Some Surprising Facts About the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Ouija Board (photo via

Ouija Board (photo via

The Filly & Mare Turf is an exciting race on the Breeders’ Cup card. This race features horses from all over the world and, this year, already has challenge winners (horses granted an automatic berth in the starting gate) from New Zealand, France, South Africa and, of course, the United States.

The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf has been contested at various distances over the years due to the rotation of venues. Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, is hosting the event again this year and this particular race is contested at one and one quarter miles on the turf.

How important is this race to the horse’s racing career?

Since 2000, the Filly & Mare Turf winner has been named that year’s  American Champion Female Turf Horse at the Eclipse Awards 11 times (68 percent). Out of the past 16 winners of the race, only five have not been named Champion Grass Mare for that year.

Prepping for the race is a whole other obstacle, in which winning is not, as Vince Lombardi once said, “everything.” Of the last sixteen Filly & Mare Turf winners, no filly or mare has won three prep races in a row, and only six of 16 have won two out of three races before the big race. Furthermore, only six won their final prep before going on to win at the Breeders’ Cup.

With many contenders not winning their final prep, the question becomes which races have seen the most Filly & Mare Turf winners after contesting the race? The Diana Stakes (GI) and the Flower Bowl (GI) both have propelled five horses to Filly & Mare Turf success, with two of those winners running in both preps prior to their victory in the Filly & Mare Turf. Those two were Stephanie’s Kitten in 2015 and Zagora (FR) in 2012.

The Beverly D. Stakes has three Filly & Mare Turf winners to its credit. In 2013, Dank (GB) used the Beverly D. Stakes as her final prep before capturing Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in electrifying fashion.

Given all this, you may be wondering: Does a Filly & Mare Turf winner have to win any of its final prep races to win the race? The answer is no. Two horses won the Filly & Mare Turf after failing to win any of their three starts prior to the Breeders’ Cup race. Those two were Perfect Shirl and Starine (FR).

With the Filly & Mare Turf being a route race around two turns, the importance of having a prep of similar distance and style also becomes a question. Only five of the last 16 winners have prepped in a race that was held at the same distance as the Filly & Mare Turf. In 2004, Ouija Board (GB) prepped in races contested at about one and one-half miles, whereas the Filly & Mare Turf was run at one and three-eighths miles during the year she came home the winner.

Another piece of information to consider would be the age of the horse. In the last 16 years, only two 3-year-olds have won the race — Banks Hill (GB) in 2001 and Midday (GB) in 2009. Older horses, on the other hand, have dominated this race with the eight horses in the last 16 years being age four, while four horses being age five have won. Only one six-year-old has won the race since 2000.

The Filly & Mare Turf is an international attraction and promises to draw a strong field every year. There have already been a few challenge races for an automatic entry into the field, with star Catch a Glimpse out of the Mark Casse Stable being one of the winners. The next prep races in North America are the Canadian Stakes on Sept. 17, the Flower Bowl on Oct. 1 and the Rodeo Drive Stakes, also on Oct. 1.

Casey Laughter
Casey Laughter has been following horse racing since 2003, when Funny Cide stole her heart and took Louisville by storm. After that, Casey had succumbed to the horse racing bug — and has been unable to shake it after all these years.

Casey has visited tracks in Ohio, Kentucky and New York, covering events from a weekend at Keeneland to the defeat of a Triple Crown winner. As a student, Casey is hoping to break into the racing world with her photos and her writing.

She has a personal blog named A World Full of Furlongs and a photography portfolio on Flickr named Casey Laughter Photography. She also writes for another horse racing website named Lady and the Track.

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