The 25th running of the Breeders’ Cup took place on October 24 and 25 at Santa Anita. For the first time that year, the races for females and male were segregated, with the distaff races taking place on Friday, and the rest of the races run on Saturday. In another historical departure (and another departure from history), the Breeders’ Cup Distaff was replaced with the Ladies’ Classic.
The cries raised as a result of these changes were long and loud; though muted now, those cries have not ceased (at least mine haven’t). But it’s a done deal: the Distaff is gone, and the sex-restricted races take place on Friday.
If one believes that the racing gods are female, one might be tempted to think that they had a plan of their own in response to the Breeders’ Cup changes, because beginning in 2008, the distaffers have been the star of the Breeders’ Cup show.
In 2008, both Zenyatta and Goldikova made their Breeders’ Cup débuts: Zenyatta in the Ladies’ Classic, Goldikova in the Mile. They both won, though at the time, no one could have known the effect that they would have on this event in ensuing years.
Zenyatta, of course, would go on to become the first female to win the Classic in 2009 and to finish second by a head last year in a race that will challenge the 1988 Distaff as the most exciting Breeders’ Cup race ever. Goldikova repeated her wins in the Mile in 2009 and 2010, becoming the only horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race in three consecutive years. She’s back this year to try to add a fourth Mile victory to her already historical résumé.
But she’s not the only female in the spotlight this year. For the third consecutive year, a female will race in the Classic, and more than a few people think that Havre de Grace will follow in Zenyatta’s footsteps to the Classic winner’s circle. She is the star of the Classic pre-game show.
I am not alone in wishing that the Distaff would make a comeback, or that the marquee races for fillies and mares would find their way back to the Saturday schedule. But those of us who railed against the marginalization of the distaffers that began in 2008 can take no small measure of satisfaction in the prominence of fillies and mares at racing’s highest levels and in the racing and mainstream press. These sisters are indeed doing it for themselves.
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