Dahlia is regarded as the equine pioneer of international racing with her frequent trips to Washington, Toronto and New York in the mid 1970s. At a time when transatlantic travel was generally limited to a single round-trip flight from Europe to North America, Dahlia logged an incredible 26,000 miles during her career, racing in six countries. A daughter of Arc winner Vaguely Noble, she was foaled in Kentucky but was raised in France. She is best remembered for upsetting the world’s best males, defeating ten classic winning colts, including winners of the English, French and Irish Derbys, the Arc de Triomphe, Irish St. Leger, Grand Prix de Paris and Belmont Stakes.
Dahlia was the first European horse to win the Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont and the Canadian International Championship at Woodbine in 1974, the first filly to win the Washington D.C. International and the only horse – male or female – to win group or grade 1 stakes in England, France, Ireland, Canada and the U.S. Dahlia was owned and bred by Texas oilman Nelson Bunker Hunt and trained in France by Maurice Zilber.
She was the first thoroughbred mare to earn more than $1 million, and might have been the first to earn $2 million if she had been able to handle her long-time female nemesis, Allez France, who defeated her six times on European turf. Dahlia’s running style roused fans as she often sped from back of the pack to overhaul the frontrunners with an explosive acceleration. In the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot she was last entering the straight but defeated male horses of her age and older, winning by six lengths over Epsom Derby winner Roberto. Her honours include European Champion 3-year-old, U.K. Horse of the Year, an Eclipse award as Champion Turf Horse and a member of the U.S. racing hall of fame.
There were doubts of Dahlia’s proficiency as a broodmare. Fillies that excelled in major stakes company, and raced as often as she had, 48 times over a five-year career, often were failures as producers of quality racing stock. However, she proved as great a producer as she was a racehorse. Of eleven foals to race, she produced four Gr. 1 winners and two Gr. 2 winners.