Mom’s Command: A Modestly Bred Champion

Legends
Mom’s Command winning the 1985 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park. (Coglianese/NYRA photo)

Three-year-old males have the Triple Crown.

Three-year-old fillies have the Triple Tiara.

While the Triple Tiara may lack the notoriety of its counterpart for males and includes only New York races, it has attracted a long list of outstanding runners since its inception in 1959.

Initially, the series that includes the Acorn Stakes, Mother Goose Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks was called the Filly Triple Crown and then the NYRA or New York Filly Triple Crown before NYRA changed it to the Triple Tiara in 1987.

There’s a much shorter collection of illustrious fillies who have swept all three legs of the series, an array of champions that includes the likes of Dark Mirage, Shuvee, Chris Evert, Ruffian, Davona Dale, Open Mind, Sky Beauty and, perhaps the most unlikely member of the group, Mom’s Command.

Connections of Mom's Command (Coglianese/NYRA photo)

Mom’s Command was a modestly bred filly who raced for the New England-based stable of Peter Fuller. A native of Massachusetts, Fuller was involved in one of the sport’s most infamous races as the owner of Dancer’s Image, who won the 1968 Kentucky Derby but was stripped of that victory due to a drug positive.

Mom’s Command started her career in 1984 at the now-demolished Rockingham Park in bucolic Salem, N.H. Her trainer, Edward “Ned” Allard, started his career in 1971 and has won 2,700 races but his lone Grade 1 wins were courtesy of Mom’s Command. Her regular rider was Abigail Fuller, the owner’s daughter, who would win seven graded stakes from 4,337 career starts, six of them aboard Mom’s Command.

But despite those humble roots, Mom’s Command blossomed into one of the best fillies of her generation. She won 11 of 16 starts in a two-year career that included her Filly Triple Crown sweep of the 1985 Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks and ultimately earned her a spot in the Hall of Fame.

“You don't realize how good they are until years later,” Allard told turf writer Paul Daley in a 2007 horse.com story. “She was so good you almost forgot how good she was. And, on a yearly basis, you'll never forget Mom's Command. She was a great racehorse. Coming from New England, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd train a horse like Mom's Command.”

The classic mix of blazing speed and stamina that carried Mom’s Command to her five Grade 1 wins was evident from her earliest days on a racetrack and moved Alllard to enter the chestnut filly in a stakes, the $10,000 Faneuil Miss, for her first start. She was sent off at 44-1 odds and broke last in the field of 11, but closed with a rush in the final furlong to win by head in the July 17, 1984 stakes.

Mom’s Command broke quickly in her next start, the $25,000 Priscilla Stakes at Suffolk, and won by a little less than a length as a much more fathomable 3-1 shot.

After those two triumphs, Mom’s Command headed to Saratoga and finished fourth in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes but rebounded to take the Grade 2 Astarita at Belmont, when she overcame another poor start to win by a length and a quarter.

She finished third in the Grade 1 Frizette and then tackled two turns for the first time in the Grade 1 Selima Stakes at Laurel and registered a front-running, gate-to-wire 2 1/4-length victory in a race which proved she was much more than a speedy sprinter.

Inspired by her effort in the Selima, her connections headed west for the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. Once again she flashed her sharp early speed, but in the final furlong a long campaign caught up with her and she faded to fifth behind the year’s champion 2-year-old filly, Outstandingly.

The Startlet marked the end of Mom’s Command’s 2-year-old campaign and was also the last time she finished worse than second.

She opened 1985 by romping to a 19-length victory in the six-furlong Flirtation Stakes at Pimlico. After a win and a second in a pair of Garden State stakes, she returned to New York and prepped for the Filly Triple Crown by winning the Grade 3 Comely by 4 ½ lengths.

The Triple Crown started with the Grade 1 Acorn and Mom’s Command sprinted away to a quick, seven-length lead in the early stages of the mile test and held on for a three-length score as a 7-10 favorite.

Next was the mile and an eighth, Grade 1 Mother Goose and once again Mom’s Command showed her heels to her rivals, winning by 5 ½ lengths.

The final jewel was the most demanding test of all, the 1 1/2-mile Coaching Club American Oaks. The distance was imposing but Mom’s Command was up to the challenge, surging to a seven-length lead at the eighth pole and crossing the finish line 2 ½ lengths in front as an odds-on 1-2 favorite.

“This is like a dream come true,” Abigail Fuller said after Mom’s Command’s sweep in the CCA Oaks. “I'm so proud of her. I tried to slow her down a little, but she doesn't slow down much. I was just saying ‘whoa’ to her until we got to the stretch.”

Following the Filly Triple Crown, Mom’s Command returned to the races at Saratoga and fell victim to “The Graveyard of Favorites” by finishing second in the seven-furlong Test Stakes as a 1-2 favorite.

The Test, though, was an excellent prep for the Grade 1 Alabama, which was run just nine days later.

The Alabama attracted just five starters, but it featured a highly anticipated showdown between Mom’s Command and West Coast star Fran’s Valentine.

At two, Fran’s Valentine crossed the finish line first in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at 73-1 odds but was disqualified to second behind Outstandingly. She was then second in the Hollywood Starlet.

In 1985, though, Fran’s Valentine emerged as the West Coast’s top 3-year-old filly, winning five of her first six starts, three of them in Grade 1 stakes.

Since the New England-based Mom’s Command was not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup, the Alabama was billed as the race that would decide the 3-year-old filly championship.

It turned out to be a mismatch.

Mom's Command winning Alabama. (Coglianese/NYRA photo)

Mom’s Command quickly opened up a two-length lead and Fran Valentine chased but was unable to reel her in, finishing four lengths behind the front-running filly who was sent off as a heavy 3-5 favorite. 

“I was in a perfect position going into the first turn,” said Chris McCarron, who was aboard Fran's Valentine in the Alabama. “My filly was nice and relaxed. But she wasn't good enough at any point in the race to go get the other filly.”

It was a performance worthy of a champion, and, as it turned out, a perfect way to frame her brilliant career. Mom’s Command suffered an ankle injury a month later and was retired with earnings of $902,972.

In a final tribute to her, at year’s end, she was named the champion 3-year-old filly of 1985.

It wasn’t much of a surprise, though.

She was, after all, the winner of the Filly Triple Crown.


Fun Facts

  • The 3-year-old filly who beat Mom’s Command in the 1985 Test was Lady’s Secret, who would be named Horse of the Year in 1986.
  • Mom’s Command was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2007.
  • She was the dam of one stakes winner, Jonesboro.
  • In six starts around two turns, Mom’s Command won five times.

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