Give Mom Her Due

Mom's Command has slipped through the cracks again. After having her name on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2005, the 1985 New York filly Triple Crown winner was conspicuous by her absence this year.

So, what else is new? Thoroughbred racing feeds off improbable tales that tug at the heart strings, and when one comes along, a fan and media frenzy ensues. But for some inexplicable reason, the Sport of Kings has turned a deaf ear to the story of Mom's Command. And this latest snub is just another indication of the sport's negligence in recognizing this remarkable filly's accomplishments and the Hollywood script that was written for her two decades ago. Those accomplishments continue to wither with the years, and the National Velvet script has long since been discarded.

This is not to imply that the three sensational fillies who are on the ballot this year are not all worthy of enshrinement. But considering Mom's Command raced years before Sky Beauty, Inside Information, and Silverbulletday, it is incomprehensible that she has not been elected by now.

Hall of Fame aside, the story of Mom's Command is one that should have been embraced when it was written, and nurtured over the years, so it would be assured of its rightful place in racing lore. Here was a filly who was bred and owned by one of racing's most colorful figures, Peter Fuller, who in 1968 fought the Kentucky establishment against the controversial disqualification of his colt, Dancer's Image, in the Kentucky Derby. After a long battle and $250,000 in legal fees, Fuller finally had to give up the fight. Less than a year later, Butazolidin, the drug that was detected in Dancer's Image, was legalized in Kentucky.

In 1985, Fuller was back in the national spotlight with Mom's Command. To give the story a true Hollywood flavor, the filly was ridden by Fuller's daughter, Abigail. Remember, this was prior to the Julie Krone era. There had been a few successful female riders, but none had ever come remotely close to riding a champion. Then, from Suffolk Downs came Abby Fuller aboard a chestnut bolt of lightning owned and bred by her father.

Mom's Command went into the 1985 season having captured four stakes at two, including the grade I Selima and grade II Astarita. The Ned Allard-trained daughter of Top Command knew only one way to run, and that was as fast as she could from start to finish. This style of running often leaves a horse vulnerable to other speedsters, especially in long-distance races. But Mom's Command was a winning machine at three. In nine starts, the only two fillies to finish in front of her were future Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Lady's Secret and the brilliant Clocks Secret, one of the fastest sprinters in the country.

Not only did Mom's Command sweep the New York Racing Association's Filly Triple Crown, consisting of the grade I Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks, she also captured the prestigious Alabama (gr. I) and three other stakes. This record alone made her worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame.

But what should have been her ticket, not only to the Hall of Fame, but the history books, was her feat of never having run in any race other than a stakes in her 16-race career and winning at 5 furlongs, 6 furlongs, 6 1/2 furlongs, 7 furlongs, one mile, 1 1/16 miles, 1 1/8 miles, 1 1/4 miles, and 1 1/2 miles. And she did it on the lead every step of the way while being ridden by a 26-year-old woman at a time when female riders as a whole were held in low regard by fans, trainers, and owners.

Some feel Mom's Command's closing fractions were too slow, but there is no rule saying races have to be won in the final quarter. What about winning after running a :44 1/5 half in the Acorn, a :45 half in the Mother Goose, and unheard fractions of :46 1/5 and 1:10 3/5 in the 1 1/2-mile CCA Oaks?

This was a story for the ages, and racing blew it. Sadly, it continues to do so.