Open Mind: In a League With Legends

Open Mind was voted champion 2-year-old filly in 1988 and champion 3-year-old filly in 1989, the year she won the Acorn Stakes (pictured). (Bob Coglianese photo)

Since horse racing’s year-end Eclipse awards were inaugurated in 1971, only six fillies have achieved the difficult feat of being named champion both as a 2-year-old and as a 3-year-old. In recognition of their accomplishments, four have been inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, and the membership of this exclusive sextet includes such legendary fillies as Ruffian, Go for Wand, SilverbulletdayBeholder, and Songbird. The last name on that list is the only horse not yet in the Hall of Fame ... yet.

The sixth filly in this group is Open Mind, a New Jersey-bred chestnut daughter of Deputy Minister bred by Due Process Stables and born in 1986. Her dam was Stage Luck, a daughter of 1968 Belmont Stakes winner Stage Door Johnny, and she had previously produced the multiple stakes winner Stage Door Avie. Considering her pedigree, Open Mind was bred for success right from the start, and she delivered on those expectations in her very first race. On Aug. 18, 1988, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained filly made her debut in a six-furlong maiden race at Monmouth Park, facing a field of 10 New Jersey-bred colts. After settling in fourth early on, Open Mind rallied impressively to win by five lengths at odds of nearly 11-1.

Bettors would never again see such high odds on Open Mind.

In her next start, Open Mind beat colts again in the New Jersey Breeders’ Stakes at Monmouth, rallying in the final strides to win by a neck. She then shipped to Laurel Park and ran second by 4 ½ lengths in the Maryland Lassie Stakes, and while this performance marked her first defeat, it was still good enough to warrant a start in the prestigious Grade 1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park. Making her first start against top-class fillies, Open Mind delivered a big performance, unleashing a strong run from three lengths back to finish second by a nose behind stablemate Some Romance.

In a matter of four starts, Open Mind had risen from an unknown New Jersey-bred to one of the best 2-year-old fillies in the country, and her rise didn’t stop there. Three weeks after the Frizette, Open Mind and four of her Lukas-trained stablemates started as the favored entry in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on a muddy track at Churchill Downs, the race that would likely determine the 2-year-old filly championship. Reserved 16 lengths off the early lead by jockey Angel Cordero Jr., Open Mind produced a tremendous rally in the homestretch, bursting through an opening in between horses to win by 1 ¾ lengths.

For good measure, she came back two weeks later and won the Grade 1 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct, giving her four wins and two seconds from six starts for the season. Although no one knew it at the time, Open Mind had laid the foundation for one of the most impressive and dominating win streaks in the history of racing.

After a brief winter break, Open Mind made her debut as a 3-year-old in the Feb. 1 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park, closing from 13 lengths behind to win by two lengths. A month later, she stayed closer to the pace in the Bonnie Miss Stakes and won by three lengths. On April 1, she turned in a carbon-copy of those performances to win the Pimlico Oaks by two lengths, stamping herself as the decisive favorite for the prestigious Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Facing just four rivals on a sloppy track, Open Mind had to work harder than usual to defeat Santa Anita Oaks winner Imaginary Lady, but nevertheless seized the lead in the final furlong to win the Kentucky Oaks by 2 ¼ lengths.

Open Mind and Cordero after the Acorn. (Bob Coglianese/BloodHorse Library)

But Open Mind’s win streak didn’t stop there. Showing off her iron constitution, Open Mind was back in action just 22 days after the Kentucky Oaks, winning the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes on a sloppy track at Belmont by 4 ½ lengths. Two weeks later, she tackled Grade 1 winner Gorgeous in the Mother Goose Stakes and got involved in her first stretch battle of the year, having to fight hard to defeat her talented rival by a head in the fast time of 1:47 2/5 for 1 1/8 miles. Amazingly, they beat third-place finisher Nite of Fun by 18 lengths.

Having won the Acorn and Mother Goose, Open Mind was poised to become just the seventh winner of the “Triple Tiara” New York Filly Triple Crown, a sweep she could complete with a win in the 1 1/2-mile, Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park. With Gorgeous skipping the race, Open Mind was expected to have little trouble securing the victory, but for whatever reason, Open Mind failed to bring her "A" game. Perhaps she was still tired from her taxing effort in the Mother Goose, or perhaps the distance of the Coaching Club American Oaks was too far for her, but after tracking modest fractions through the early stages of the race, Open Mind had to dig deep for every ounce of stamina she had to try and catch Nite of Fun in the homestretch. In the end, she fell a desperate nose short of catching her rival, but the stewards disqualified Nite of Fun after determining that she had impeded Open Mind in the stretch, allowing Open Mind to complete her sweep of the Triple Tiara and extend her winning streak to nine races.

With that exhausting effort behind her, Open Mind was given more than a month between races, with the prestigious Grade 1 Alabama Stakes on Aug. 12  at Saratoga marking her return. Fortunately for Open Mind, the track came up muddy, and after settling 15 lengths off the lead, Open Mind sloshed her way through the mud to win by a neck, bringing her record on wet tracks to a perfect 4-for-4.

Thus, in less than a year – from Aug. 15, 1988 through Aug. 12, 1989 – Open Mind had run in 14 races, winning 12 and finishing second in the other two. A remarkable nine of those victories came in graded stakes races, including seven Grade 1s. It was a spectacular campaign that ranked among the best in history, and it was one that would forever rank Open Mind among the legends of the sport.

Unfortunately, just as quickly as Open Mind had burst on to the racing scene as a 2-year-old, so too did her meteoric career begin to fade away. She ended 1989 with a trio of defeats, including third-place finishes in the Ruffian Handicap and Breeders’ Cup Distaff behind the champion older female Bayakoa. But despite her late-season losses, Open Mind was still honored with the Eclipse award as champion 3-year-old filly.

In November, shortly after the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Open Mind was sold to the Japanese breeder Kazuo Nakamura for $4.6 million. Open Mind attempted a comeback late in the summer of 1990, but was never a factor in two races and was retired with a record of 12 wins, two seconds, and two thirds from 19 races. In 2011, more than 20 years after her retirement, Open Mind finally joined Ruffian, Go for Wand, and Silverbulletday in the Hall of Fame, a fitting tribute to a remarkably talented two-time champion.

Note: This story was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated.

Fun Facts

  • Throughout the majority of her career, Open Mind was owned by Eugene Klein, who also campaigned 1988 Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors. Klein also owned the San Diego Chargers NFL team.
  • As a broodmare, Open Mind produced two registered foals, both sired by the Hall of Fame runner Easy Goer. The first, a filly named Easy Mind, won two races from four starts in Japan, while the second – a gelding named Best Result – won two of 44 starts in the U.S. during a five-year career from 1995 to 1999.
  • During the course of her career, Open Mind won races at seven different distances from six to 12 furlongs.
  • Open Mind retired with a record of 12 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds from 19 starts, with earnings of $1,844,372.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!