06/01/2012 4:20PM

Post-World War II period was flush with outstanding fillies


In 1946, racing writer Joe Palmer of the New York Herald Tribune, called Honeymoon “the best performer bred in California since the revival of racing there.”  That same year, Paul Lowry, sports writer for the Los Angeles Times, called her “the best filly ever bred in California.”

A lifetime winner of 13 stakes races, Honeymoon often beat males, including victories in the 1946 Cinema Handicap and Hollywood Derby. That same season, she took on older males and was beaten just a neck in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Honeymoon was the first Cal-bred filly to win more than $100,000 and retired in 1950 with lifetime earnings of $387,760. She will again be honored Saturday at Hollywood Park with the 61st running of the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap.

Despite an illustrious career that spanned six seasons, Honeymoon was never voted a national champion, primarily because she found herself campaigning in an era that showcased some of the best females of all time.

In the 10 years following the end of World War II in 1945, eight females who would eventually be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame were seen in action.

Test your knowledge of these stars.

1. In 1944, the 3-year-old filly Twilight Tear was voted Horse of the Year. The following season, the 3-year-old filly Busher was accorded the same honor.  For the next 65 years, they would remain the only females to be voted consecutive Horse of the Year titles. In 2010, Zenyatta was named the year’s best, one year after Rachel Alexandra won the title. And in 2011, Havre de Grace made it three straight female Horses of the Year.

Twilight Tear was bred and owned by Calumet Farm. Busher was owned by the same famous Hollywood personality who bred and owned Honeymoon. Name him.

2. Triple Crown champion Citation won 28 of his first 30 lifetime starts. When he entered the gate for his sixth start – the 1947 Washington Futurity – he was facing a filly who had won all seven of her starts, including the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs, the Arlington Lassie Stakes, and two other added-money events.

The filly took the lead out of the gate, opened up four lengths, and never looked back. Citation finished a length behind in second. She campaigned for five seasons and became the world’s leading money-winning female. Name her.

3. Alfred G. Vanderbilt bred and raced some of the top stars of the 20th century, the greatest being Native Dancer, whose only loss in 22 starts came in the Kentucky Derby.

Vanderbilt, who died in 1999 and is honored with a Grade 1 stakes in his name each year at Saratoga, often said that this two-time national champion was the best female he ever bred. She ended her 46-start career finishing fourth in a 15-horse field in the 1952 Santa Anita Handicap – the same race in which her sire, Rosemont, nosed out Seabiscuit for the win 15 years earlier. Name her.

4. The day after this filly was foaled at Calumet Farm on March 7, 1949, farm manager Paul Eberthardt noted on her foal report, “Could be another Twilight Tear.”

Early in her 2-year-old season, this filly by Bull Lea developed a splint near her knee which kept her out of action the entire year.
When she finally arrived at the races as a 3-year-old in 1952, she went on a tear, winning her first two races by six lengths each.  Before the year was over, she had won 11 of her 12 starts, her only loss coming in a tight photo. Name her.

5. No other member of racing’s Hall of Fame comes close to matching the early-career record set by this filly. A foal of 1952 by War Admiral (who was also the sire of Busher), she lost all of her 13 starts at age 2 and the first seven of her starts at age 3.

Owner Ogden Phipps became frustrated after the 20th loss and sold the filly to Ethel Jacobs, wife of renowned trainer Hirsch Jacobs, for $15,000. A week later, under the Jacobs’ colors for the first time, the filly won wire to wire and began a career that would end up in the Hall of Fame. Name her.

History Challenge answers

1. In the 1930s, Louis B. Mayer built Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) into the most successful motion picture company in the world.
By the 1940s, he had built his Thoroughbred breeding and racing operation into the biggest and most successful in the state of California.
Operating out of his 500-acre ranch in Perris, 75 miles from Los Angeles, Mayer produced some of the great Cal-breds of the era, including Honeymoon, who was foaled on April 24, 1943.

A divorce settlement forced Mayer to disperse most of his horses at auction in February 1947. Honeymoon was sold to a partnership of two other Hollywood moguls – Harry Warner and Mervyn LeRoy.

In March 1945, Mayer purchased Busher from famed owner and breeder Col. Edward R. Bradley for a reported $50,000.

All racing was shut down in the United States by order of the War Department from Jan. 1 until mid-May in 1945, but that did not keep Busher from compiling what one famous journalist called “the finest record a 3-year-old filly has ever achieved in American racing.”
Twilight Tear was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963; Busher, a year later.

2. While Calumet Farm’s Bewitch made 55 lifetime starts – 24 of them against males – she did not face her stablemate Citation again after defeating him in the Washington Futurity until the two met four years later in the 1951 American Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup. Bewitch finished second to Citation in both races.

In the Gold Cup, Citation became racing’s first millionaire and Bewitch became the biggest money-winning female in history.
Trainer Jimmy Jones would later state that Citation was not pressured to defeat Bewitch in the Washington Futurity under his pre-race instructions.

A champion at ages 2 and 4, Bewitch retired with earnings of $462,605 and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1977.

3. Like nearly all top females up to that time, Bed o’ Roses, champion juvenile filly of 1949 and handicap mare of 1951, often faced the best males of the time. As a result, their overall records do not look as impressive as modern-day female champions, who only occasionally compete in open races, if at all.

Bed o’ Roses raced 21 times as a 2-year-old in 1949 – an astounding number by today’s standards. She won seven stakes that year, capped off by the Matron, Selima, and Demoiselle.

The following season, she faced males on six occasions, including a victory in the Lawrence Realization Stakes, and second-place finishes in both the Arlington Classic and Travers Stakes.

Bed o’ Roses’s final victory came in the 1952 Santa Margarita Handicap. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976.

4. Legendary jockey Eddie Arcaro called Real Delight the best filly he ever rode. The Hall of Fame rider was on board in all but her first start.
Real Delight won nearly every important stakes for her own age group and older fillies and mares in 1952. She won the Ashland Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan, and Coaching Club American Oaks, among others, against her own age group and the Modesty, Beverly Handicap, and Beldame against older females.

Real Delight was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987.

5. Few horses have been inducted in the Hall of Fame who were not voted or recognized as a champion in at least one season. Bucking the trend were such greats as Gallant Man and Alydar. Also in that group is the filly Searching.

After waiting until her 21st start to win her maiden, Searching went on to a career that saw her win a dozen stakes races, including the Top Flight Handicap, Diana Handicap (twice), the Correction Handicap (twice), and the Gallorette Handicap (twice).

Retired to the breeding shed in 1959, she produced eight foals, seven of them winners, and three stakes winners. Her best offspring was champion Affectionately.

Searching was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1978. Her daughter Affectionately was inducted in 1989.