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The great English mare Pretty Polly is an appropriate subject as we contemplate two more great mares — Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. Of the latter pair, Zenyatta is somewhat more like Pretty Polly, who was quite an Amazon.

In the Thoroughbred Record of 30 July 1904, this description of Pretty Polly tells us how she looked.

She is on more massive lines than Sceptre [winner of four English classics and older than Pretty Polly] and is probably not quite so high at the withers or on the leg. Her quarters are much bigger, however, and she carries far more substance than Sceptre ever did. Both are such grand mares that it would be invidious to make a comparison, but Pretty Polly has in many ways a masculine character, and anyone seeing her for the first time at some little distance would probably take her for a colt. Her bone is immense, and for a filly of such great substance, she carries a considerable amount of quality….

The English writer Hagioscope disagreed somewhat. He wrote that “Sceptre is, barring that she turns one of her fore feet in a trifle, a long way better on points than Pretty Polly. The latter has, I admit, lost much of the cobby look she had last year [at 2], but she seems just a bit too heavy quartered to stay well and her barrel is not so good as Sceptre’s.”

With the famous animals from the annals of history, just like our contemporary stars, greatness does not go undisputed.