When it comes to horse racing, most of the attention is focused on the males.
The Triple Crown races are dominated by male participants, as are the most prestigious (and richest) races for older horses. With that prestige comes increased interest and increased media attention, and it can sometimes feel like the female divisions are tossed aside.
Often, a filly has to work twice as hard, run twice as much, or win twice as impressively to get attention- but some do. Here are some of those outstanding fillies who earned their place in the spotlight in 2022.
This daughter of Arrogate ran nine times in 2022, all in stakes races. Her first two races of the year, the Martha Washington Stakes and the Grade III Honeybee Stakes, were so impressive that trainer D. Wayne Lukas elected to try the boys in the Grade I Arkansas Derby, where she finished a creditable third after a questionable ride.
Returning to her own division, she ran the best race of her career to win the Kentucky Oaks over a deep field in Churchill Downs. This is one of the main racetracks in the US, as you can find here: edge.twinspires.com/racing/tracks/
The competitors included two-year-old champion Echo Zulu, undefeated Grade II Gulfstream Parks Oaks winner Kathleen O, and Grade I Ashland Stakes winner Nest (more on her later).
Another try against the boys netted her a decent fourth in the Preakness Stakes, and while she was winless the rest of the year, she hit the board in three straight GI races against her crop.
The probable Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Filly of 2022, Nest has proven herself a distance-loving filly. Her first attempt at 1 ⅛ miles was as a two-year-old, when she won the Grade II Demoiselle Stakes.
Some doubted her ability to route when she finished second to Secret Oath as the Kentucky Oaks favorite (following her impressive Ashland victory), but trainer Todd Pletcher hinted that the problem might be the opposite- that Nest wanted more distance, not less.
Her breeding seemed to affirm that (being by Curlin out of an A.P. Indy mare), and the suspicions were confirmed when Nest ran an outstanding race in the 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes to finish second to stablemate Mo Donegal.
Nest returned to her division and dominated the second half of 2022. She won the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks and the Grade I Alabama Stakes impressively against her own crop, and then defeated older mares in the Grade II Beldame Stakes. Although she faded to fourth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she outfinished all other three-year-olds in the race and will likely be named champion based on her stellar season.
Speaking of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, the winner of that race (and likely Eclipse Champion Older Mare) was Malathaat, also a Pletcher-trained daughter of Curlin out of an A.P. Indy mare. Though twice defeated by fellow four-year-old Clairiere, Malathaat turned the tables on her rival, defeating her soundly in the Grade I Personal Ensign Stakes and also winning the Grade I Juddmonte Spinster Stakes by daylight.
So far, Pletcher had managed to keep his two star fillies away from each other, but fans were very eager to see Malathaat run against her younger rival, Nest, in the Distaff. Nest ran somewhat of a disappointing race, but the same cannot be said for Malathaat, who ran wide for much of the early part of the race. Coming into the stretch, instead of hooking up with Nest, she found herself in a duel with long shot Blue Stripe (ARG), and was all out to push her nose across the line first.
War Like Goddess
Perhaps the most impressive filly of 2022 was not even a runner on the United States’s preferred racing surface.
War Like Goddess, a daughter of Breeders’ Cup Turf winner English Channel out of a mare by the Irish stallion North Light, was a multiple graded stakes winner against fellow mares on the grass in 2021, and capped off her season with a third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. She returned to the races as a five-year-old in 2022, and proved to be better than ever.
She began her season with repeat wins in the Grade III Bewitch Stakes and the Grade II Glen Falls Stakes. A second in the Grade II Flower Bowl Stakes in which she failed by a neck to catch front-running Virginia Joy did nothing to dissuade her connections, who entered her against the boys next in the 1 ½ mile Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes, and she rewarded their faith with a convincing 2 ¾ length win.
She faced some of the best horses in the world next, in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf, and she finished a good third, beaten only about three lengths by male European invaders Rebel’s Romance and Stone Age.