Spain wins the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff at odds of 55.90-to-1. (Photos by HorsePhotos)
When ranking the toughest racemares to run in the last 50 years, Spain has to be near the top of the list. Making 35 starts in four seasons and retiring with more earnings than any other U.S.-based female (at the time), she completed her final two races while in foal to Storm Cat.
Spain entered the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Distaff as a 3-year-old filly with 16 starts on her résumé. Only four of those 16 races were victories with two of those coming in graded stakes races, convincing bettors to send her off as the second-longest shot in the race at 55.90-to-1. But Spain was about to pull a major upset.
Spain raced in third behind leader Surfside, who had defeated her in two early season Kentucky Oaks preps, for most of the race. She joined the surge to close Surfside’s 3 1/2-length lead as everyone swept into the turn. Spain slipped through a hole on the rail at the top of the stretch and battled with Surfside through much of the stretch before taking the lead in the final furlong and pulling away to win by 1 ½ lengths.
Spain gave trainer D. Wayne Lukas his fourth victory in the Distaff and first since 1987 and Prince Ahmed bin Salman’s The Thoroughbred Corp. its first Distaff victory and second Breeders’ Cup win overall following Anees win in the 1999 Juvenile. The filly also rewarded bettors, paying $113.80 for a $2 win bet.
2000 BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF
Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup World Championships
The Distaff provided Spain with a signature win, but the filly was just beginning her roll. She raced two more times in 2000 and earned her second Grade 1 win in December when she won the La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita Park. She didn’t take a winter break after that win, finishing second in the 2001 El Encino Stakes before bouncing back for a win in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes three weeks later.
The La Canada was the last time Spain saw the winner’s circle until May 2002. However, she was still productive during her 14-month dry spell, earning more than $800,000 and hitting the board in six of her 11 starts. While Spain had a few open-length losses, she also had some extremely near misses, including in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Spain came into the Distaff with much lower odds than the previous year, going off as the second betting choice at 4.90-to-1. It looked like Spain was poised to become only the second horse to win the Distaff twice as she opened a 2-length lead in the stretch, but Unbridled Elaine closed from the center of the track and won by a head.
Like the previous year, Spain raced into the winter, but it wasn’t until she was in front of the 2002 Kentucky Oaks crowd that she returned to her winning ways.
Racing in the Louisville Breeders’ Cup Handicap, a Grade 2 on the Oaks undercard, Spain took control of the race as the field moved into the final 2 1/2 furlongs and pulled away to win by 1 ¼ lengths.
The filly took a month and a half off from the races after the victory, shipping from Churchill Downs to Overbrook Farm to meet Storm Cat 12 days after her Churchill win. But instead of immediately retiring to the life of a broodmare, Spain returned to the track.
Spain won her return taking the Fleur dis Lis Handicap on June 16, winning the race by 3 ¼ lengths. Two weeks later, Lukas gave her one final race.
“She seems to be better now than we've had her in a long time,” Lukas told the Oklahoman before the Molly Pitcher Handicap. “I just think she's really come around of late.”
But Spain could not make it three wins in a row. She finished third, beaten by 4 ½ lengths.
Spain headed into retirement with nine wins and 16 other top-three finishes in 35 starts. But perhaps her biggest accomplishment was retiring as the richest female in North American history with $3,540,542 in earnings.
Today, only four females based in North America have amassed more earnings than her.
Spain produced a Storm Cat colt the following April and both mare and colt went through the auction ring that November during a dispersal of Prince Ahmed bin Salman’s stock after his untimely death.
Spain and her colt were hot commodities at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale with Spain, in foal to Storm Cat, selling for $5.3-million immediately before her Storm Cat colt walked into the ring and brought a final bid of $2.4-million, setting a new Keeneland November record for the highest price for a weanling at the sale. Both went to Dromoland Farm.
SPAIN SELLS FOR $5.3 MILLION AT KEENELAND
The colt, named Carpocrates won three of his 12 starts, racing in Ireland and South Africa. Spain’s second foal sold for $150,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2005, and won six of his eight starts from 2007 to 2009 in Japan.
But Spain’s top achievement as the dam of racehorses, so far, came in 2005 and 2006 when she produced the Storm Cat colt Plan and the Giant’s Causeway filly Dreamtheimpossible, respectively.
Plan started his career in Ireland and as a 3-year-old won the Grade 3 Keeneland International Stakes before returning for his next start to America, where he finished second in the Secretariat Stakes. That same year, 2-year-old Dreamtheimpossible won a minor stakes race in Ireland before finishing third in the Group 1 Meon Valley Stud Fillies Mile.
Dreamtheimpossible was sold in foal to Galileo in 2010 to Adena Springs for $2.55-million, the most expensive Spain foal sold at public auction. Adena Springs also owns Plan, who stands in Maryland at Hertiage Stallions.
While those two foals have been Spain’s most successful on the track, two of her other foals have sold for $525,000 and $650,000, respectively, at auction. She has a 2012 unnamed Giant’s Causeway colt in addition to a 2013 War Front colt, with neither being offered at auction thus far. She is in foal to War Front for a 2015 foal.