Very few mares have tackled the males in this race, and fewer still have won. The last to do so was also arguably the best. She was Gallorette, one of the most remarkable members of one of the deepest handicap divisions in American racing history and a four-legged embodiment of the "can-do" spirit of American women that made Rosie the Riveter an icon and sent others into military or military auxiliary service as nurses, WACs (Army), WAVES (Navy) and WASPs (pilots who ferried planes from factories to military bases).
A daughter of Challenger II and the Sir Gallahad III mare Gallette, Gallorette was a child of the World War II era, having been foaled in 1942. She was useful at 2 and very good at 3 when competing against her own sex, but it was at 4 that she truly came into her own and showed what she was made of in the rough-and-tumble of the handicap division.
Unlike the modern era, in which good sex-restricted races for older females are plentiful, handicap racing of the 1940s had few such havens for the fair sex. If a mare was going to compete for big money and prestige, she pretty much had to knock heads with the boys to do it. That was fine with Gallorette. A big, rather masculine mare, she was as strapping as most of the males she faced off against and was not in the least intimidated by any of them.
Gallorette was at her peak in the early spring and late summer of 1946. and she needed every ounce of her speed and toughness in that year's Metropolitan Handicap. Run on May 11 that year, the race was considered one of the best renewals ever, its 14 entrants including 1945 Preakness Stakes winner Polynesian (who would win a championship when official voting in the sprint category was reinstated in 1947); the tough handicapper First Fiddle; 1945 American champion 3-year-old male Fighting Step; and the extremely fast Buzfuz. Gallorette was the only filly or mare entered, but when four horses came slugging it out to the wire in a blanket finish, it was Gallorette's nose that showed in front, with San Carlos Handicap winner Sirde second and First Fiddle another nose back in third.
Gallorette needed even more fortitude on June 22, when she came out for the 10-furlong Brooklyn Handicap at Aqueduct. The field lacked the overall balance of the one that had contested the Met Mile, but the one rival who mattered was Stymie, the champion handicap male of 1945. Also honed to a razor's edge, the horse carried 128 pounds to Gallorette's 118, a 5-pound break for the filly with her sex allowance considered. Stymie was known for his late-running stretch charges, and there were few horses indeed who could withstand one of his knockout punches when there had been some pace up front to set it up.
Two longshots, Ekyad and Helioptic, obliged by setting up an honest pace in the early going, and then it was time for the Big Two to show their stuff. Gallorette got the first jump, taking the lead at the top of the stretch, but behind her, Stymie was fully uncorked and coming on. Just past the quarter pole, Stymie's surge carried him to the lead, and this was usually where his rivals suddenly looked as though they had been thrown into reverse gear. But Gallorette was having none of it. She fought back, regaining the lost ground inch by painful inch, and at the wire it was her head and a scrap of her neck that showed in front.
Voted the champion handicap mare of 1946, Gallorette raced on for two more seasons before finally joining her two-legged sisters in retiring to more peaceful pursuits. All told, the rugged mare raced 72 times, winning 21 starts and placing in another 33. 54 of her starts were against males, and she won 13 of those, facing off against horses such as 1947 Horse of the Year Armed, 1946 Triple Crown winner and American Horse of the Year Assault, Stymie, and Lucky Draw, who retired having equaled one world record and set five other track records. She couldn't beat them all, but she was always a contender who gave no quarter and asked none, and any male who tackled the Amazonian mare knew he had been in a horse race.
Gallorette's memory lives on in more places than the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame, to which she was named in 1962. Two of her seven named foals were stakes winners and successful producers, and through her daughter Courbette, Gallorette is the ancestress of a family developed by Edward Evans that includes 2005 American Horse of the Year Saint Liam, 2017 American Horse of the Year Gun Runner, 1986 Irish champion 2-year-old filly Minstrella and 1973 Argentine champion sire Dancing Moss. Her descendants are a fitting legacy to a mare who was one of the finest warriors of her breed in an era now largely beyond living memory. May her tribe increase and her memory remain green.