How does Malathaat stack up against top fillies past and present?

August 30th, 2021

If you’ve been following horse racing at even a casual level this season, you’ve probably heard about Malathaat.

Trained by Todd Pletcher on behalf of Shadwell Stable, the talented three-year-old filly is nearly unbeatable and well on her way to a championship.

But what makes this special sophomore stand out? Let’s dive into the data, crunch some numbers, run some comparisons, and explore how Malathaat stacks up against fellow fillies and mares from past and present.

A clear-cut division leader

There’s a simple reason why everyone is talking about Malathaat — she is quite talented and keeps winning.

From a pedigree perspective, Malathaat has always been cut out to be a star. She is a daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, out of the Grade 1-winning mare Dreaming of Julia, which explains why Malathaat sold for $1.05 million as a yearling.

Many expensive youngsters fail to earn back their purchase price, but Malathaat is an exception. Her résumé stands at six wins and one second from seven starts, with five stakes wins and earnings of $1,555,150.

Malathaat has been especially impressive this season, with victories in the Ashland S. (G1), Kentucky Oaks (G1), and Alabama S. (G1). She is the only three-year-old filly with multiple Grade 1 wins on dirt this year, and her seasonal earnings of $1,383,000 tower over all other division members.

Along the way, Malathaat has defeated almost every other notable member of her division, including the fillies ranked No. 2 through No. 6 on the earnings chart.

She has also faced challenging circumstances. In the Alabama, a wide trip forced Malathaat to run 41 feet farther than the runner-up, yet Malathaat still came out on top, by 1 1/2 lengths.

Just how fast is Malathaat?

The secret to Malathaat’s success is her versatility and improving speed figures. She kicked off the year in the Ashland, where she rallied to win by a head, with a modest 93 Brisnet Speed rating.

But that figure was the result of a pedestrian early pace that made a fast final time impossible. Malathaat’s 106 Late Pace rating, on the other hand, properly captured the strength of her stretch rally and that she still had plenty left in the tank.

Malathaat posted a 103 Speed rating when she rallied to victory in the Kentucky Oaks and a 102 when second, by a head, in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), her lone defeat. On both occasions, Malathaat showed the ability to run fast in the middle of a race. She earned E2 Pace ratings of 108 (Kentucky Oaks) and 103 (Coaching Club American Oaks).

In the Alabama, Malathaat stepped forward again. In her first opportunity to stretch out to 1 1/4 miles, her longest trip to date, Malathaat put up a 107 Speed rating and a 105 Late Pace rating.

How does Malathaat stack up against older mares?

The next challenge for Malathaat is to step outside her age group and face older mares, with the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) looming as the target. A win at the Breeders' Cup would place Malathaat alongside Monomoy Girl (2018), Untapable (2014), and Ashado (2004) as only the fourth filly since 2000 to complete the Kentucky Oaks/Breeders’ Cup Distaff double.

Beating older rivals is never easy, but Malathaat’s Brisnet Speed ratings suggest she is up to the task. The two standout older dirt females this year are Letruska (who boasts five wins from six starts this season) and Shedaresthedevil (the 2020 Kentucky Oaks winner who has won three races from four starts this season).

Letruska has been on fire this year. Her highlights include frontrunning scores in the Apple Blossom H. (G1), Ogden Phipps S. (G1), and Personal Ensign S. (G1). But, in chronological order, her Brisnet Speed ratings have been 99, 98, 98, 104, 102, and 100, so she hasn’t run quite as fast as Malathaat.

The same goes for Shedaresthedevil. While she posted a 106 in the Kentucky Oaks last season, her three victories this year (including a narrow win over Letruska in the Grade 2 Azeri S.) have produced Speed ratings of 98. The numbers suggest she will need improvement to hang with Malathaat.

Where might Malathaat rank among champion three-year-olds?

It is safe to say Malathaat has secured a significant head start in the race to be voted champion three-year-old filly at the Eclipse Awards. Compared to the past 10 years of division champions, Malathaat’s résumé through the first eight months of the season stacks up quite favorably.

With three Grade 1 wins, Malathaat trumps the year-to-date résumés of Royal Delta (one Grade 1 win), Questing (two), Beholder (two), Untapable (two), Stellar Wind (one), Songbird (three, but not the Kentucky Oaks), Covfefe (one), and Swiss Skydiver (one).

Malathaat ranks roughly on par with Abel Tasman (three Grade 1 wins, including the Kentucky Oaks) and trails Monomoy Girl (four Grade 1 wins, including the Kentucky Oaks).

Where Malathaat ultimately ranks among recent champions will depend, of course, on how she concludes her year. Tentative plans call for Malathaat to train up to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which will likely b her final run of the season. Should Malathaat prevail, she’ll end the year with four Grade 1 wins, one shy of the five accumulated by Kentucky Oaks/Distaff winner Monomoy Girl in 2018.

But Monomoy Girl is shaping up as a future Hall of Fame inductee, so there is no shame in ranking behind her as the second-most decorated champion three-year-old filly in recent memory. That’s an honor Malathaat is bound to claim if she maintains her winning ways, as the numbers suggest she will.