Celebrated USA mare Personal Ensign died on Friday just hours before Zenyatta stretched her unbeaten record to 16 from 16 in the G1 Apple Blossom Hcp at Oaklawn Park. Zenyatta equalled Personal Ensign’s record of 13 straight wins when she won the G1 Lady’s Secret Stakes last October.
A homebred campaigned by the late Ogden Phipps, Personal Ensign was prepared throughout her career by Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
By Private Account from Hoist The Flag mare Grecian Banner, Personal Ensign was foaled at Claiborne in April 1984. Her older brother Personal Flag was a G1 winner of the Haskell Invitational, Travers Stakes and Woodward Stakes but that record was overshadowed by his kid sister.
Personal Ensign won on debut by 12 lengths at Belmont Park and then jumped straight up to G1 company to win the Frizette Stakes. Her two-year-old campaign was brought to a sudden halt after fracturing her left hind pastern.
Brought back with the greatest care by McGaughey, Personal Ensign reappeared after a year on the sidelines to win two allowance events and the G2 Rare Perfume Stakes. She returned to the elite level in the Beldame Stakes and duly rolled home by two lengths.
As a four year-old in 1988, Personal Ensign won the G1 Shuvee and Hempstead Handicaps before her first sortie away from Belmont resulted in a G2 victory at Monmouth Park in the Molly Pitcher Hcp.
Having established her supremacy over mares, Personal Ensign won the G1 Whitney Hcp at Saratoga from champion sprinter Gulch. Back at Belmont, Personal Ensign reeled in Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors in the G1 Maskette Stakes and then coasted to a five length title defence of her Beldame crown.
Personal Ensign put her perfect mark on the line in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs in what turned out to be one of the most exciting contests in racing history.
While Winning Colors tried to emulate her wire-to-wire Kentucky Derby triumph, Personal Ensign was floundering in the mud. The unbeaten mare appeared to be up against it but she somehow dug deep with a relentless rally and thrust her nose in front in the nick of time.
Retired to Claiborne Farm she became a highly successful producer. Her foals include the G1 winner s Miner’s Mark (Jockey Club Gold Cup), My Flag (BC Juvenile Fillies) and Traditionally (Oaklawn Hcp) who shuttled to New Zealand for four years until 2006.
Personal Ensign was 26. She was pensioned after her final foal, a Forest Wildcat colt, died in 2007. She will be buried at Claiborne Farm alongside Easy Goer and her own sire Private Account.
“Personal Ensign was the first Breeders’ Cup winner for my grandfather,” Daisy Phipps Pulito said. “She was just a very special horse to everyone in our family and it’s a very sad day for all of us.”