Beldame was one of the great racing fillies of Twentieth century American breeding.
A Horse to Lease
The chestnut was foaled near Lexington, Kentucky in 1901 by Octagon, out of the English bred Bella Donna (by the Epsom Derby winner Hermit). Named Beldame, she was a homebred of August Belmont II's (after whose family the Belmont Stakes as well as Belmont Park were named), and though Belmont, Jr. continued to own her, he leased her as a two-year- and three-year-old to a business associate named Newton Bennington. Although she'd won two races before going to Bennington, it was while racing for him that Beldame began her great career, earning her place as number 98 in the Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century.
(Aside from Beldame, Belmont bred 129 stakes winners, including Man o' War. The colt was originally named My Man O' War by his wife since August Jr. had enlisted in World War I at the age of 65. Because of this war, he sold his greatest horse to Samuel D. Riddle for $5,000, a pittance.)
Against All Comers
When she was three, she won twelve of her fourteen starts, earned the championship of her division, and her only loses were to older males. She dominated all females, and defeated males constantly. Because of this, track officials everywhere weighted her so heavily she won only twice at the age of four.
It didn't matter. Beldame had made her mark. The only way to stop her was to handicap her. So she stopped racing, retiring with 17 wins, 6 places, and 4 shows from 31 starts, Her earnings amounted to $102,570. After Firenze and Miss Woodford, she was the third filly to win more than $100,000.
Belmont took her back at the age of four to the re-creation of his father's Nursery Stud, the original farm being dispersed after August Belmont's death.
Trained by Belmont's trainer, Hall of Famer John J. Hyland (with whom he was arguing, one of the reasons Belmont leased out what would be his best filly), and then by Bennington's, Hall of Famer Fred Burlew, she could win short or long. Beldame was almost unbeatable.
Beldame had a mind of her own, and oddly did not like oats. What she liked to eat was ear corn. She ate at least seven ears a day, right off the cob.
As a two-year-old, she won the Great Filly Stakes at Sheepshead Bay, and the Vernal Stakes (wiring the field).
At three, she took the Alabama Stakes, the Gazelle Handicap (by ten lengths on a sloppy track), the Carter Handicap (against males by over two lengths under a stout hold), the Ladies Stakes, the Saratoga Cup (beating the year older Belmont Stakes winner and Champion Three-Year-Colt, Africander), the First Special, the Second Special, the Dolphin Sakes, the Mermaid Stakes (winning by seven lengths and drawing away from the field even as she was being eased up), and the September Stakes.
In the Ladies Stakes, Beldame got loose under her substitute rider before the race and galloped all over the track looking for an opening to run back to the barn. She found it before her jockey, Gene Hildebrand, got her under control. Even so, she was back on the track minutes later, started well, led all the way, and easily came home the winner...even being eased at the end. (Hall of Famer, Frank O'Neill, was her usual rider.)
At four, she won the Standard Handicap, and then, carrying more weight than the males, she won the Suburban Handicap, beating among other classy males, the great Broomstick, by five lengths. She did lose the 1905 Brighton Handicap, but that was to the great filly Artful, no. 94 in the Bloodhorse list of the 100 best racehorses of the Twentieth century.
In a poll among members of the American Trainers Association, conducted in 1955 by Delaware Park Racetrack, Beldame was voted the seventh greatest filly in American racing history. Gallorette was voted first.
Beldame, who died in 1923, was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1956.