Belle Geste

Hall of Fame Inductee, 1990

There wasn’t a better grass horse – male or female – in Canada in the early 1970s than Belle Geste. The long-striding filly dominated turf racing at Woodbine and Fort Erie. Owned by Beatrice and Bill Latimer of Toronto and trained by Carl Chapman, the daughter of The Scoundrel-French Safari was bred by Jim Boylen and was purchased at the 1969 CTHS yearling sales for $7,000. She retired following the 1972 season with a career record of 22 wins, 11 seconds and two show finishes from 41 starts. Eight of her wins came in stakes races.

Nicknamed “Lana Turner” by her effervescent trainer “Chappie”, the grass-loving filly excelled in stakes races against the males. They brought out the best in her as she ran long and extremely fast as evidenced by her track records in the Marshall Turf Course in the 1971 Breeders’ Stakes and the 1972 Canadian Maturity. Her win in the Maturity was certainly one of the greatest duels ever witnessed at Woodbine. The robust filly and Queen’s Plate winner Kennedy Road hooked up coming out of the gate in the 1 1/4-mile event and it was basically a match-race between them as they ran in tandem for 10 furlongs. At the wire it was Belle Geste and jockey Noel Turcotte by a neck. Her record clocking of 2:01 2/5 stood until 1988.

In 1971, Belle Geste set the Woodbine 1 1/2-mile record with her victory over the boys in the Breeders’ Stakes, a mark that stood for 20 years. She also whipped the boys in the Niagara Stakes at Fort Erie. Her other stakes wins came in the prestigious Nettie (now called the E.P. Taylor), Canadian, International Handicap and back-to-back runnings of the Nassau Stakes, upsetting Horse of the Year Laurie’s Dancer in 1972. At the age of two her finest outing was a narrow loss to Queen Louie in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes.

One of her greatest races came in defeat when she lost by a neck to North American grass champion Droll Role in the Canadian International. After the race Droll Role’s owner, John Schiff, sought out Mrs. Latimer and said, “You have a great, great filly. I would be honored if you would consider breeding Belle Geste and Droll Role.” A few weeks later the two horses met again in the rich Washington, D.C., International at Laurel. Belle Geste refused to relax and broke out badly in the saddling area and ran rank. She and Kentucky Derby winner Riva Ridge set a suicidal pace, “cooking” their chances. She finished fifth ahead of Riva Ridge and was voted top Older Filly or Mare in Canada.