Rachel Alexandra will be returning to the races Saturday in the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park in her first start since winning the Blackberry Preakness Stakes in mid-May. And while the Mother Goose does not carry the prestige or coverage of the Preakness, the Mother Goose is a significant race in it's own right.
It is a grade 1 race, making it among the most prestigious and historically competitive; and it is the second leg to the Triple Tiara of Thoroughbred racing, otherwise known as the Filly Triple Crown. The series is comprised of the one mile Acorn Stakes on Belmont day, the 1-1/8 mile Mother Goose and the 1-1/4 Coaching Club American Oaks in late July. Only eight fillies have swept the series beginning with Dark Mirage in 1968.
The Mother Goose has a rich history since first being run in 1957 when Outer Space and jockey William Legget won the first running.
One of my favorites is 1969 winner Shuvee, who was also the second filly to win the Triple Tiara. Now in the Hall of Fame, Shuvee is perhaps best remembered with her victory in the 1970 Jockey Club Gold Cup when she became the only filly to defeat the colts in the then two mile race.
The most famous Triple Tiara winner is of course, Ruffian (photo at left) who took the crown in 1975. She was undefeated in ten career races before a fatal injury suffered in an infamous match race against Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure.
Now burried in the infield at Belmont Park, Ruffian was perhaps one of the most amazing race horses of anytime. Lucien Laurin, Secretariat's trainer, once said of Ruffian, "As God as my witness, she may even be better than Secretariat."
After breaking her maiden in record time by 15 lengths, Ruffian went on to set a new stakes record in each of her eight added-money victories and equalled two track records. She was a massive, black filly that stood 17 hands high and broke on top in every race and was never headed at any point during her career before the fatal race in July of 1975.
But the Mother Goose has produced a long list of recognizable female greats including Chris Evert in 1974, 1984 winner Life's Magic, trained by D.Wayne Lukas; Go For Wand in 1990; Sky Beauty, the last Triple Tiara winner in 1993; and Serena's Song, also trained by Lukas, in 1995.