Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame

Dark Mirage

Home by Dark, a gray mare by 1950 Horse of the Year Hill Prince, was deaf, and therefore never raced. She did make a significant contribution to racing, however, when in 1965 she produced a small bay filly by *Persian Road II for Duval A. Headley, who had bred 1953 Horse of the Year Tom Fool.

The filly, named Dark Mirage, was sent to the 1966 Keeneland Summer Yearling Sale, and her size, or rather lack of size, sparked laughter among those attending the auction. She brought the lowest price of the sale, with Lloyd I. Miller of Cincinnati paying a mere six thousand dollars for her.

At the age of two, the undersized filly, who weighed a mere 710 pounds, won only two of her fifteen starts under the training of Everett King. As a three-year-old, however, Dark Mirage was brilliant, winning an allowance test at Aqueduct after running fourth in her season debut, then spinning off consecutive triumphs in the Prioress Stakes and the La Troienne Stakes. Dark Mirage scored for a fourth time in the Kentucky Oaks, defeating Miss Ribot by four and a half lengths to collect her share of $63,720, the richest purse in the race's history.

In the Acorn Stakes, the little filly galloped past Another Nell and Gay Matelda to score a six length victory. Her time of 1:34 4/5 equaled Count Fleet's track record, set in the 1942 Champagne Stakes under only 116 pounds, five pounds less than what Dark Mirage carried in the Acorn. Rider Manuel Ycaza described the race:

"She broke very well and we were on the inside. I was running about fourth down the backstretch and I couldn't get outside because there were too many near me. So I just played a waiting game and when the leader went just a little bit wide coming down the stretch, my filly went right on through, running real easy. She was sharp."

Dark Mirage romped home ten lengths in front of Guest Room in the Mother Goose Stakes. She covered the mile and an eighth in 1:49 2/5, despite the lack of a challenger, and created a minus pool of over eighteen hundred dollars in the show betting. Bobby Ussery, who rode Guest Room, summed up the race by stating that his mount was "no match for Dark Mirage," and other riders offered no argument. The once laughed at little filly was at the top of her division, and had the NYRA Filly Triple Crown within her sights.

This series, consisting of the Acorn Stakes, the Mother Goose Stakes, and the Coaching Club American Oaks, had never been swept, although five fillies, including Cicada, Bowl of Flowers, Spicy Living, Lady Pitt, and Furl Sail, had won two of the three events.

Only five other fillies dared oppose Dark Mirage in the CCA Oaks, and two of them, Gay Matelda and Syrian Sea, represented Chris Chenery's Meadow Stable. Rated in the early going, the filly easily slipped past her opposition on the far turn. Her rider thought it had been too easy, saying afterwards:

"I was in no hurry. We had a mile and a quarter to go. Then I saw Moss try to cut the corner, so I moved her a little bit. I didn't have to press her. She went to the lead early, I thought too easy. I expected somebody to press her, but nobody challenged."

The filly glided easily down the homestretch, winning easily in 2:01 4/5. Many speculated that she could have broken Whisk Broom II's track record, had she been pushed. But with her nearest pursuer, Gay Matelda, twelve lengths back, and show finisher Syrian Sea beaten another six lengths, it had hardly been necessary for Dark Mirage to extend herself.

Dark Mirage had become the first winner of the NYRA filly Triple Crown, with her triumphant margins totaling twenty eight lengths. Victory by the overwhelming favorite, coupled with the fact the the Meadow Stable entry ran second and third, created a stunning minus pool of more than twenty-two thousand dollars.

The winning streak continued with the Monmouth Oaks. Again heavily favored, the daughter of *Persian Road II cantered to a four length win over Singing Rain, despite the fact that she was bumped and forced a bit wide while making her bid. Her rider also lost his whip, although that could hardly be considered a calamity. It was not needed, and the little star won easily in 1:51 2/5.

Manuel Ycaza was flown in by helicopter for the event, having ridden Damascus to a third place finish in Dr. Fager's record setting Suburban Handicap only an hour before the Monmouth Oaks.

Dark Mirage finished out the season with a triumph in the Delaware Oaks. Previous minus pools had resulted in a no bet race, but a record crowd of 30,335 still turned out to watch the champion. She gained the lead with a furlong to go and and won going away, defeating Sale Day easily by two lengths. Her ninth straight victory, it occured on the same day that Ogden Phipps' Bold Ruler colt Reviewer won the Sapling Stakes. Seven years later, his daughter Ruffian would duplicate Dark Mirage's Triple Crown performance.

Having won nine of ten starts in her sophomore campaign, sending her career earnings to $304,671, the former six thousand dollar bargain was named Champion Three-Year-Old Filly.

After a rest, Dark Mirage was shipped to California, and began racing again that winter at Santa Anita. Assigned top weight in the Santa Maria Handicap, Dark Mirage managed a narrow victory.

A few weeks later, the brilliant Dark Mirage went to post in the Santa Margarita Handicap. To the shock of her fans and connections, she was pulled up with a dislocated sesamoid. When complications developed, the racing world suffered a tragic loss. The heroic little filly was put down in the summer of 1969. She was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1974

Dark Mirage's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 27 12 3 2 $362,789

Dark Mirage, 1965 dark bay filly

Persian Road II Persian Gulf Bahram Blandford
Friar's Daughter
Double Life Bachelor's Double
Saint Joan
One for the Road Watling Street Fairway
Sundae Hyperion
Bachelor's Fare
Home by Dark Hill Prince Princequillo Prince Rose
Hildene Bubbling Over
Fancy Racket
Sunday Evening Eight Thirty Pilate
Dinner Time
Drowsy Royal Minstrel
Lazy Susan


Recommended titles include: Champions from the Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 of the 20th Century from Blood-Horse, and Man O' War: Thoroughbred Legends #1 by Edward L. Bowen, as well as Seabiscuit on DVD .
Seabiscuit DVD

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