Today’s Belmont feature is the 93rd running of the venerable Coaching Club American Oaks. Though this Grade I race has undoubtedly lost some of its luster (true of so many of American’s great races), its history merits an acknowledgment of its notable runnings.
It is the third leg of the Triple Tiara, won by such notable fillies at Sky Beauty, Davona Dale, Shuvee, and Mom’s Command. It is the oldest of the three races in that series, having first been run in 1917; the Acorn, the first leg, was inaugurated in 1931, the middle leg, the Mother Goose, in 1957.
There was therefore no Triple Tiara in 1944, when Twilight Tear won the CCAO; had there been, there is little doubt that this magnificent filly would have added it to her other victories.
Twilight Tear, a daughter of Bull Lea, trained for Calumet by Warren Wright, was the first filly to win Horse of the Year honors; as a three-year-old, she thrice beat the horse who came within half a length in the Belmont of winning the Triple Crown–her stablemate, Pensive. After a loss to begin her three-year-old campaign (she had won four of six races at two, finishing second and third in the other two starts), Twilight Tear won eleven straight races, regularly beating males.
Though any track would have welcomed a horse of Twilight Tear’s stature, it must have been with some misgivings that the executives of the Westchester Racing Association watched her cross the wire first in the Coaching Club American Oaks; having already raised the purse by $10,000, the track was forced to cough up $14,917.95, as $363,979 of the total $466,247 wagered on the race was bet on Twilight Tear.
By the end of 1944, Twilight Tear had racked up four end-of-year honors: co-two year old champion filly in 1943; champion three-year-old, champion handicap mare, and Horse of the Year. The CCAO victory was #7 in that eleven race win streak, and Twilight Tear retired with a record of 24-10-2-2.
I’m more than a little regretful that a whirlwind trip to Woodbine will keep me away from Belmont today; I like seeing these great old races run, like thinking of the storied winners whose ghosts inhabit the track, even when few people remember them. Today’s running also features Devotee, a filly I’ve followed since last summer at Saratoga, but I’ll be watching on Canadian simulcasting, finally making it out to see a track that’s long been on my list to visit.
So enjoy the last Saturday of racing at Belmont until mid-September, and for more on the history of the Coaching Club American Oaks, check out Superfecta’s post from earlier this week.
(Just five more days…)