November 29, 2021

The Mean Queen secures steeplechase crown in Grand National

The Mean Queen wins the Jonathan Sheppard Stakes (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

The Mean Queen ran herself into the racing history books in multiple ways with a gutsy victory in the $150,000 Grand National (G1) at Far Hills, New Jersey, on Saturday.

The Irish-bred five-year-old became the first female winner of the Grand National in nearly a century, since Sea Tale captured the 1923 edition held at Belmont Park. Only three mares had placed in the event since then, the most recent being 2007 runner-up Sweet Shani.

The Grand National was also the third Grade 1 victory of the year for The Mean Queen, virtually assuring her an Eclipse Award as the 2021 champion steeplechaser. The only female ever previously awarded the honor was Life’s Illusion, in 1975. Life’s Illusion placed third in the following year’s Grand National.

“When I started training at the beginning of this year, I hoped in the first five years I’d win an Eclipse Award,” said trainer Keri Brion, a protégé of the now-retired Hall of Fame conditioner Jonathan Sheppard. “I thought that was very far-fetched and hopeful. She should win the Eclipse Award after today.”

The 9-10 favorite in a field of four, The Mean Queen rated in second behind Amschel for much of the 2 5/8-mile journey. Taking over racing around the far turn for the final time, The Mean Queen was soon challenged by Snap Decision, the second choice in the wagering and her lone opponent in the Eclipse race.

Still clinging to the lead after the final fence, The Mean Queen held tough on the run-in to the wire and beat Snap Decision by three-quarters of a length. Amschel finished a distant third, while Chosen Mate trailed throughout.

Owned by Buttonwood Farm and ridden by Richard Condon, The Mean Queen paid $3.80.

The Mean Queen made her racing debut in Ireland last November, competing in a pair of point-to-point flat races before commencing her hurdles career with a maiden win at Wexford on April 9. Imported shortly thereafter, she captured her first two outings in the U.S., including the Margaret Currey Henley S. at Nashville in late June on the same card Snap Decision won the season’s first Grade 1 event, the Iroquois.

Seemingly on her way to victory in her next start, the July 28 Jonathan Kiser Novice S. at Saratoga when up more than six lengths, The Mean Queen ducked and dumped her rider in deep stretch. She rebounded by taking the Jonathan Sheppard H., the Grade 1 formerly known as the New York Turf Writers Cup, and then beat Snap Decision by two lengths in their first meeting, the Sept. 16 Lonesome Glory (G1) at Belmont Park.

“It’s only her first year of racing. It’s just amazing, she’s just literally a gift from God,” Brion said. “I’m just so fortunate to train her.”

Bred by Kevin Purfield, The Mean Queen is by Doyen and out of Gail Borden, by Kris Kin.