A bay filly by Private Account out of Grecian Banner (by Hoist The Flag), she was the undefeated winner of 13 races and won $1,679,880 in the United States from 1986 to 1988. For this feat, she was voted the 1988 Eclipse Award as the American Champion Older Female Horse.
At The Races
Personal Ensign was bred and raced by Ogden Phipps. Produced from a mating of Phipp's homebred stallion, Private Account, and the mare Grecian Banner, Personal Ensign was a full sister to Personal Flag. Their combined exploits in 1988 led to their dam, Grecian Banner, being named Kentucky Broodmare of the Year...a feat Personal Ensign would later also accomplish.
Personal Ensign began her racing career as a two-year-old in 1986 with Randy Romero as her regular jockey. He would be aboard her for all but one of her thirteen wins. In her first season, she won a maiden race as well as the prestigious Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park. A fracture to her pastern bone cut short her two-year-old season shortly before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, a race she would have been favored to win. Dr. Bramlage had to insert five screws in her left hind leg. Many people were sure her racing career was over.
Returning to the races late in her three-year-old year, Personal Ensign resumed her winning ways, taking four more races, including two stakes. Her biggest win that year was the Beldame Stakes against older mares.
Personal Ensign shone in 1988, winning all seven of her starts. Her wins included the Shuvee Stakes, the Hempstead Stakes (by a whopping seven lengths), the Maskette Stakes, and Beldame Stakes—all prestigious Grade I races against fillies. At Saratoga, she defeated males in the historic Whitney Handicap. Her swan song was a nose victory over Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, a race that is often referred to as the most exciting finish in Breeder's Cup history.
Personal Ensign was retired following the Breeder's Cup as the first undefeated champion in American racing in over 80 years.
In the Foaling Barn
Personal Ensign became one of the most important broodmares of the 20th century. Her first foal, Miner's Mark, was a G1 winner. Her second foal, Our Emblem, was a G1-placed runner who went on to sire notable runners including Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem. A third son, Traditionally, was also a G1 winner and sire. Personal Ensign's best runner was a daughter, My Flag. My Flag won four G1 races, including the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in a race eerily similar to Personal Ensign's 1988 Breeders' Cup win. Her career earnings totaled over $1,500,000, just $100,000 less than Personal Ensign had earned. Like Personal Ensign, My Flag went on to achieve great success as a broodmare, producing the 2002 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, and that year's Eclipse Award-Winning Champion 2-Year Old Filly, Storm Flag Flying. This three-generation success in the Breeder's Cup has not been duplicated by any other mare, and only by one group of stallions.
In September 2006, at the age of 22, Personal Ensign (after coming up barren from a mating with Forest Wildcat) was pensioned to the Hancock family's Claiborne Farm. Said Claiborne breeding shed manager Charles Koch, "She's still in good shape, looks good, and gets around fine. She's just a little arthritic. She'll be spending time out in the field with other mares Korveya, Arabian Dancer, and Narrate."
Personal Ensign was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1993. She was named 1996 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year.
In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Personal Ensign was ranked No. 48.
Personal Ensign's last foal was a 2006 colt by Forest Wildcat.