06/26/2014 2:18PM

The Mother of all Gooses


The banner on the front pages of Daily Racing Form and The Racing Times of June 9, 1991 were the same: “The Mother of All Gooses.” It was a sly, ripped-from-the-headlines reference to Saddam Hussein’s hollow, defiant cry, “mother of all battles,” from the first Iraq War. This battle, however, proved to be not nearly as one-sided.

Meadow Star and Lite Light were the titans of the 3-year-old filly division. They had taken different paths to the Mother Goose, each rolling over their respective competition. Meadow Star, the previous year’s juvenile filly champ, was undefeated in her own division and was coming off an easy win in the Acorn. Lite Light, who was trounced by Meadow Star in the Breeders’ Cup the previous fall, had hit her stride and was riding a four-race graded win streak, the last of which was a 10-length blowout in the Kentucky Oaks.

Their owners came from, to put it mildly, different worlds. Meadow Star flew the colors of Carl Icahn, at the time one of the world’s richest men and the apotheosis of Wall Street and the pin-striped suit. MC Hammer’s Oaktown Stable owned Lite Light. Hammer was the world’s most ubiquitous rapper and his fashion sense tilted more toward the buttonless leather jacket and balloon pants. On the racetrack, there was little between Meadow Star, wearing classic chestnut, and Lite Light, a flashy bay. The tote board told the story: In a parimutuel rarity, both horses were odds-on.

The speedier Meadow Star, under Jerry Bailey, took the initial round, sprinting to a two-length lead down the backstretch while bouncing along at a glacial pace – 49.48 seconds for the first half-mile. Corey Nakatani, aboard Lite Light, had taken back during the early going but sensing the slow fractions sent his filly to challenge at the half-mile pole.

As the two turned for home, Bailey floated Lite Light six deep into the track but the filly kept coming and inched closer to Meadow Star. The two hit the wire together and no one, including track announcer Tom Durkin, could determine the winner. Nakatani thought he had gotten there; Bailey looked unsure. Six minutes later, the photo-finish camera showed that Meadow Star had held on by the shortest, dirtiest nose.

The race took its toll on both horses, though Lite Light exacted revenge on Meadow Star four weeks later in the Coaching Club American Oaks, defeating her by seven lengths. After the CCA Oaks, neither horse won again.