Escena wins the 1998 Breeders' Cup Distaff. (Photo by HorsePhotos)
Finishing third to stablemate Ajina in the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, the next year Escena seemed to be out for revenge.
Before the 1997 Distaff, Escena had an accomplished resume with six victories and nine other on-the-board finishes in 20 starts, with most of those coming in stakes races. But it was the mare’s 5-year-old year that showed exactly how talented she was.
After her third place finish in the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Escena was given some time off before returning the following February. She seemed like she may have another credible season in front of her, finishing second in the Sabin and Rampart Handicaps in her first two starts of the year.
But her third start was when the magic started.
The mare shipped into Oaklawn Park and won the Apple Blossom by 2 ½ lengths, earning her first dirt Grade 1 victory. A month later, she followed that up with a win in the Louisville Breeders’ Cup Handicap on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, a race she had finished second in the year before.
Escena was on a two-race win streak when she walked over for the Fleur de Lis Handicap on June 6, tying the streak she had put together at the beginning of her career. Leading gate-to-wire, there was no fear during the race that the streak wouldn’t be extended with Escena pulling away to win by six lengths, the second largest win margin of her career. Trainer Bill Mott shipped her to California only three weeks later where she earned her third career Grade 1 win in the Vanity Invitational.
But Escena’s four-race win streak came to a heartbreaking halt at “the Graveyard of Champions” in August when she ran in the Go For Wand Handicap at Saratoga. Escena was saddled with 11 more pounds than Aldiza, a filly who only had one victory on the year but two career victories at Saratoga. The race turned out to a spectacular battle when the two horses battled the length of the stretch for the win. Aldiza edged ahead of the mare in the final strides, just nosing her out to end the streak.
A sixth-place finish in the Personal Ensign later that month as the .85-to-1 favorite earned the mare a two and a half month break before the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Jerry Bailey, who had been on Escena for nine of her previous 10 starts decided to ride Banshee Breeze in the Distaff, leaving the mount to Gary Stevens.
Escena took the lead straight out of the gate in her customary style, setting a solid pace as the field went through the first stages of the 1 1/8-mile race. She was encouraged by Stevens to give her best as the field ran down the stretch and responded willingly. She had to put everything she had into the final strides as Banshee Breeze ate into her lead but in the end Escena prevailed by a nose, giving trainer Bill Mott and owner Allen Paulson their second straight Distaff victory.
1998 BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF
Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup World Championships
Two months after winning the Distaff, Escena entered the ring at Keeneland’s January sale. The mare, who had made history during her racing career, started her second career off with a bang by selling for $3,250,000, the highest price a horse had ever sold for at the January sale at the time.
Escena was retired to the breeding shed after the sale with a record of 11 wins and 12 other on-the-board finishes in 29 starts. Winning five of her nine starts in 1998, she was also named that year’s champion older female over Sharp Cat, who had finished one position ahead of her in the 1997 Distaff but was forced to miss the 1998 edition of the race after winning all four of her starts that year.
Sold to Guy and Diane Snowden, Escena visited Seeking the Gold later that year and foaled a filly the following February. The Snowdens quickly made back Escena’s purchase price with that filly when she sold for $3.7 million as a yearling. The mare’s next foal, a filly by Kingmambo, also hit it big as a yearling when she sold for $2.7 million.
ESCENA'S SEEKING THE GOLD FILLY
Photo by HorsePhotos
Escena’s yearlings have proven to be popular with buyers as her two otheryearlings to go through the ring briought $800,000 and $320,000 respectively. She has also seen some success on the track as a broodmare throughout her career with all but one of her foals to hit the track winning at least one race.
Her biggest success on the track has come from Indy Scent, who finished second in the 2012 Three Coins Up Stakes at Aqueduct. While Escena doesn’t have a 2-year-old, two of her foals have raced this year, including 4-year-old Python, who won a race in mid-July.
Escena has a yearling filly by Rock Hard Ten named Herkimer Diamond and an unnamed foal by Shackleford who was born on May 23.