Eclipse Award: Intercontinental, Turf Female

"Yeah, she's ba-aad," to paraphrase the song, but far more than "nationwide" -- she's Intercontinental. Carrying champion blood, raw talent, and an insolent rock 'n' roll attitude, the Juddmonte Farms homebred captured five graded stakes and a Breeders' Cup statue as North America's outstanding turf female in 2005.

But it was almost not to be for the then 5-year-old daughter of Danehill. Intercontinental was nearly retired to the Lexington farm of owner Khalid Abdullah after wrapping up 2004 with a win in the Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) at Hollywood and a nod as an Eclipse Award finalist. The decision to keep her in training paid off handsomely.

A stakes winner in France and classic-placed in England before entering the barn of trainer Bobby Frankel in early 2004, British-bred Intercontinental is the fourth foal produced from the Kahyasi mare Hasili. Stakes winner Hasili is also the dam of multiple European champion and full brother to Intercontinental, Dansili; Eclipse and European champion full sister Banks Hill, who captured the 2001 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT); and multiple grade I turf winner Heat Haze, by Green Desert.

Always easy to spot, carrying the pink and green Juddmonte silks, Intercontinental has a spirited mindset that is evident from her trouble lines -- "rank early" on two occasions, "very rank early," and "pulled."

"If she was easy to ride she probably never would have gotten beat," said Frankel. "She could have been one of the best ever."

Though her 2005 campaign got underway late, it began in earnest. She captured her second Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IIIT) in April at Keeneland, where she won all three of her lifetime outings.

Keeneland was also the scene of the warning shot she fired at her Breeders' Cup competitors when she controlled the pace for a driving three-quarter-length win in the one-mile WinStar Galaxy Stakes (gr. IIT) Oct. 9. Exhibiting her best behavior, it was a show of professionalism that portended big things, but questions about the rugged 1 ΒΌ-mile distance of the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf lingered.

Not, however, for her Hall of Fame trainer.

"I watched her pull for the whole mile-and-an-eighth at Del Mar (third in the July 23 John C. Mabee Handicap, gr. IT), and she was still coming at the end," said Frankel. "That's a lot harder on a horse than the extra distance, so I knew she could do it."

First call rider Jerry Bailey opted elsewhere on championship day, choosing to ride 2004 Eclipse-winning turf diva Ouija Board, who was looking to repeat. But in the end, the cold, gray, windy day at Belmont Park belonged to the fiery mare and Peruvian-born rider Rafael Bejarano.

Breaking in mid-pack from post position 10, Intercontinental hit an easy front-runner's stride early. Unchallenged on the lead, she and Bejarano saved enough energy for the stretch drive, holding off a late charge from Lord Derby's Ouija Board, who finished second, a neck ahead of Film Maker.

Dr. John Chandler, racing manager of Juddmonte, said the farm was thrilled about the addition of Intercontinental to a broodmare band rivaling any in the industry.

"She's a lovely mare, and just like the rest of the family, she's very nice to be around," Chandler said.

Chandler said plans call for her first mating to be to Juddmonte stallion Empire Maker. Chandler said Hasili has also been brought from Juddmonte's European program to be bred to the 2003 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner.

With $1,271,200 in earnings, five wins from seven starts, all in graded stakes, the record for 2005 left little doubt about Intercontinental joining past Eclipse winners, a list that includes Banks Hill.

Her career statistics also bear mentioning -- grade I wins on both coasts, eight graded stakes wins, placing in six graded/group stakes, and on the board in 20 of 22 starts -- for earnings of $2,052,463.

"She was a kind horse and very easy to train in the mornings," said Frankel of the champion. "Everything she did was first class."

Not bad.

Voting for Female Turf Horse:
Intercontinental, 245; Cesario, 8; Megahertz, 2; Gorella, 1; Ouija Board, 1; Sweet Talker, 1; Voter Abstentions, 4.