Racing: Equine suffragettes: The six fillies who have beaten the big boys to Derby glory at Epsom

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1801: Eleanor

THE first filly to win the Derby started as the 5-4 favourite in a field of 11 runners and beat an un-named colt with another of the fair sex, Remnant, third. Eleanor, who was a light bay daughter of Whiskey and was owned by Sir Charles Bunbury, went on to win the Oaks on the following day and stayed in training until she was seven, picking up a total of 26 winsr. But the story that her trainer, Jem Frost, died a few days before Epsom and croaked to a priest with his last gasp, "Depend on it, that Eleanor is the hell of a mare" is - sadly - apocryphal. Her one legacy at stud was that her first-born son became the grandsire of the "emperor of stallions", Stockwell. These days, her image regularly appears on place- mats and trays.

1857: Blink Bonny

A LEADING juvenile, she was one of the winter Derby favourites but started the race at 20-1, having run only fifth in the 1,000 Guineas after a bout of toothache. On the big day, though, the sweet-natured bay was back to her best and led inside the final furlong to beat the 200-1 shot Black Tommy a neck. She followed up by eight lengths in the Oaks, but was pulled by her crooked jockey in the St Leger and only the presence of the prizefighter Tom Sayers prevented the crowd venting their ire on her innocent Malton- based owner-trainer William l'Anson. She has the proud record of being the only Derby winner to give birth to another; her son Blair Athol not only won in 1864 but also avenged his mother's undeserved defeat at Doncaster.

1882: Shotover

THIS was the year of girl power; for the only time in history no colt won a Classic, and - also uniquely - fillies filled the places in the St Leger. Shotover, a lovely, but rather delicate daughter of Hermit, broke her maiden in the 2,000 Guineas two days before a neck defeat by St Marguerite in the 1,000. The Duke of Westminster's chestnut, second choice at 11-2 for the Derby, may have been lucky that the favourite, Bruce, was incompetently ridden, but she won well none the less, beating her Guineas runner-up Quicklime by three-parts of a length. She sidestepped the Oaks, won by her Kingsclere stablemate Geheimniss, and finished third to Dutch Oven and Geheimniss in the St Leger before winning the Park Hill Stakes.

1908: Signorinetta

Mills & Boon, eat your heart out. This story begins with Signorina, a filly owned and trained by an eccentric Newmarket-based Italian, Odoardo Ginistrelli. She was a high-class runner - second in the 1890 Oaks - but a problem as a broodmare, barren for nine years before rewarding her owner's faith with the colt Signorino. But then more barren years followed, until one spring Ginistrelli noticed that his darling always whinnied to an unfashionable stallion called Chaleureux as he was led past her paddock. He arranged their union, based on "the boundless laws of sympathy and love", and the result was mousey little Signorinetta, who took the Derby by two lengths at 100-1, the Oaks two days later, and never won again.

1912: Tagalie

She is the only grey filly to have won a Derby and the only Blue Riband heroine to attempt the Oaks and fail. After a fairly undistinguished juvenile career she made her three-year-old debut in the 1,000 Guineas (at "20- 1 others") but made all to win in a canter. And it was more or less the same story in the Derby; Johnny Reiff gave a superb display of waiting in front and nothing could get near the rangy, strong-quartered Cyllene filly, who hacked up by four lengths at 100-8. Two days later, with George Stern employing hold-up tactics on rain- softened going, she could finish only fifth in the Oaks. She was trained in Newmarket by Dawson Waugh, private trainer to financier Walter Raphael, whose only Classic winner she was.

1916: Fifinella

This one, a chestnut by Polymelus, was a real beauty and had talent to match her looks, but she was also a right madam. She sulked during the 1,000 Guineas after being smacked for misbehaviour at the start and let herself get beaten, and on the morning of the Derby, run on Newmarket's July Course for the duration, was in a vile temper and would not allow her lad at Dick Dawson's nearby yard to finish plaiting her mane. Starting 11-2 second favourite, she was slowly away and badly hampered inside the final furlong, but suddenly accelerated close home and darted like a snake between Kwang Su and Nassovian to win by a head and a neck. Two days later, on her best behaviour, she won the Oaks for Sir Edward Hulton by a serene five lengths.

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