23 September 2006

Out to pasture

Despite the frequent observations that horse racing seems trapped in tradition, forever looking backward to glory days of yore, it's been my experience that horse racing enthusiasts are far more focused on the future -- the next race in twenty minutes, the next meet, the next Breeders' Cup.

But just for a moment, dear horseplayers, let's pause and reflect as one of the great ones passes by.

Personal Ensign was put out to pasture this week. Of course, she hasn't raced since 1988, when she retired from the track undefeated. Her string of thirteen victories -- eight of them G1s -- was the longest unbeaten winning streak in the U.S. since Colin in 1908. She even took on the boys in the Whitney and beat the mighty Gulch.

Personal Ensign past performances

She capped off her racing career with one of the most thrilling finishes in Breeder's Cup history, nipping Winning Colors by a nose in the 1988 Distaff. Descriptions of the race show up in Perry Lefko's history of the Breeders' Cup, Thoroughbred Racing's Greatest Day, as well as Mary Simon's Racing Through the Century and Personal Ensign by Bill Heller. And there's a fine retelling online at Thoroughbred Champions.

But for true excitement, I recommend leaving the stacks (gasp!) and visiting the NTRA archives to watch the video replay of the finish.

After retiring from racing, Personal Ensign had a successful career in breeding as well, spawning a Breeders' Cup dynasty of sorts with first My Flag, then My Flag's daughter, Storm Flag Flying, winning the BC Juvenile Fillies. She was named Broodmare of the Year in 1996.

And now, at 22, she's been put out to pasture at Claiborne Farms, where she'll reportedly hang out with a group of other pensioned mares in an equine Red Hat Society that includes Korveya, Narrate, and Arabian Dancer.

So a toast to one of the best, Personal Ensign. May she enjoy a perfect retirement after a perfect career.


Tote Board Brad said...

She's quite a lady. I love flipping through my Champions book too. I think there's probably a few posts I can get out of it next time I pull it down from it's perch.

Superfecta said...

I was a huge fan of Personal Ensign as a teenager. I'm glad she's getting a break -- what exciting careers she has had.

Rising Rainbow said...

She is a great horse, that's for sure. Not often a filly can run with the big boys.