A Complete History of the SIM - Year 4
by The Steward posted 2010-01-25 10:35 pm PST
Year 4, the final year of SIM 1.0, opened on August 28th, 1999. I turned 14 over the break, and extended the SIM year to eight weeks. The SIM had been expanding rapidly, up to over 200 races for the fourth season, and many more of them were inconsequential allowance/non winners races.
Week 1 kicked off in slow fashion. The older horses did their thing; A.P. Alert, Wait a Minute, and Island Rescue won respective divisional stakes races for older horses. Wait a Minute defeated males once again, taking the second leg of the Strub series. The Derby preps saw Energy In Excess win the Fountain of Youth and Shepickedupadance won the Event of the Year Stakes.
The two notable maiden breakers for Week 1 included Freebie's Girl, another personal favorite, the SIM's first light gray roan filly. She won the Grade 1 Oceanside Debutante three weeks later, and even ran in the Louisville Derby as a three-year-old, but she was never really that kind of horse. She had the misfortune of being born into a spectacular crop of fillies that will be discussed as they come up.
The other maiden breaker was the SIM's next Marquee de Lys named Hotodaychilitomaro. This bright chestnut colt won his first two starts, and then capped off the season with a win in the Steward's Cup Juvenile. He looked like a nice horse, and because of his name he was a sure SIM favorite, but Hotodaychilitomaro only won three out of eleven starts. He was severely mismanaged, running Weeks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 1, 4, 5, 6, finishing no where in the Triple Crown races. Hotodaychilitomaro retired after the Long Island Classic and his owner rushed him into stud duty, where he proved even worse, siring nothing of note in all his years at stud. I miss horses like this that the SIM collectively both loved and picked on.
In Week 2, the march for the Triple Crown continued, and Tie Beau won the first race of the week, the Southern California Derby. Poor Tie Beau was born in the wrong year. He is the Sham to Secretariat when it comes to Priceless Forever. A boring bay owned and named by Ladonna King, Tie Beau began his career Year 3, winning a maiden race. He finished third behind Priceless Forever in the Twin Spires, but then won the Oceanside Futurity and the Futurity Stakes. Any other year, and this plucky colt would have been favored in the Juvenile, but he was five lengths behind Priceless Forever when that one went under the wire. After winning his one Derby prep, King had to be looking forward to a rematch in the Triple Crown, but Tie Beau finished third, sixth, and third in those races. He didn't win again until Year 5, and when he retired, poor Tie Beau had finished second or third eight times in eighteen starts, running up on the heels of every major horse in training and being unable to beat any of them.
Priceless Forever finally reappeared on the scene and won the Bluegrass Stakes over Flying Colors. Now the stage was set for his meeting with Shepickedupadance in the Derby, but the field would include other standouts as well and was by no means a "gimme."
Wait a Minute took the Strub Stakes and I believe she may still be the only horse to win all three legs of the series. She would pop up again, winning the Manistique Handicap and the Inglewood Gold Cup on her march to the Steward's Cup.
Two back to back maiden breakers Week 2 would also have long term affects on the SIM. Serena Sleet, another Jennifer Stewart-trained Serena's Song offspring, this time Priceless Forever's younger sister, broke her maiden in the Debutante Stakes. She would roll through Year 4 undefeated, winning five straight stakes races, concluding with the Steward's Cup Juvenile Fillies. Obviously, she received the SIMMY Award and retired in Year 5 with eight wins in ten starts. It is strange to say that this brilliantly fast filly disappointed as a broodmare, since she produced two millionaires, but I expected better from this mare, who still shows up in one major way: Serena Sleet's daughter Serena Storm is the dam of Satelite. Just one week later, Satelite's sire Rapid Bay broke his maiden, the first of six victories for the son of Seattle Slew.
A small bay filly named Awesome Dancer broke her maiden Week 2, the first of ten victories for the future Hall of Fame filly owned and bred by Xett. She won the Grade 2 Frizette later in the year after falling victim to Serena Sleet a few times, but would bounce back in a big way as a three-year-old and beyond.
Week 3, Derby week. The big race had a field of thirteen, including three fillies, "Picky," Smokemifyagotem, and Warn Me Not. Both Picky and Yokoa Cat melted down in the paddock at the crowd noise. While Shepickedupadance simply stood and sweated, Yokoa Cat swung around, bolting violently through the connections gathered in the grass. Priceless Forever was favored, with Picky second. Energy in Excess ended up skipping the race so as to not hurt the chances of his stablemate.
While Shepickedupadance bolted to the lead out of nerves, Priceless Forever stalked the pace on the rail. The two joined heads at the top of the stretch, and the race call is still saved:
"And here they come as one, the colt and the filly in the match of the decade and they're running their hearts out, this is the one chance for ultimate glory and with a furlong to go Shepickedupadance is feeling the strain of the race! Priceless Forever looks her in the eye and he courageously battles through on the rail, and Shepickedupadance is growing weary! She's demonstrating every ounce of courage she has but this little colt is all heart and up to the task! The battle of undefeated champions is over! It's Priceless Forever by a neck!"
While Jennifer Stewart floated on clouds with the win, Kellie Whitehead was less amused. Furious that her filly had gone to the lead rather than sit off the pace, she pledged revenge in the Baltimore Crown. Three days before the race, Picky injured herself and had to be scratched. Horse and trainer headed to New York for the Long Island Classic.
Priceless Forever won the Baltimore Crown by sixteen lengths, still the largest margin of victory for the race. Comparisons to Tilt A Whirl's Triple Crown campaign began: Would Priceless fall victim to a filly in his quest for the Crown? Shepickedupadance was game in the final leg, leading until the jump before the wire, when Priceless Forever got his head down finally. Here is the call:
"The filly had the lead first! But here he comes! The wonder colt is flying! Each stride pushes him closer to the filly! These two horses in a desperate battle and Shepickedupadance still has the lead! But with an eighth to go she's tiring! Priceless Forever is head and head with her. He's up on the outside and he won't give up! But niether will Picky and she comes right back at him! Their heads are bobbing and with a hundred yards to go Priceless Forever gets his head back in front and…Yes! We have a Triple Crown winner!"
The reaction to the Triple Crown win was mixed. People were excited for the feat to be accomplished, and by a horse with such stallion potential. Unfortunately, it also garnered the same reaction that a Triple Crown win by Eric Nalbone would receive: "Horray for a Triple Crown winner, but does it have to be owned by Eric? Ugh."
At first, Jennifer Stewart decided to do what was best for her horse and train up to the Steward's Cup. She wasn't about to test his undefeated record in the Midsummer Classic after such a long campaign, but Kellie Whitehead talked her into it, and the two rivals were matched once more. For the first time in his life, Priceless Forever had nothing to give when asked, and Picky won the Midsummer Classic by a length.
I just skipped over half the year, so returning to Week 3... The first race of the day, which ran on the calendar date September 17th, 1999, was the very first JC Gonzalez Memorial Stakes. This race ran eight days after Southern California jockey JC Gonzalez was killed at Fairplex Park. As a racing fan, this was the first time I was "around" for a jockey's death, and it deeply saddened me. Xett's Adonis won the race (defeating Marquee de Lys), which started Xett's most famous string of victories. The Hall of Fame trainer won that race every year from Year 4 until year 20, when his horse Reis lost to Brit Rea's Deck Thirteen by a length. For those keeping count, that is sixteen straight wins in the event. Xett has only won the race once since then, and no longer targets the event specifically, but seventeen out of twenty one years is still staggeringly impressive!
Week 3 maiden breakers included Memorex Victory, a handsome dark bay with lots of mane and just a little bit of white. He would win the Baltimore Crown of Year 5 en route to $2.2 million in earnings for his career. Taking a page out of Jennifer Stewart's book, Whitehead debuted her own son of Event of the Year in the Twin Spires Stakes one year after Priceless Forever had taken the race. The colt out of Manistique (a result of possibly the first foal swap ever?) was named The Natural and was commonly referred to as "Natty." The Natural was the king of horse that people jump on as soon as they break their maiden, and you just know this is a Triple Crown type horse. After winning three straight stakes as a two-year-old and earning the SIMMY for Year 4, The Natural was a heavy Year 5 Derby favorite.
Three Day Event won the Louisville Oaks, and in the moment, it seemed that the daughter of Event of the Year (getting the hints about who was the best sire of the time?) would never be better. Topping the Louisville Oaks is hard to do, especially over a star studded field with Razzmatazz and Blanket of Roses, but Three Day Event wasn't even close to her best as a three-year-old.
A Week 4 maiden race held the debut of another "all time" favorite. Priceless Forever's full little brother, Rivalry (named after Jennifer's rivalry with Kellie, as well as the rivalry of their horses), took a six furlong maiden race over the cleverly-named Hez Nuts N Bolts and Derby Dancer, who will see a lot of action in coming years. The classy bay, who will finally get a headshot in a few weeks thanks to the generosity of Nick Gilmore, won five of ten, including the Long Island Classic, and went on to sire a Derby winner in El Rival Decade and a superstar sprinter in Accio Firebolt. He was actually quite a good sire with five millionaires and seven major stakes horses.
I specifically remember a conversation with Jennifer Stewart held early in Year 4, in which she bemoaned how large her stable was getting. I suggested she sell off some horses, even though buying horses from other players wasn't the "norm" yet, and most horses came from me. She asked me who to sell, and I noted that she should sell horses whose dams she still owned. I pointed out one in particular, My Flag's Battle Cry daughter named Soldier Girl, as Jen still owned My Flag. Jennifer sold her to a brand new player, Jess Paquette.
I STILL hear about that one.
Soldier Girl broke her maiden Week 5 at six furlongs in a week where most of the winners were impressive older stakes horses, such as Future Hero, Island Rescue, Wait a Minute, and A.P. Alert. Of course, Soldier Girl would go on to do great things, but we aren't there yet.
In a move that would rarely if ever happen in the new SIM, Derby Dancer broke his maiden Week 6 on the turf. He ran on the turf one start later, finishing second in an allowance, and luckily did not return to the surface. His win was more due to the change in distance - from 5 1/2 and 6 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, than the surface. Luckily, his trainer realized that, or we may be deprived of a $7.7 million earner!
After winning the Oceanside Classic in Week 6, trainer Matthews decided to pit her best colt against her best filly to see which was better. Marquee de Lys met "Tilt" and Wait A Minute in the starting gate of the Long Island Gold Cup for some more punishment. Wait a Minute was undefeated on the year up to that point, defeating colts three times, but at a mile and a quarter against her Derby winning stablemate, she proved no match. I can still remember calling the two white-faced bays to the wire, but in the end Tilt a Whirl was too good and drew away.
They weren't the only early SIM runners that I want to remember. Kellie Whitehead had a host of stakes horses who swam just under the radar, popping up in many major stakes and causing her to earn more than anyone in Year 4. Airs Above won only twice in twenty starts, but one of those was the Grade 1 Met Mile. What a Prospect was a prime example of mismanagement, running on dirt five times before switching to turf, where he finished second in the Steward's Cup Turf. He ran only once more before a premature retirement. Morning Glory debuted Year 3 and ran until Year 9, going through several trainers and winning three times in twenty two starts. This turf runner would have been a good sire, but saw only one mare in his stallion career. Flipside Catch, a son of Seattle Slew, was a flashy chestnut with a white stripe that won three of twenty nine. What I love about him is that he broke his maiden in a stakes race at two Year 3, then won again in his first start as a five-year-old Year 6. His final win came as a seven-year-old in Year 8. Lastly, I was a big fan of Tourist Attraction, a parrot-mouthed gray son of Gone West with only one win in eighteen starts. Trainers of the old SIM either loved running in allowances only before running in the Steward's Cup, OR running in stakes only despite their horse being somewhat hopeless. Tourist Attraction's only win came as a two-year-old in the Grade 1 Futurity, and then as an older horse he was off the board in ten starts.
Steward's Cup Day would conclude not only Year 4, but also the entire Old SIM. The enormous, burly dark bay colt Punishment became the first horse to sweep the Two Year Old Turf Triple in winning the Magellan Stakes. Serena Sleet outfooted Awesome Dancer and Soldier Girl in the Juvenile Fillies, and Hotodaychilitomaro upset the Juvenile. Jess Paquette trained Escala Cromantica to win the Filly and Mare Turf after playing for only a few weeks, and Jon Xett's Future Hero stormed away in the Mile. Energy in Excess won the Sprint, and the very powerful runner Warpaint, who had won three straight major stakes, took the Turf over Littlebitotrouble. Wait a Minute locked up her place in the Hall of Fame with a win in the Distaff over Foreigner, Three Day Event, A.P. Alert, and Smokemifyagotem.... those female fields back then make me salivate!
And then, one of the strangest races in SIM history. The SIM used to have dead heats. I would love to bring those along again some year, but for now they are non existent. A tough field including Proskoa, Tie Beau, Tribute to Dehere, Be Holy Bull, and Yokoa Cat would tackle titans such as Tilt a Whirl, Island Rescue, and the sophomore leaders Priceless Forever and Shepickedupadance. Shepickedupadance tried her heart out, but finished fourth, toiling in the wake of Tilt a Whirl in third. Even that runner was no match for the battle up ahead, as Island Rescue proved his mettle and the difficulty of running against older horses. He and Priceless Forever dead heated for the win, splitting the $5 million purse. Both of them retired after the race, with Priceless Forever becoming one of the great stallions and Island Rescue holding his own in the shed as well despite lack of attention.
And on that note, the SIM ended. It was exhausting to change ages and update horses by hand, and I kept getting myself "grounded" for not doing school work. I would miss all my new friends, but I couldn't keep up with the requirement of writing races and placing horses in each race and updating the site as often as possible, when you're fourteen, it's just not a good idea when other things are deemed "more important" by people such as your parents.
All good things must come to an end, right?
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