It looks like being a good week for American females.
Most obviously, Julie Krone led the men home in the Clipper Logistics Leger Legends Classified Stakes at Doncaster. Now in its second year, Doncaster’s Legends race (which raises funds for the Northern Racing College and for the IJF’s rehabilitation centre in Malton, known as ‘the house that Jack built’ in homage to the project’s promoter Jack Berry) has really captured the public’s imagination. In last year’s ex-jockeys’ race, Pat Eddery’s return to the saddle arguably was the biggest drawcard, but this year Krone’s presence was an even greater attraction.
Julie Krone, of course, remains the most notably successful of all female jockeys, seven years on from her retirement from the saddle. With over 3,700 career victories to her credit, the diminutive 48-year-old stands tall as the only female jockey ever to have ranked among the elite in America, where she won jockeys’ championships at a host of tracks including Belmont and Gulfstream Park.
She is still the only female to have ridden the winner of a leg of the Triple Crown (the 1993 Belmont Stakes on Colonial Affair) and was the first to salute the judge at the Breeders’ Cup Meeting, winning the Juvenile Fillies in 2003 on Halfbridled.
After winning the Legends race on the Declan Carroll-trained Invincible Hero, she received her prize from Lester Piggott – and it genuinely could be said that two of the greatest achievers in the history of jockeyship were taking part in the presentation.
The other American female to put one over her male rivals recently has been Havre De Grace, a four-year-old daughter of the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Saint Liam.
The Grade One programme for fillies and mares in the States is so extensive that it is very rare for top-class distaffers to take on the males. On the rare occasions that they do, such as when Zenyatta side-stepped the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic last year in vain search of what proved to be a frustratingly elusive victory in the Classic, it is big news.
Havre De Grace’s participation in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga was thus a notable event. This Grade One race has an illustrious roll of honour, including such legends as Kelso, Buckpasser, Damascus, Arts And Letters, Personality, Forego, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Alysheba, Easy Goer, Cigar, Skip Away, Mineshaft, Curlin, and Havre De Grace’s own sire Saint Liam.
Its list of past winners also contained one, and only one, filly: Rachel Alexandra, who landed the race in 2009 en route to Horse of the Year honours. Now the race has been won by two females, Havre De Grace having followed in the hoofprints of Rachel Alexandra by landing this year’s edition by one and a quarter lengths.
The obvious Breeders’ Cup option for Havre De Grace remains the Ladies’ Classic. But were her trainer Larry Jones to elect to run her in the Classic, it is not inconceivable that she might succeed where Zenyatta failed so valiantly and narrowly last year.