The strangely named Cicada (born 1959), owned by Meadow Stable, and trained by J. H. “Casey” Hayes, is one of the greatest fillies in the annals of racing and a blueblood of bluebloods. Her dam, Satsuma, was out of Hildene (by 1926 Kentucky Derby winner Bubbling Over), who was a prolific producer of quality offspring (a “blue-hen” mare) and the first horse acquired by Christopher T. Chenery (Meadow Stable).

Yet Cicada was not the best horse ever bred by Chenery, as that honor goes to Secretariat.

By today’s standards, Cicada’s number of starts is remarkable. She raced throughout 1961 and 1962, six months in 1963, and had one start in 1964. Incredibly, she started 16 times as a 2-year-old and 17 times as a 3-year-old. Her lifetime record was 42 starts (23 wins, 8 seconds, and 6 thirds) and $783,674 in earnings (equivalent to about $5.8 million in 2012).

Cicada won the 1962 Kentucky Oaks by three lengths on a sloppy track with Bill Shoemaker up. The Daily Racing Form described her win as “Easily.”

Cicada is a historical example of “What might have been.” She had finished second by a nose to Ridan in the Florida Derby and handily won the Oaks Prep one week before the Kentucky Derby. These sensational preps stirred talk of bringing her back in the Kentucky Derby.

However, her stablemate was Sir Gaylord, the older half-brother to Secretariat and the hands-down favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. In a heart-breaking development, Sir Gaylord suffered a career-ending injury in a morning workout on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby (Kentucky Oaks day). Although Cicada was entered in both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, her connections had only hours to make a decision and opted for the Oaks later on Friday.

After the Kentucky Oaks, Cicada contested the Triple Crown for fillies, coming up short in the Coaching Club American Oaks after winning the Acorn and the Mother Goose. Her only bad race in the remainder of 1962 was in the Travers, where she ran seventh. The race winner was Jaipur, who prevailed by a nose over Ridan in a memorable finish.

It is hard to imagine that Cicada’s long string of performances in so many graded stakes, against both colts and fillies, will be rivaled by fillies and mares of the present or future. (Zenyatta comes closest, though she ran in fewer than half the races as Cicada.) Cicada was champion filly in 1961, 1962, and 1963. She is ranked 62nd on the Blood-Horse’s list of the top 100 racehorses of the 20th century.

Cicada was retired after one race in 1964, in which she incurred a minor injury. Her stint as a broodmare did not live up to expectations. She died in 1981 at age 22.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business