Just as obviously, as her races have proved in the past, Lady's Secret cannot beat the best of the older male horses in this country. Of her five losses this year—she was thrice second and twice third—three of those came at the hands of superior males. Precisionist beat her twice in 1986, including once, definitively, when he ran past her to win the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park by almost five lengths. The argument against the Lady being named Horse of the Year is based on the contention that such a champion ought to be the best horse carrying 126 pounds over a mile and a quarter on the dirt.
In the absence of such a compelling animal—neither Turkoman nor Precisionist has seen fit to settle that argument at the other's expense—many are looking to the little gray filly as a logical choice. No horse in America has been more consistent than Lady's Secret, and she has acquitted herself uncommonly well against the best of the colts whenever she has faced them. She has broken records, run and won at distances from a mile to a mile and a quarter, and carried high weight at high speeds on various surfaces from California to New York.
"She's just a phenomenal individual," says jockey Day. "Early on in her career, I thought she was just a sprinter. They got her to stretch out, beat the boys, beat the best of the girls and get up to a mile and a quarter. She does everything. A pleasure to ride. Lots of speed away from the gate. Just sit on her and let her do the work. A gem to ride."
If the Breeders' Cup demonstrated anything on Saturday, a day in which beaten favorites abounded, it was that the little gray filly they call the Iron Lady is currently the most admirable competitor in American racing—tough, fast, game, classy and generous with her abundant gifts.
As Stephens says, Who else can it be but the filly? No one, except her.