Fierce Fillies of the Kentucky Derby

Horseracing can be participated by both male and female horses. While it’s rare to see fillies racing against colts and stallions on track, many have proven competent and competitive enough to ace professional horseracing events.

The Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the world-famous Triple Crown, has showcased fierce fillies that can match horses of the opposite sex when it comes to racing. Let’s get to know these female horses and see how they have smashed barriers in the history of the Kentucky Derby.

How can a filly qualify for Kentucky Derby?

Fillies are allowed to race in the Kentucky Derby. Qualifications are pretty much the same with the participating colts. Fillies have to be three years old during the competition.

The colts generally mature faster than fillies. That’s why many breed them to compete in professional races. However, fillies can acquire the same speed and strength as their male counterpart, making them qualified to race on the same track as colts.

Successful fillies in the Run for the Roses

The Kentucky Derby is just around the corner. As expected, the 2023 Kentucky Derby betting is dominated by the colts. In the legendary race’s history, only a few outstanding fillies have shown exceptional racing abilities in the Derby, making them underdogs in the field.

To date, only three fillies have won the Run for the Roses. These fillies are Regret, Genuine Risk, and Winning Colors. Let’s know the success stories of each and their respective journeys to the hall of fame.

Winning Colors

Born in 1985, Winning Colors was trained by D. Wayne Lukas and competed for Eugene V. Klein. She won the Kentucky Derby (G1) in 1988 and was the Eclipse Award winner in the same year.

She was bred in Echo Valley Horse Farm and was purchased by Eugene V. Klein for $575,000. She entered a strong field in Kentucky Derby but was well-conditioned to conquer the Run for the Roses. Her hard training under Lukas paid off with a win in the Kentucky Derby. She also participated in the second leg of the Triple Crown and finished third in the Preakness Stakes.

In 1988, other than winning the Kentucky Derby, Winning Colors was also triumphant in the La Centila Stakes, Santa Anita Derby and Santa Anita Oaks. The following year, the champion filly won the Turfway Breeders’ Cup Handicap.

Genuine Risk

Next to Winning Colors, Genuine Risk won the Kentucky Derby in 1980. She is also famous for participating and securing a podium finish in the three races of the Triple Crown. She placed first in the Kentucky Derby and second in Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Jacinto Vasquez mounted Genuine Risk in the Preakness Stakes, which was quite controversial then. Genuine Risk was hit in the face by the whip of the jockey of the winning horse, Codex. The winning pair didn’t get disqualified for what happened. This has made spectators think that  Genuine Risk could have won the second leg of the Triple Crown if not for the incident.

Her race record includes 15 starts, ten wins, and two thirds, which earned her $646,587. In 1986, she was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Moreover, she earned the Eclipse Award as the American champion 3-year-old filly in 1980. She also raked 91 in the Blood-Horse magazine’s List of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.


Regret broke records as the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby. She accomplished the feat in the 1915 Run for the Roses. She ranked 71 in the top 100 American racehorses of the 20th century. In 1955, Regret was also rated the third-best filly or mare in North America in a poll by American Trainers Association conducted by Delaware Park.

Her other accomplishments include being the first filly to win for two-year-olds in all four Saratoga races in 1914. The following year, she won the Kentucky Derby, her inaugural race as a three-year-old. She was named the American Horse of the Year following her monumental achievement as a filly.

Harry Payne Whitney owned and bred her in Brookdale Farm, Lincroft, New Jersey. Meanwhile, she was trained by James G. Rowe, Sr. Regret retired after the 1917 racing season and did her last race in the Brooklyn Handicap, where she placed second.

She was awarded as the American champion 2-year-old filly in 1914, American champion three-year-old filly in 1915, and American champion handicap female in 1917. She was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1957 and the Saratoga Hoofprints Walk of Fame in 2013. Regret was also awarded the American Horse of the Year in her peak season in 1915.

Final Thoughts

The stories of Regret, Genuine Risk, and Winning Colors are manifestations that fillies can match colts’ racing capabilities. While colts’ toughness and strength are typically superior to fillies, with professional training and supervision, fillies can prevail in races and disprove the conception of male horses’ athletic dominance in racing.


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