By Amy Nesse
As we watched Songbird cruise home in the Coaching Club American Oaks
, proving her dominance in the 3 year old division, it reminds many of us of other past 3 year old fillies that brought the same feelings of awe and admiration when they graced the tracks and won in their extraordinary fashion. Ruffian
, Personal Ensign, Shuvee, Davona Dale, Lady’s Secret, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Relaxing, Dark Mirage, Go For Wand, etc.
One filly in particular crossed my mind as I thought about these past greats…..her name was Chris Evert. A name that is perhaps not as often mentioned as some of the other champion fillies of the past, yet she is no less deserving or talented than any of the others. She was at the top of her class in her day, and not only did she win Champion 3 year old filly of 1974, she also became just the 3rd filly to claim the Triple Tiara aka The Triple Crown of the filly division. She went on to become one of the few horses to compete in a match race and win in outstanding fashion. After her racing career she continued to leave her mark in the sport being inducted into the United States Racing Hall Of Fame and becoming a successful broodmare. So, let’s go back in time to remember the great Chris Evert.
Chris Evert was bred in Kentucky by Echo Valley Farm. Her sire was Swoon’s Son who was a fantastic racehorse in the 50’s and was out of a T.V. Lark mare named Miss Carmie. She was purchased by Carl Rosen as a yearling for $32,000 at Keeneland. Carl Rosen was the owner of the clothing manufacturer Puritan Fashions Corp. Rosen named the daughter of Swoon’s Son after the emerging champion tennis star Chris Evert, who had recently signed to endorse his company’s line of sportswear. Chris Evert began racing at the age of 2 in 1973. As a 2 year old she won the Demoiselle and Golden Rod stakes and finished with a record of 4-1-0 and earnings of $93,012 from five starts. After an impressive juvenile season she would really begin to make a bang as a 3 year old.
Chris Evert won the Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly when she swept the New York Filly Triple Crown, winning The Acorn before adding victories in the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks in impressive fashion. She became only the third filly to claim the Triple Tiara after Dark Mirage in 1968 and Shuvee in 1969. She was practically untouchable. After her dominating sweep of the filly Triple Crown, Aaron Jones, the owner of West Coast based filly Miss Musket, issued a challenge to Chris Evert’s owner for their horses to meet in a match race. Miss Musket’s record included winning the Hollywood Oaks, and her confident owner offered to put up $100,000 if Chris Evert’s owner would match it. Hollywood Park Racetrack offered another $150,000 to the winner-take-all race that they would host and would bill as the Hollywood Special Stakes. Carl Rosen could not pass up that kind of money and accepted the offer for a match race to be held on July 20, 1974. Chris Evert won by an astounding 50 lengths, the large purse significantly contributing to her becoming 1974’s leading money earner in U.S. Thoroughbred racing another impressive addition to her already amazing resume. She also competed against the boys in the 1974 Midsummer Derby, The Travers Stakes at Saratoga. She showed speed in the slop, alternating for the lead with Accipiter and Menocal. She was passed by eventual winner Holding pattern in deep stretch only to try and re rally. Her early efforts took their toll, understandably so, and she watched Holding Pattern and Mike Miceli hold off the flying Little Current. It was a brave effort against the colts.
After her incredible 3 year old season Chris Evert returned at age four, and won two more times. She took The La Canada Stakes, before being retired after competing in only 4 races as a 4 year old with a career record of 10-2-2 and earnings of $679,475 from 15 starts. Rosen decided to use her as the foundation mare to establish his own horse breeding operation at Three Chimneys Farm ( which would later go on to become a major breeding farm in the Thoroughbred racing industry) in Midway, Kentucky. As a broodmare, Chris Evert was very successful producing graded stakes winners Wimbledon Star and the filly Six Crowns, who was sired by the great Secretariat. Six Crowns also went on to become a successful broodmare producing Eclipse Award and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner of 1984 Chief’s Crown.
Chris Evert was eventually inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1988. She spent her days at Three Chimneys as one of the most beloved horses to ever be stabled there, loved and spoiled until her last days. She was pensioned from broodmare duties in 1990, and at the ripe age of 30 she was humanely euthanized on January 8, 2001 due to the infirmities of old age. She was buried at Three Chimneys Farm’s broodmare cemetery.
Chris Evert’s name has sadly faded away with time, yet she was another great champion of the 70’s that brought fans to the track with her winning ways and her ever so popular name. Chris Evert is a personal favorite of mine, with her beautiful blaze,adoring connections and amazing talent on the racetrack.Chris Evert captured my heart. I fell in love with her just through reading about her and watching her race replays, and I hope that after reading this you perhaps have too.