Monday, June 11, 2007

Where Are the Fillies?

By Andrew Beyer
Tuesday, June 12, 2007; Page E01

The Belmont Stakes didn't generate much pre-race excitement, but when Rags to Riches won a thrilling stretch duel, she stirred the emotions of everyone who watched -- and she made history, too. Rags to Riches was the first filly in 102 years to capture the final leg of the Triple Crown series. To many casual viewers of ABC's Belmont telecast, it may have seemed extraordinary that a filly could defeat colts and overcome such historic odds. In the world of human athletics, the top female in a sport would have no chance against her male counterpart.

In fact, Rags to Riches's performance wasn't all that unusual. Female thoroughbreds can and do compete successfully against males, but in U.S. racing they rarely get the chance. Only 11 other fillies since 1900 had attempted to win the Belmont Stakes. Various factors -- many of them economic -- deter owners and trainers from pursuing a venturesome course with fillies.