Fillies hold their own down under

With fewer races restricted to fillies and mares in Australasia, the distaffers regularly take on the colts – and win more »

Friday, March 9, 2012

For years it has been considered only natural in America that top-class fillies and mares need not compete against the males. In Europe, fillies had their own Group One programme as two-year-olds and then at three up to and including Royal Ascot, but then were in open company thereafter if they wanted further Group 1 opportunities.

Nowadays, though, Britain, Ireland and France boast an extensive Group 1 programme for fillies and mares. From a European perspective, therefore, it is interesting to note how well the top fillies and mares are faring against their male counterparts in Australasia, where Group 1 races restricted to females are rarer.

There is no Group 1 two-year-old race in Australasia restricted to fillies, while the three-year-olds just have the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks equivalents. The best distaffers, therefore, compete against the males regularly – and, aided of course by a 2-kilo sex allowance, they do very well indeed.

Black Caviar - not the only top-class mare in Australia

With top-class racing on both sides of the Tasman last weekend, the fillies made quite an impact. Highlight of the card at Flemington in Melbourne was the Australian Guineas. This fell to Mosheen, a daughter of Fastnet Rock and the only filly in the field. She thus followed in the footsteps of last year’s winner, the O’Reilly filly Shamrocker, who went on to inflict another defeat on the colts in the Australian Derby in Sydney.

The big race in New Zealand last Saturday was the NZ Derby. Three of the 17 runners were fillies and one of them, Silent Achiever, won.

Fillies also have an outstanding record in the big juvenile races. There has been one Group 1 two-year-old race in Australia thus far this season, the Blue Diamond at Caulfield in Melbourne. Fillies (Samaready, No Looking Back and Armed For Action) filled the trifecta.

Fillies also excel in Sydney’s premier juvenile race, the Golden Slipper. Admittedly it was won last season by the outstanding colt Sepoy, but two fillies (Mosheen and Elite Falls) filled the minor places.

Older fillies and mares also more than hold their own. The winner of this season’s Cox Plate (Australasia’s premier weight-for-age race) is Reset’s daughter Pinker Pinker. The mighty sprinting mare Black Caviar seems invincible irrespective of the sex of her opponents, while her predecessor as Australia’s truly dominant champion, the British-bred Desert King mare Makybe Diva, winner of three Melbourne Cups, also numbered several open weight-for-age races, including the Cox Plate and Australian Cup, among her many victories.

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