Today’s running of the ungraded, overnight Sky Beauty Stakes at Aqueduct seems, in some ways, to reflect Sky Beauty’s legacy: kind of a big deal, but maybe, not really.
The race kind of honors her, and kind of doesn’t.
The Sky Beauty was run at a mile over the inner track and as – ugh – the third race, out of the Pick 6 sequence, a place of ignominy where, perhaps understandably but no less disappointingly, stakes races go to be buried.
While the distance makes sense – Sky Beauty was two for three at a mile, with a second to Inside Information – she never set foot at Aqueduct, generally taking the winter off and coming back to race at Belmont in the spring; she made one winter start at Gulfstream in March of 1993, finishing second to Dispute.
One could argue that history has not been kind to Sky Beauty: she’s one of only four horses to have won the filly Triple Crown (Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks) and the Alabama; she is one of two of those fillies who’s not in the Hall of Fame (see my thoughts on her exclusion last year).
In 1993, the year of those victories, in which she also won the Grade 2 Rare Perfume and finished second in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss, Sky Beauty lost out on three-year-old filly honors when Hollywood Wildcat, who soundly defeated her in that year’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, took home the award.
In 1994, Sky Beauty won five consecutive graded stakes races, four of them Grade 1’s, and despite a dismal showing in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill that year, she won the Eclipse for champion older mare.
Sky Beauty won 12 of 14 starts at Belmont, at distances from five furlongs to 1 ¼ miles; at Saratoga, she was one questionable disqualification away from a perfect four-for-four record.
Her trainer, Allen Jerkens, describes the day she won the Alabama as “the best day ever,” and he’s certainly got a lot to choose from. Better than beating Secretariat twice? Yes, says the Chief.
I’m happy to see Sky Beauty have a race named after her, and I know that a track can’t just decide to run a new graded stakes, so I’m glad that NYRA decided to honor a mare who did her best work on its tracks. Still…it would be nice to see this race run in the summer, over one of the tracks that she dominated in her four-year career.