Pretty Polly was simply electric; A Century Of Racing.
SOME of the greatest equine stars of the century have been precocious fillies like Pretty Polly and Mumtaz Mahal, whose blazing speed made them idols of the racing public. Of the following list of the 20 best juvenile fillies trained in Britain and Ireland this century, it is significant that only one of them - Forest Flower - raced in the last 20 years. The reason is not that the Thoroughbred is becoming less precocious, but that races for juveniles have become less important and trainers no longer test their best prospects seriously at that age.
It is many years since the Queen Mary Stakes has been the Classic trial it was in Mumtaz Mahal's day and, as we saw last week, even the Cheveley Park Stakes can no longer be relied on to produce a top-class prospect. Recent champion juvenile fillies have tended to achieve that status by default rather than on merit.
The following 20 fillies all had the world at their feet at the start of their three-year-old campaigns, but then met contrasting fortunes. Some, like Pretty Polly, Mumtaz Mahal and Sun Chariot, achieved greatness; some, like La Tendresse and Jacinth, continued to win good races but were no longer champions as less-precocious fillies overtook them; and some, like Lady Sybil and Star of India, simply failed to train on.
1 Pretty Polly
Pretty Polly's position as the best two-year-old filly of the century is subordinate to her status as the greatest racemare and the greatest broodmare of the century, but it emphasises her supreme excellence at all stages of her career.
She was unbeaten in nine races as a juvenile in 1903, and the quality described by her trainer Peter Gilpin as "electric dash" was present from the moment she left her rivals standing on her debut at Sandown.
Her victories included the National Breeders' Produce, Champagne, Cheveley Park, Middle Park and Criterion Stakes; in the Middle Park she hacked up by three lengths from St Amant, who was the champion juvenile colt and went on to win the 2,000 Guineas and Derby.
During her juvenile campaign, Pretty Polly captured the imagination of the racing public, yet it was merely the first chapter in a uniquely successful career.
At 2: ran 9, won 9. Ch f by Gallinule-Admiration (Saraband). Owner-breeder: Eustace Loder. Trainer: Peter Gilpin, Newmarket.
2 Mumtaz Mahal
Mumtaz Mahal was still unraced when recording a scintillating trial on the gallops in early 1923. Trainer Dick Dawson said: "I was so astonished and excited that I nearly fell off my hack."
She scorched home in the Queen Mary Stakes by 10 lengths, the National Breeders' Produce by four and the Molecomb by 10. The Bloodstock Breeders' Review noted of those victories: "She displayed phenomenal speed. Off like a flash the moment the barrier was raised, she practically demoralised her opponents in the first furlong and was left to canter home at her leisure."
The flying grey then took the Champagne Stakes by three lengths but, on her last juvenile start, in the Imperial Produce Plate, she got stuck in the Kempton mud and was second to Arcade, beaten half a length when conceding 7lb. In 1924 she bounced back to prove herself the fastest female sprinter of all time.
At 2: ran 6, won 5, 2nd 1. Gr f by The Tetrarch-Lady Josephine (Sundridge). Owner: Aga Khan III. Breeder: Lady Sykes. Trainer: Dick Dawson, Whatcombe, Berkshire.
3 Sun Chariot
Sun Chariot was a great champion who won the fillies' Triple Crown in 1942, but she had been even more dominant over her contemporaries as a two-year-old. While still unraced she was so stubborn and intractable that trainer Fred Darling planned to cull her and send her back to Ireland, but just before the export licence was received she showed ability on the gallops and Darling decided to persevere with her.
Talent overcame temperament; the royal filly won a wartime substitute Queen Mary Stakes at Newmarket and scored an easy three-length victory over top-class colts in the Middle Park Stakes.
At 2: ran 4, won 4. Br f by Hyperion-Clarence (Diligence). Owner: King George VI. Breeder: National Stud. Trainer: Fred Darling, Beckhampton, Wiltshire.
4 Cawston's Pride
Cawston's Pride was the fastest two-year-old filly of the second half of the century, and would have been the overall champion juvenile of 1970 had she not belonged to a vintage crop of juveniles headed by My Swallow, Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard.
She won all her eight races that year, all over five furlongs, and after her spreadeagling six-length victory in the Queen Mary Stakes she scared away most of the potential opposition in the Molecomb, Lowther and Cornwallis Stakes. Temperament compromised her three-year-old campaign, but she became the dam of champion sprinter Solinus.
At 2: ran 8, won 8. Ch f by Con Brio-Cawston Tower (Maharaj Kumar). Owner-breeder: Len Hall. Trainer: Freddie Maxwell, Lambourn, Berkshire.
Fillies were ranked first, second and third in the Free Handicap of 1932, the only time that has ever happened. Myrobella, the champion, won her last five races that season, including the National Breeders' Produce Stakes by five lengths and the Champagne Stakes by six.
The Bloodstock Breeders' Review said: "Myrobella is possessed of speed that is phenomenal. Time after time she demolished her opponents while traversing the first two or three furlongs, and then went on to win at her leisure." A pure sprinter, she was also the champion three-year-old filly of 1933 and became the dam of Big Game.
At 2: ran 6, won 5, 2nd 1. Gr f by Tetratema-Dolabella (White Eagle). Owner: 5th Earl of Lonsdale. Breeder: National Stud. Trainer: Fred Darling, Beckhampton, Wiltshire.
6 La Tendresse
The best two-year-old filly ever trained in Ireland, La Tendresse raced only at five furlongs, and on her last three juvenile starts in 1961 won the Seaton Delaval Stakes by four lengths, the Molecomb by six and the Lowther on the bridle by 12, in each case showing instant acceleration.
Racehorses of 1961 noted: "One of the sources of her exceptional speed is high nervous energy which is reflected not only in her extravagant behaviour generally, but also in her free and brilliant action when on the move." She trained on well enough to win the King George Stakes at three.
At 2: ran 6, won 5, 2nd 1. B f by Grey Sovereign-Isetta (Morland). Owner: Mrs Pansy Parker Poe. Breeder: Frank Tuthill. Trainer: Paddy Prendergast, The Curragh, Co Kildare, Ireland.
Fifinella cruised home on her debut, suffered an honourable defeat next time, and then, starting at odds of 1-10, led all the way in the Cheveley Park Stakes. The Bloodstock Breeders' Review said: "The style in which she won by eight lengths created a deep impression, and the belief that she is the best of our two-year-olds is strengthened every time she runs."
Indeed, this brilliant but temperamental filly was the overall champion juvenile of 1915 by a margin of 5lb and was still the best of her sex as a three-year-old, when she won both the Derby and the Oaks.
At 2: ran 3, won 2, 2nd 1. Ch f by Polymelus-Silver Fowl (Wildfowler). Owner-breeder: Edward Hulton. Trainer: Dick Dawson, Newmarket.
Noblesse, second only to her year-older stablemate La Tendresse among all the juvenile fillies who have been trained in Ireland, was slow to come to hand in 1962, but made a deeply impressive debut when winning the Blue Seal Stakes at Ascot by five lengths.
On her only other start that season she strolled home in the Timeform Gold Cup (now Racing Post Trophy) by three lengths, settling the issue in a few strides a furlong out and passing the post on a tight rein. It was a foretaste of the crushing Oaks victory which made her Ireland's greatest filly.
At 2: ran 2, won 2. Ch f by Mossborough-Duke's Delight (His Grace). Owner: Mrs Evelyn Olin. Breeder: Mrs Doreen Margetts. Trainer: Paddy Prendergast, The Curragh, Co Kildare, Ireland.
9 Golden Corn
The best two-year-old of 1921, Golden Corn won the last five of her six races that season and clinched the championship in the Champagne Stakes when beating Lembach, the top juvenile colt, by a length and a half.
She then trounced subsequent champion sprinter Two Step at Newmarket and confirmed her superiority over the colts in the Middle Park Stakes.
Comparisons were made between her and Pretty Polly, who had also achieved the Champagne-Middle Park double, but she failed to stay when favourite for the 1,000 Guineas in 1922, finishing third. As a four-year-old she won the July Cup.
At 2: ran 6, won 5, 2nd 1. B or br f by Golden Sun-Corn Cockle (St Frusquin). Owner: Marshall Field. Breeder: Robert Brassey. Trainer: Hugh Powney, Newmarket.
10 Star of India
According to Timeform, who rated her 138 in 1955, Star of India was the greatest filly of any age to race in Europe since World War II. That flatters her considerably, as she never beat a high-class rival or won a race that is now a Pattern event.
Nevertheless, her blistering speed enabled her to breeze home by clear daylight in all her five juvenile races, all over the minimum trip, including the Prince of Wales's Stakes at York and the Newmarket Foal Stakes. Clearly superior to all the other two-year-olds of 1955, she was unplaced in her only race the following year.
At 2: ran 5, won 5. Ch f by Court Martial-Eastern Grandeur (Gold Bridge). Owner: Jim Joel. Breeder: Peter McCall. Trainer: Ted Leader, Newmarket.
11 Saucy Sue
Saucy Sue was one of a vintage crop of horses who were prominent at the ages of both two and three, and she bore comparison with the colts Picaroon, Diomedes and Solario. She was scarcely tested as a juvenile, scoring wide-margin wins in the Lavant Stakes at Goodwood, and the Bretby and Criterion Stakes at Newmarket, en route to her two dazzling Classic victories in 1925.
The Bloodstock Breeders' Review said: "She is somewhat plain looking, but once she gets on to the racecourse her character undergoes a great transformation, for she has wonderful action and a great, sweeping stride."
At 2: ran 3, won 3. B f by Swynford-Good And Gay (Bayardo). Owner-breeder: 2nd Viscount Astor. Trainer: Alec Taylor, Manton, Wiltshire.
Zabara was second only to the colt Windy City among the two-year-olds of 1951. After finding five furlongs too short when second in the Lowther Stakes, she took the Imperial Produce Stakes and led all the way to score a scintillating four-length victory in the Cheveley Park Stakes.
In 1952 she was champion three-year-old filly, winning the 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes, and coming second in the Oaks. Timeform commented: "With her placid temperament, her complete honesty and willingness to give her last ounce when it was needed, she was the perfect little race-mare."
At 2: ran 4, won 3, 2nd 1. Ch f by Persian Gulf-Samovar (Caerleon). Owner: Sir Malcolm McAlpine. Breeder: Lady Wyfold. Trainer: Vic Smyth, Epsom, Surrey.
13 Lady Sybil
From the first crop of Nearco, Lady Sybil was the best juvenile of 1942, when she lost only the second of her seven races. All of them were at Newmarket in those war-restricted days, and she won the Cheveley Park Stakes easing up by three lengths.
Of her remarkably smooth style, Phil Bull wrote: "Whether she is allowed to jump off in front, or is held up, she is racing immediately, perfectly balanced, and goes through from start to finish without once changing her legs or altering in any way her easy, though somewhat sharp, stride." She failed to train on.
At 2: ran 7, won 6, 2nd 1. B f by Nearco-Sister Sarah (Abbots Trace). Owner-breeder: Martin Benson. Trainers: Tommy Hogg and Willie Pratt, Newmarket.
Jacinth was the overall champion two-year-old of 1972, not merely the best of her sex - a position she earned with a five-length victory in the Cheveley Park Stakes. Because of an aversion to starting-stalls she had raced only once before, but she made
nearly all the running and
strode right away from a good field.
Timeform said: "As far as the One Thousand Guineas is concerned, and assuming she possesses the necessary
stamina, Jacinth has only to go into the stalls to be past the post!" In fact she was second to Mysterious in that Classic, but did win the Coronation Stakes.
At 2: ran 2, won 2. B f by Red God-Jaffa (Right Royal). Owner: Lady Butt. Breeder: William Hill Studs. Trainer: Bruce Hobbs, Newmarket.
15 Arctic Sun
Arctic Sun never ran in Britain, but in 1943 her rare combination of speed and stamina made her the best two-year-old ever seen in Ireland up to that time. Though unplaced in her first two races, she won her remaining five, including Ireland's premier juvenile event, the Phoenix Plate, by six lengths, the Anglesey Stakes by five, the Railway Stakes by eight, and the one-mile Beresford Stakes by five.
She was dubbed the
"champion of champions" and the Irish Classics looked at her mercy, but she was injured and never ran again. Her son, Arctic Prince, won the Derby in 1951.
At 2: ran 7, won 5. Br f by Nearco-Solar Flower (Solario). Owner-breeder: Joe McGrath. Trainer: Michael Collins, The Curragh, Co Kildare, Ireland.
The champion two-year-old of 1956, Sarcelle made all the running in the Imperial Produce Stakes for a five-length victory, and in the Cheveley Park Stakes she led before halfway and
strode away to win by three lengths.
Timeform commented, with reservations, that "She might well be a filly of exceptional merit, in the same class as Sceptre and Sun Chariot . . . there is every possibility that she will stay the distance of the One Thousand Guineas - and if all goes well with her she appears to have the race at her mercy." Unfortunately she failed to train on and turned temperamental.
At 2: ran 3, won 3. B f by Amour Drake-Sarie (Nearco). Owner: Keith Mason. Breeder: Mrs Jane Levins Moore. Trainer: Noel Cannon, Middle Woodford, Wiltshire.
Tiffin was the champion two-year-old of 1928, when her exceptional speed out of the gate enabled her to win the National Breeders' Produce Stakes (from the leading colt Mr Jinks), the Ham Produce Stakes at Goodwood, the Convivial Plate at York and the Cheveley Park Stakes.
Unbeaten in a career of eight races, Tiffin was also the champion three-year-old filly of 1929, when she won the July Cup in a famous duel with Royal Minstrel. She expressed her playful character by getting rid of her riders at exercise but co-operated with Gordon Richards on the racecourse.
At 2: ran 5, won 5. B f by Tetratema-Dawn-wind (Sunstar). Owner: 4th Earl of Ellesmere. Breeder: Sir John Rutherford. Trainer: Fred Darling, Beckhampton, Wiltshire.
18 Sun Stream
Sun Stream was the best of a vintage group of juvenile fillies in 1944 and Phil Bull enthused: "This charming daughter of Hyperion captivated me from the first moment I saw her. She is one of the sweetest little fillies I ever set eyes on."
She outclassed a strong field in the Queen Mary Stakes, which was run at Newmarket during that wartime season, but lost her unbeaten record when running below form to finish a close third in the Cheveley Park Stakes. She was still the champion filly of her year in 1945, when she won the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks.
At 2: ran 4, won 3, 3rd 1. Ch f by Hyperion-Drift (Swynford). Owner-breeder: 17th Earl of Derby. Trainer: Walter Earl, Newmarket.
19 Forest Flower
The best juvenile filly trained in Britain or Ireland since the 1970s, Forest Flower won the Queen Mary and Mill Reef Stakes in 1986, and had three duels with Minstrella. She came out on top in the Cherry Hinton Stakes, was beaten a short head in the Phoenix Stakes, and again beat Minstrella on merit in the Cheveley Park Stakes, only to be disqualified for causing interference.
Racehorses of 1986 said: "Seldom does one see a racehorse show more gusto than Forest Flower. She is
indomitable of spirit and wonderfully game and genuine." Those qualities helped her to win the Irish 1,000 Guineas the following year.
At 2: ran 6, won 4 (also disqualified 1), 2nd 1. Ch f by Green Forest-Leap Lively (Nijinsky). Owner-breeder: Paul Mellon in USA. Trainer: Ian Balding, Kingsclere, Berkshire.
Betty was second to Myrobella among the two-year-olds of 1932, and superior to all the colts of that age, including Hyperion.
After running unplaced on her debut, she trounced her near-namesake Brown Betty by three lengths at level weights in the Molecomb Stakes and then, conceding a stone, was beaten only a length by that same rival at Nottingham. Brown Betty, the third of the amazons who eclipsed the colts in that annus mirabilis for juvenile fillies, went on to win the Cheveley Park Stakes and 1,000 Guineas, so Betty did wonders at the weights. She won the Coronation Stakes in 1933.
At 2: ran 3, won 1, 2nd 1. Ch f by Teddy-Miss Cavendish (Chaucer). Owner-breeder: 2nd Viscount Astor. Trainer: Joe Lawson, Manton, Wiltshire.
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Oct 4, 1999|
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