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Lowest Ranked Female Thoroughbreds on The Best Racehorses of the 20th Century List

Updated on August 18, 2011
The ancient Hippodrome.
The ancient Hippodrome. | Source

Although they are ranked in the below 79 group of the best Thoroughbred racehorses of the 20th Century, the female racers among the 80 through 100 rankings have plenty of accomplishments to brag about that put them in the championship caliber listing. In 1999, the Staff of Blood-Horse Publications compiled its list of historic Thoroughbreds in their book, Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.

No females made the publication's Top Thirty. Ruffian was the first female to check in, ranked No.35. Below her are 25 other females listed, with 21 ranked below fifty, and ten of those rated No.80 or lower.

In 1971, the Eclipse Awards became part of the American Thoroughbred landscape to honor by division with permanent hardware the best Thoroughbred racers of each season. Before that divisional divide, awards had been given in less specific classes.

An American Horse of the Year has been chosen since 1887, and in 1936 individual championships were added.

The lowest ranked female on the Top 100 list is Beldame, foaled in 1901. She was named Horse of the Year in 1904. Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century lists Beldame No.98.

American Eclipse Awards became divisional in 1971.
American Eclipse Awards became divisional in 1971. | Source

Females Ranked Among 80 to 100

On the Top 100 list, between 80 and 100, the following female Thoroughbreds are listed:

  • No.80 -- Ta Wee
  • No.81 -- Affectionately
  • No.82 -- Miesque
  • No.87 -- Gamely
  • No.89 -- Bewitch
  • No.90 -- Davona Dale
  • No.91 -- Genuine Risk
  • No.94 -- Artful
  • No.95 -- Bayakoa
  • No.98 -- Beldame

With back-to-back Breeders' Cup World Championships winners like Bayakoa (1989-1990 Distaff) and Miesque (1987-1988 Mile), Kentucky Derby title holder Genuine Risk (1980), and Filly Triple Crown and New York Triple Tiara champion Davona Dale (1979) among this lowest group of females on the Top 100 list, it is difficult to recognize why the Blood-Horse publications staff chose males like Eight Thirty (No.78), Bald Eagle (No.74), Noor (No.69), Devil Diver (No.55), Grey Lag (No.54), or Sword Dancer (No.53) ahead of them.


Females Ranked Among 80-89

Ta Wee (f. 1966), courageous daughter of Intentionally, who traced sires to Man o' War, carried weights in her stakes races that would bow a large male. She won six times toting 130 pounds. She tugged as much as 140 pounds twice, scoring with 142 pounds in her final race while giving up 29 pounds to the runner-up! At three, the dark brown filly won eight of 10 starts. Twice, Ta Wee was the season's Champion Sprinter.

In 1962, Affectionately (f. 1960) triumphed in nine of 13 races. A daughter of Swaps--Searching, by War Admiral, Affectionately had an iron pedigree of champions. She won half a million dollars from a career 52 starts. Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs called the dark bay filly "the best horse I've ever trained", according to Top 100.

The bay filly Miesque (f. 1984) earned $2,070,163 in a racing career that spanned three seasons and 16 starts. She won 12 times, repeating titles in the Breeders' Cup Mile and winning divisional championship trophies. The daughter of Nureyev also had stallions Prove Out, Graustark, Ribot, and Bold Venture in her maternal house.


Gamely was born of Bold Ruler--Gambetta, by My Babu in 1964, six years before a half brother (via Bold Ruler) named Secretariat came along. The bay filly went to post 41 times and garnered a half million dollars in a bankroll that included purse earnings from a second place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap against males. She won the Vanity Handicap carrying 131 pounds, a record for a California stakes distaff contestant.

A brown filly of Bull Lea, Bewitch (f. 1945), filled the starting gate for 55 races for Calumet Farm, winning 20 times. She also hit double digits in seconds, 10, and thirds, 11. At one time, she was the leader of fillies and mares in purse earnings at $462,605.


Females Ranked Among 90-100

Bull Lea, Tom Fool, and Tim Tam appear primarily in the maternal house of Davona Dale, a bay filly born in 1976 among the titans of the 1970s that won three Triple Crown titles. Laboring for Calumet Farm, Davona Dale raced just 18 times in three seasons, but the big bay female reached the wire first 11 times and never knew a finish worse than fourth. She distinguished herself for the ages by sweeping the filly Triple Crown in 1979, the same year Spectacular Bid could not win the boys' version of the triple series.

Genuine Risk took on the boys in the 1980 Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, winning once. Her Kentucky Derby title is one of only three by a female in the history of Thoroughbred racing. The chestnut daughter of Exclusive Native--Virtuous, by Gallant Man won 10 of 15 races, earning $646,587. Genuine Risk risked her life to bring forth life, foaling her first live progeny in 1993 to much fanfare.

Perhaps her pedigree was a little less renowed, but Artful (f. 1902) did have a son of prolific sire Lexington, Leamington, in her maternal house. Artful raced for the family Whitney, early builders of the American Thoroughbred world. The brown filly defeated Sysonby in the Futurity Handicap, her first win, and she never lost again after that accomplishment.

Argentina gifted the American-based Breeders' Cup World Championships in 1989 and 1990 with Bayakoa, eventual winner of 12 grade ones in a streak of 15 major stakes scores that twice included the Breeders' Cup Distaff. The bay filly garnered $2,861,701 in her five years of racing.

Beldame's (f. 1901) racing earnings of $102,135 put her in a class of three females at the time who had reached over the $100,000 plateau. The Suburban Handicap was 1905's feature race of the season, and Beldame clocked it impressively against the field while carrying a top weight of 123 pounds. She was the recorded Horse of the Year in 1904.

Always An Argument

There forever has been an argument about the ability of female Thoroughbreds to run against male counterparts, especially in the more difficult premier races; likely that will continue for the ages. Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century issued another target for debate -- male or female, who was the best racehorse of the 20th Century?

Top Ten's best ten are:

  • No. 1 -- Man o' War.....No. 6 -- Dr. Fager
  • No. 2 -- Secretariat......No. 7 -- Native Dancer
  • No. 3 -- Citation...........No. 8 -- Forego
  • No. 4 -- Kelso..............No. 9 -- Seattle Slew
  • No. 5 -- Count Fleet.....No.10 -- Spectacular Bid


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    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      7 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      Second fiddlers have their moments, though! We just have to do more to remind people of them! Thanks for sharing your way of supporting the female racing stars, Writer20-Joyce. Happy to hear from you!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I woder why all us females get pushed to the back sometimes.

      Living here in Las Vegas, and I'm waiting in a sportsbook for my husband. I notice a female jockey's name attached to a horse I place $10 on her wishing her the best of luck and the same if there's a horse with a female name. Don't miss understand me this only happens when we have visitors.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      7 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      At least there are a few books about him. I think the documentary material is locked up somewhere! Thanks for sharing, Manthy!

    • manthy profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama,USA

      Nice list, I wish they would make a movie about Man-O-War


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