BC Distaff an extremely rare showdown of three 3-year-old champions

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

November 2nd, 2016

Friday's Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) is more than potentially the race of the year. It's also a historically unique showdown in one respect.

Songbird is not officially the 2016 champion three-year-old filly, but it's a certainty she will be, win or lose. Former divisional champions Beholder (2013) and Stellar Wind (2015) are also in the field, so the Distaff pits a trio of champion three-year-old fillies against one another.

Ed DeRosa posed a question to me a few weeks back: Has there ever been a race that involved a trio of champion three-year-old fillies?

My immediate answer was "I'm sure," but I was surprised that I had to look so far back to find when they actually occurred. Now, I didn't pour over the history books with a fine tooth comb, but I did stumble across two prior examples (if I overlooked one, tweet to @VPHanson or @TwinSpires and let us know).

On October 1, 1960, in the $91,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park over nine furlongs, Berlo virtually clinched champion three-year-old honors with a two-length win over Royal Native, who was named 1959 champion three-year-old by Daily Racing Form voters. Six lengths behind Berlo in fourth was Silver Spoon, who had been named champion of 1959 in the Thoroughbred Racing Association (TRA) poll.

(For what it's worth, the beaten favorite in that Beldame was Tempted, the 1959 champion older mare, and the third-place finisher was Make Sail, who had captured that season's Kentucky Oaks and Alabama. What a salty race!)

Another example I found was held at, you guessed it, Santa Anita. On January 14, 1950, the $59,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at 1 1/8 miles featured 1949 co-champion Two Lea, 1947 titlist But Why Not, and 1948 champ Miss Request.

The 8-5 favorite in a field of eight, Two Lea handled the muddy conditions better than her two older rivals, registering a two-length win. But Why Not, sent off at 8-1 after going winless her her previous nine races, finished third. Miss Request, sent off at 5-1, finished last as her career continued to wind down in ignoble fashion.

Unlike these two examples, the protagonists in the Distaff are seemingly at peak or near-peak form. It's not an unprecedented showdown, but it has the potential of being the best of its kind ever and by a comfortable margin.

(Benoit Photos)