The Girl Against the Boys

On this day, after this week, when much has been written about the decision to run Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, the Grade II Shuvee is being run at Belmont Park.

In 1970, Shuvee became the first filly to win the two mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, raced then at Aqueduct. It was her fourth start that year against males; she’d finished off the board in the other three races (the Vosburgh, an allowance, and the Woodward). The Gold Cup was Shuvee’s last start of the year.

Steve Cady opened his report of the race by noting that this historic event on the racetrack coincided with an historic event at the racetrack: on the same day that Shuvee broke the sex barrier in the Gold Cup, females were permitted for the first time to take bets as pari-mutuel clerks at Aqueduct. “All the way around,” he wrote, “it was a great day for Women’s Lib.”

Shuvee won the race virtually gate to wire, and her Halloween day victory inspired Cady to observe about her three-pound weight allowance, “The way she skittered across the landscape like a Halloween witch, she probably could have won with 124 pounds as easily as she did with 121.” For her efforts, the four-year-old Shuvee earned end of year handicap mare honors.

For her five-year-old campaign in 1971, trainer Mike Freeman and owners/breeders Mr. and Mrs. Whitney Stone brought Shuvee right back against the boys; her first start after a six-month layoff was an allowance at Aqueduct, and Shuvee finished second. Later that year, she took on males in the Whitney (third), the Woodward (sixth), and again, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which she won for the second consecutive year, one of nine horses to win the race twice.

In Sports Illustrated, Whitney Tower wrote of Shuvee’s second Gold Cup:

The best showing in the end-of-the-season events was the tremendously facile
victory of Mrs. Whitney Stone’s 5-year-old mare Shuvee in the Gold Cup. This
tough chestnut daughter of Nashua became the first of her sex to take the Gold
Cup a year ago. Last week she did it again and more convincingly; her time for
the two miles was 3:20[2/5], and only two Gold Cup winners have bettered that.

Shuvee overwhelmed them all, prancing home the winner by seven
lengths. New York’s racing fans gave her a farewell salute that heretofore has
been reserved for the likes of Stymie, Native Dancer, Carry Back and Kelso.

Her owners’ plan had been to retire her after this race, and they stuck to that. She retired with earnings of $890,445—a record at the time—and a race record of 16 wins, 10 seconds, and 6 thirds from 44 starts. In seven starts against colts, she had two wins, a second and a third. She was favored in four of those races.

At three, Shuvee dominated her sex by winning the Triple Tiara (the Acorn, the Mother Goose, and the Coaching Club American Oaks) and the Alabama, one of only three horses to do so. She lost out on end of year honors to Gallant Bloom, who beat her in the Gazelle. She bore eight foals, three of which were stakes winners, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame four years after she retired.

Below, a partial video of Shuvee’s 1970 Gold Cup, in which, in the words of race caller Chic Anderson, the girl is separated from the boys. Anderson also notes Shuvee’s trademark tail switching at the end of the race. Cady wrote of her,

With an eighth of a mile to go, Shuvee began switching her tail. Usually, that’s
a sign that a horse wants to quit. Shuvee runs that way, though; with her,
tail-switching late in a race means she’s just digging in and trying harder.

Tower, Whitney. “Call It Survival Of the Fittest.” Sports Illustrated Vault. 8 Nov 1971. 15 May 2009.

Cady, Steve. “Shuvee, $7.80, Is First Filly to Take $108,900 Gold Cup.” New York Times. 1 Nov 1970. 15 May 2009.

3 thoughts on “The Girl Against the Boys

  1. Did Cady really call it “tail switching?”Tail swishing is usually how it’s referred to.Nice post, and brought back memories of a time when some horses could compete against sprinters in the Vosburgh and stayers in the 2-mile JC. Forego is the only one I can recall who won the 7-furlong sprint and the 2-mile race in the same season.

  2. Your question made me go back and verify, and yes, Cady said “tail-switching.”Also terrific about Shuvee is that she won her first GC gate to wire, and the second from off the pace. I wish that I’d been around to see her run…

  3. Remember Lemon Drop Mom, who was 2nd in the Personal Ensign and 3rd in the Beldame last year? She was a stakes winner of more than $600K.Anyway, her dam, Return of Mom (by Deputy Minister), was produced from the Halo mare Counting Rainbows — a daughter of Shuvee!

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