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Monday, March 16, 2015

Top Filly Pacers Stumbling On The Way To The Open Class

After finishing an uninspiring second in a recent start against a soft field at the Meadowlands, the world champion pacing mare Shebestingin was retired. Typically an announcement like this is accompanied by an addendum about the injuries the daughter of Bettor’s Delight would have needed to overcome in order to regain her form, but trainer Joe Holloway simply said, “She isn’t firing.” Certainly not like she did when she won the Glen Garnsey in an eye popping 1:47 at The Red Mile. They’ve sold a piece of ‘Stingin to Brittany Farms and they’re going to breed her to their stallion, Captaintreacherous.

The mercurial five-year-old only started 36 times; she drew lots of attention with the bursts of speed she evidenced in the Simpson, Reynolds and Geers at two, but the precocious filly scratched out of the Sweetheart at the beginning of August and didn’t reappear until nine months later in the Weiss at Pocono. In addition to the world record ‘Stingin set in Lexington, she also set one at Tioga when she won the EBC final in 1:49. Still, while Shebestingin did win the Nadia and the Matron and earn almost three-quarters of a million dollars, the mare’s earnings and significant win tally have never lived up to her speed. She’s Drop The Ball’s soul sister in that regard.

Last year Holloway’s dynamic duo, Shebestingin and Somwherovrarainbow were expected to take over for long-serving veterans Anndrovette and Rocklamation in that division, but it didn’t happen, as the old ladies finished in a dead heat for the Dan Patch. On the other hand, Rainbow made do with a Matchmaker win, while ‘Stingin didn’t have any noteworthy triumphs.

Over the last several years we’ve repeatedly seen mares that lit up the night during their freshman campaigns fail to matriculate on into the aged ranks, while others that started off at a more measured pace have gone on to flourish in the open class.

Rocklamation and Anndrovette, who together have banked more than $5 million, each won just once as two-year-olds. The former made 12 starts, and did win the Countess Adios, but her earnings for the year were a relatively modest $86,000. Anndrovette earned less than $10,000 at two. Each of them went on to win the Lady Maud the following year, but it was in their respective sire stakes programs that they filled their pockets.

Dreamfair Eternal, who earned almost $2.5 million, was winless at two and earned only $24,000 on four wins at three. Monkey On My Wheel won the Breeders Crown at three, but that was her only open stakes win as a filly. Yagonnakissmeornot and Royal Cee kept relatively low profiles in the junior ranks. Charisma Hanover won the Lady Maud and the American National, but most of her success came in the PASS  program. Shelliscape has earned more than a million dollars, but most of it came in the aged ranks. All of these mares have held up through successful aged campaigns.

The headline makers from the filly ranks, on the other hand, have had problems going on and maintaining their success. Put On A Show set a world earnings record when she won 19 races and banked more than $1.9 million at two and three, but the winner of the She’s A Great Lady, Nadia and Breeders Crown, missed her entire four-year-old season due to injury. She did return and win half of her 25 starts at five, including a world record 1:47.3 performance at the Meadowlands, before being retired.

See You At Peelers won all 13 starts at two and nine of 12 at three. She won her division twice and was on the way to Horse of the Year honors when a virus that resulted in heart and lung issues ruined her season. She came back for the Matchmaker in the spring of 2012, but was retired before that series ended.

American Jewel followed Peelers. The American Ideal filly won 8 of 9 at two, including the Countess Adios, She’s A Great Lady and Eternal Camnation. But she was diagnosed with a broken sesamoid bone after losing to Big McDeal in a world record 1:50.2 at The Red Mile, and subsequently missed the Breeders Crown. She rebounded the following year, winning 9 of 16 starts and earning more than $1.1 million. The winner of the Breeders Crown, Fan Hanover and American National won her division. She was retired in November and bred to SBSW.

Jewel’s early exit at two cost her the division title, as Economy Terror won the Breeders Crown. That one also won the Three Diamonds in a world record 1:50.3 at Chester. But as has been the case with so many freshman hotshots, the Western Terror filly only won once outside the PASS at three and has struggled in the aged ranks.

American Jewel’s stablemate Romantic Moment also earned a million dollars, most of it at two and three, when she took the Eternal Camnation, Valley Forge and Garnsey, in addition to a successful run in the NYSS. The American Ideal filly, who won in 1:50.1 at three, came back at four but managed only four wins for $68,000. Like so many other mares who nailed it at two and three, she couldn’t convert that success into a rewarding career as an open mare pacer.

The following year, 2012, Somwherovrarainbow, the SBSW filly out of Rainbow Blue, and the Rocknroll Hanover filly, I Luv The Nitelife, ruled. A win in the Breeders Crown got Rainbow a Dan Patch, while Nitelife, who won the Eternal Camnation, She’s A Great Lady and Fan Hanover in Canada, took the O’Brien. Rainbow regressed at three, becoming a big fish in a small pond, as she was a dominant player in the PASS but a no show on the GC. Nitelife, on the other hand, gobbled up every open dollar in sight; she took home $1.2 million at three, earning more at two and three than any pacing filly ever. And she set a 1:48.4 world record for a sophomore filly on a 5/8 track.

Nitelife got hurt in her final start of the 2013 campaign—the American National—and was retired after a brief two-race attempt at a comeback last year. She was sold to Diamond Creek Farm.

Rainbow did race, but she didn’t pose any sort of challenge to Anndrovette or Rocklamation. She earned $440,000, but more than half of it came from the Matchmaker Series, the final of which was her only significant win. If she does ratchet up her game and win a Dan Patch this year, she would join Eternal Camnation as the only pacing mares to win the division at age two and age five.

The Art Major filly, Precocious Beauty, was the 2013 division winner and the top three-year-old filly pacer coming into last year, but she had lost her mojo in the fall and didn’t regain it at three as she only captured one open stakes race—the American National. Uffizi Hanover, who won the Breeders Crown, also fell off, despite a win in the Fan Hanover.

And now it’s up to JK She’salady to break the chain and go on to an aged career as Shady Daisy. The Gural rule is supposed to ensure that four-year-old attractions keep racing. JK She’s, if she continues on her current course, would prove a much more compelling attraction than any of the boys in the aged ranks, but, of course, the rule doesn’t cover mares. Let’s see if all those very fast early miles take the same toll on her they have on most of these other twenty-first century fillies.

Joe FitzGerald

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