The First Lady
Perhaps no other sport lends itself so well to looking backward as horse racing. Although any sport worth its salt has a history, the traditions of horse racing and the importance of past racehorses and horsemen play a major role in what happens today in racing. A part of the charm of racing, of its pageantry and proud heritage, lies in the connection that today has with yesterday, not to mention all the things of importance that happened a decade or three in the past. Furthermore, as horse-players, we continually look backward as we evaluate form. It is essentially impossible to assess what a horse might do or be capable of doing without knowing what it’s past performance has been. So the past is vital to horse racing.
Friday 01st January 2016 is somewhat significant to this wonderful story; for this was the date that Burning gave birth to her third foal, a beautiful bay daughter by Blitzen. During the course of a magnificent three-year-old campaign, the appropriately named Angel From Hell established herself as an extraordinary filly, one who will forever have a special place in our hearts as one of the greatest thoroughbreds to ever grace the turf. She is owned and bred by DR Stables, one the most successful thoroughbred stables in Track King history.
Burning was a smart racer, earned over $3 million in her racing career. She was placed on auction as a ten year old mare, and bought for $510,000 by DR Stables, who was looking for mares at the time, for his new stud Blitzen.
Blitzen is an interesting horse in terms of pedigree and physique because he combines several elements that are important for understanding the mechanics of a racehorse in terms of its pedigree. He proved on the racecourse from limited opportunities, that he was a good racehorse, although never in the hunt as a cup contender, but as a sire, he contributed a useful amount of power and speed to most mating’s, as well as adding quality to his offspring. Blitzen was one of many good sons of top sire Exceed And Excel, who sired champions and classic winners, racers who showed top class at 2 and beyond, and a variety of horses who found their best form at distances from five furlongs to a mile and a half or beyond.
DR Stables’s training style is what one expects of a master teacher: he takes his equine students as far as they can go, preparing each of them currently in his stable according to their own strengths, from sprinters to epic runners. With his “Angel”, Daniel has forged a very special connection, one the filly responded to with all her heart, as evident in all her races.
The Racing Career
Two Year Old
Angel From Hell‘s first start at two was in the 2yo Breeders Cup Sprint heat, and was considered by many as a “educational” one, in which she ran a good second over dead ground. Her next start was in the final, where she finished first. Her performance made the people sit up and take notice of this diminutive bay who seemed to skim over the ground, as she moved to the front of the field. She may have been compact, but she was incredibly light on her feet, allowing her to jettison away when hitting her top speed.
The talented filly would round off her two year old season with another cup win in the Golden Slipper, beating the determined Hay List into second in the process. Stablemate Dirtylittlesecret was on the lead, setting fractions of :17.86 and :17.88 for the first two quarters of the race. The field crept closer to the leader on the turn for home, as Guitar Bandido, Hay List and Angel From Hell all made their charge on the straight away. Angel From Hell hit the wire first over Hay List, who secured second place. Long time leader Dirtylittlesecret was third, with Guitar Bandido in fourth.
Three Year Old
Angel From Hell‘s three year old season was as amazing as her previous one. Now better acquainted, Dominque Donlin and Angel From Hell set their sights on the next cup. Having won two world cups already, it stood to reason that the 3-year-old daughter of Blitzen had a class edge over her 14 rivals in the $1,900,000 Ascot Vale on April 16, 2016. Sure enough, the home bred filly delivered on all accounts in the six furlong test, getting an ideal stalking trip, scoring by four lengths over runner-up Dirtylittlesecret for her third world cup triumph.
Living up to her name and then some, Angel From Hell, the short priced favorite in only the second race of her life over the short distance, put her talent on display with an impressive victory in the featured 3yo Short Breeders Cup at River Nile Delta. Appearing to be on cruise control from the gate under jockey Dominque Donlin, she scored by many lengths, a margin which doesn’t indicate the ease with which she won the seven and half furlong race. Keladry tried hard in the stretch, but had to settle for 3rd, from Gray Coup.
The Sphinx Cup
In the saddle, Donlin felt a rush like never before. He was on a superstar. “She’s ready,” Daniel told him. “Ride her with confidence.”
When she leaned back in the gate as the bell rang and the doors opened, the filly broke well. Within the first two jumps, she was within striking distance of her rivals. She dropped the bit, going into the second quarter. Donlin did not even worry. “She was right where I wanted to be, stalking everybody,” he said. She picked up her tempo going into the third quarter, gliding into the turn like a marble circling a roulette wheel. “Steady, steady,” Donlin said to himself.
Wife Doesn’t Play was leading and went early for the wire. Revving up outside him, however, was the late-running Angel From Hell. Her jockey, scrubbed the bay filly’s neck and got within four, three and two and a half lengths, but then she stretched her stride as if she were elastic and snapped off to a two-length lead. When Donlin crossed the finish line, he finally allowed a smile to curl at the corner of his mouth and a raucous celebration to reverberate deep in his bones.
In the record books, it will say Angel From Hell covered the 1466m distance in 1 minutes 29.634 seconds, paid her backers $5.80 and fattened her earnings to more than $3 million for her owner, DR Stables. She become the first filly to win the Triple Crown, and the third overall, after Relaunch and Kingsman.
But as Donlin galloped Angel From Hell the length of the grandstand and let a thunderstruck crowd, many with tears in their eyes, cheer the ethereal performance of a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, he could barely catch his breath. “Wow,” he told the outrider alongside him. “Wow. She’s just an amazing horse.”
She’s absolutely perfect at her profession, and that is very rare. In just about every race, she starts out well, taking a breather and then comes flying at the end, breaking her opponents’ hearts. The crowds love it. She clearly knows exactly where the wire is. We haven’t seen how fast she can really go, because she only goes fast enough to catch the other horses at the wire! She was fast, but she wasn’t a sprinter. She had stamina, but she wasn’t a plodder. She is a special horse.
Winning the Triple Crown must be the best feeling in the world, and when they were in the winner’s circle, I guess they couldn’t stop smiling.
And the racing world smiled with them.