A thoroughbred racing rarity was the rangy bay filly/mare Glorious Song.
She was the first Canadian thoroughbred to ever take down earnings of over $1 million. That made some history. But that was not her most noteworthy accomplishment.
Taking her dues from the females in America in enough stakes and handicap races to earn her recognition as U.S. Champion Older Female Horse in 1980 still was on down the list of her famous doings.
Even being selected as the Canadian Champion Older Female Horse in both 1980 and 1981 didn’t top her resumé of lifetime attainments.
In fact, Glorious Song didn’t win the races that brought her more acclaim and more race-industry applause that any of her 17 career wins.
She had competed against males before the Haskell Invitational Handicap in August of 1980. But she had never been in a field with the gray force named Spectacular Bid.
At Monmouth Park, a field of all colts save Glorious Song were stationed in the starting gate for the Haskell. Spectacular Bid was assigned 132 pounds with Glorious Song the second high-weight with a 117-pound impost. She was giving the rest of the field as much as seven pounds.
As the race progressed into the backstretch, Spectacular Bid was running comfortably in seventh place and Glorious Song was off the rail and striding unhurriedly along in sixth position.
She smoothly ate up the ground between herself and the leaders, and by the top of the stretch had a slight lead on all of the others. That inconsequential lead disappeared when Spectacular Bid drew from his wellspring of energy and outright talent and shoved his nose past Glorious Song.
As the last 200 yards of ground were chewed away and the finish line loomed near, the bold gray had taken the Haskell by a length and three-quarters over runner-up Glorious Song.
Maybe Gerry Belanger, her trainer, had expected to be heaving flowers to the crowd from the garland thrown around her neck as the race’s winner, but nobody else had visions of her ever finishing second, much less beating Spectacular Bid.
She earned her stripes in that race.
Her other most memorable race came in that same year. The second place in the Haskell had gotten her an invitation to join an all-male brigade in the Marlboro Cup to be staged at Belmont Park. She was the only Canadian-bred ever invited to that well-known race.
As had been the case in the Haskell, Glorious Song was doing her best to capture the imagination of all the racing world by running along to an upset. Well-placed behind an honest pace, she was within yards of the lead in mid-stretch, but then had Winter’s Tale move off to a comfortable win. She was second again as the only female in the race.
Those two runner-up finishes in races with all-male brigades brought her much creditabilty.
She had made a quiet and little noticed beginning as a one-race two-year-old in 1978. One race was all there was to that year and that came with a win in November.
Some 7 1/2 months later, only her second lifetime race was attempted. It was at Woodbine near Toronto. And she rollicked home a nine-length winner in an allowance race.
With two mostly unseen wins in two tries, she posted a third straight victory in the Ontario Damsel Stakes. The Damsel became only the first of four straight stakes successes.
Belanger was still her trainer when the 1980 race-season came around. Wins in three all-female stakes races were matched with three wins in stakes events against fields full of colts. Naturally, more attention was paid to her wins against the colts in the Michigan Mile and One-Eighth, Dominion Day Handicap in Canada, and Canadian Maturity on a turf course.
The first of her Canadian Champion Older Female Horse Awards came because of the 1980 season.
It was after she had won six of her 11 races there in 1980 that famed Texas oil millionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt bought a half-interest in her for $500,000.
Hunt installed John Cairns as her trainer of the moment. And off they went racing again.
The Spinster Stakes as well as the Santa Maria Handicap, both American races, were taken. Enough was accomplished that she could be fitted for a second straight Canadian Champion Older Female Horse of the Year photograph and a citation to that effect could be placed in an appropriate frame.
Racing ended for her with a fourth-place finish in her swan song. It was in the Silver Belles Handicap at Hollywood Park. And the purse money of $7,500 nudged her past the $1 million mark at $1,004,534.
Glorious Song had faced colts in 12 of her 34 lifetime races. She had won three times against such competition. There had been 17 wins and nine second-place finishes. Once she was third.
The Canadian Hall of Fame inducted her in 1995.
Even with that $1 million in racetrack earnings, Glorious Song was more successful as a broodmare. Her son, Rahy, was a multi-stakes winner and has been a prolific producer of stakes champions himself as a sire. Her granddaughter, Serena’s Song, is in the U.S. Hall of Fame.
Fantastic Light was selected as the European Horse of the Year in 1981. Another son, Singspiel, received a 1996 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Male Turf Horse while winning races on three continents. Those wins were in the Japan Cup, Dubai World Cup, Canadian International Stakes, Coronation Cup, and International Stakes.
The first Canadian millionaire.
Horse of the Year in two countries.
And an ultra-successful broodmare.
Glorious Song still drew most of her acclaim in life from finishing second to Spectacular Bid in a Haskell Invitational and then later coming home second to another colt, Winter’s Tale, in a Marlboro Cup.