Back in 1908, a filly named Maskette outran colts to win the Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park and earn the title of top female performer for that season, an honor she would also attain the next year. But fame is fleeting, and last week virtually nobody at Belmont knew who or what a Maskette was or is or why a stakes was so named. What took place in the 1980 Maskette Stakes, however, will not so easily fade from memory. It turned out to be the best race run in the U.S. since Affirmed and Alydar ran nostril to nostril in the Belmont Stakes three years ago.
The field consisted of five fillies, with a value conservatively estimated at $10 million. Genuine Risk was one, making her first start since running so valorously against colts in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, and so were Davona Dale, winner of the Kentucky Oaks, Black Eyed Susan, Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks in 1979; Love Sign, winner of three stakes this summer; and Croquis, considered just a cut below the others. But the day belonged to Bold 'N Determined, who proved she deserves her name.
At the top of the stretch in the one-mile race, four of them—Bold "N Determined, Love Sign, Davona Dale and Genuine Risk—were fanned out across the track on dead-even terms, though Risk, on the outside, looked as if she was about to pass the others like a freight train roaring by a bunch of forlorn hoboes. She did take the lead, but only for a couple of strides before Bold 'N Determined began to fight back on the inside of the track. At the finish, B 'N D, as the stable hands sometimes call her, had her proud bay nose in front. She is the only filly ever to beat Genuine Risk, and she did it while giving the Derby winner four pounds. Love Sign finished third, Davona Dale fourth, and Croquis fifth. The 3-year-olds in the race ran one, two, three.
The first conclusion to draw from the Maskette is that, as some handicappers began to suspect in August 1979, the ladies of '80 outshine their male counterparts. A second conclusion is that, although they had never met before, a considerable rivalry now exists between Bold 'N Determined and Genuine Risk—or Genuine Risk and Bold 'N Determined, if you prefer. Precisely where it will go from here nobody knows, but both will run as 4-year-olds next season.
Risk and B 'N D were considered good enough last February to be nominated to all three of the "male" Triple Crown races—two of only four fillies thus named. Genuine Risk, naturally enough, received more publicity than her rival after she became the first filly to win the Derby since Regret in 1915. Even around racetracks she became known simply as "the Filly." And Risk buttressed her reputation by running second in both the Preakness and Belmont to become not only the first filly ever to compete in all legs of the male Triple Crown, but also the only 3-year-old of 1980 sound and hardy enough to dance every dance.
Bold 'N Determined, like Genuine Risk undefeated in four starts against fillies as a 2-year-old, as led by her trainer, Neil Drysdale, and owner, Corbin Robertson of Houston, down the other fork in the road, the one over which only fillies run. B 'N D (by Bold and Brave from Pidi, who is by '54 Derby winner Determine) competed against the top fillies in California. Arkansas, Kentucky and New York and lost only twice.
The first defeat, in February at Santa Anita, was the result of a strange incident. Bold 'N Determined was recovering from a slight fever but was nonetheless going in the Santa Ynez Stakes against an excellent field. As she was led from her barn toward the paddock, a man "acting crazy." according to Drysdale. sprang from the track kitchen and fell down beside the filly. Upset. Bold 'N Determined reared and left her race on the backstretch. Trainers maintain there are 1,001 ways to lose a horserace, but Bold 'N Determined made it 1,002.
Her only other defeat in 12 starts occurred in the Mother Goose at Belmont in June, when Sugar and Spice, who loves a sloppy track, caught one and beat Bold 'N Determined by a head.
B 'N D earlier had won the Acorn and would subsequently triumph in the Coaching Club American Oaks; thus she missed winning the Triple Crown for fillies by a matter of scant inches. During the stretch run of the 1½-mile Coaching Club, three horses went by Bold 'N Determined in the stretch, but she fought back to win by a head. Yes, she is bold. Certainly she is determined. She is a strange eater as well, taking her hay from the rack beside her stall and dipping it in her water bucket before munching on it, much like dunking a donut in a cup of coffee. And she has proved to be a good bargain. As a yearling in 1978, Bold 'N Determined was sold for $12,000, and the following spring Robertson bought her at the California Thoroughbred Breeders Sale for $70,000. With the Maskette, her earnings are now $605,383.
The grand performances of Bold 'N Determined and Genuine Risk last week topped an excellent year for fillies and mares. With Risk performing so brilliantly in the Triple Crown, it went largely unnoticed that the 4-year-old filly Flitalong beat older males in the $150,000 Pan American Handicap; that Glorious Song defeated colts and geldings in the $100,000 Michigan Mile and One-Eighth Handicap and finished a close second to Spectacular Bid in the Haskell Handicap at Monmouth; and that Burn's Return thumped males twice in Florida.
Not long after the Maskette, Bold 'N Determined was being walked in circles near her barn to cool out. She looked dead tired. When asked when she might start again, Drysdale said, "I don't know. My horse gave a Kentucky Derby winner four pounds [mainly because B 'N D had run and won this summer, while Risk hadn't raced since the Belmont] and won. Rule of thumb says you pick up weight off a win and the loser drops weight. I really don't know what to do."
The consensus has been that Genuine Risk is the best of the 3-year-olds, male and female. Although she did lose ground by running wide in the Maskette, she also got ahead of Bold 'N Determined but couldn't win, even with her weight advantage. Might it just be that Genuine Risk is better than every 3-year-old colt or gelding in the country and not even at the top of her own division? As of now, it certainly seems that way.