberg who wrote about both Genuine Risk and Winning Colors as broodmares, Winning Colors' daughter Golden Colors won a Group III race in Japan. Is a Group III considered a stakes race? Her granddaughter Cheerful Smile also won a Group III. What standard is used to determine if a broodmare is a success or failure? By comparison, Giant's Causeway has only 10% stakes winners from starters, to date. Would you consider him a failure as a sire?
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Maynard Runkle More than 1 year ago
Like you Hunny, I do not believe it either.
Shaman Krauss More than 1 year ago
Thank you Mary for 2 great columns on race mares in the Derby.
John Cossette More than 1 year ago
Thanks for an interesting article! People always like to claim that "fillies who run in the Derby are poor producers," because they were pushed too hard on the racetrack or some nonesense, but I'd bet a substantial sum that significantly less than 45% (18 of 40) of the participants in the KY Oaks over the years have turned out to be stakes producers.