In the very early days of the SIM, before the first race on November 7th, 1998, all players were given 5 horses to kick start their stables. The first sign ups began the week before races, and you were able to select a pre-created stable number. Each stable was meant to consist of one stakes type horse, two allowance type horses, and two unknown quantities. All of the horses were taken from real life, so horses of the times such as Silver Charm, Skip Away, and Gentlemen headlined some of the stables.
One must realize that this original SIM - SIM 1.0 - was done entirely with HTML pages from the moderate program Claris Home Page. Being a 13-year-old girl, I was really into bright colors, and people's pages were designed with their silks colors. If you chose pink for your silks? Your page was done entirely in hot pink, and so on.
Horses did not have past performances such as they do today. Instead, the stable pages were updated to appear as such:
Horse: color.gender.age (Pedigree). Winner of a maiden race.
If the horse was sixth in four maiden races before that win, it was basically ignored and didn't count. Only top two placings were posted on their pages, and no records of what distance/surface the horse had been running were kept.
The owners were clumped together all on one vast index page, but not listed by name. They were instead listed by Farm or Stable name, which appeared no where else except for on that page (so the name didn't appear in any race entries or results and was essentially useless). There was no news source, no forum, no chat room, no messaging system. The only person you could contact was the Steward, and that was via one small email link. All stables were updated and managed by hand, so after every Saturday results night, I would update all those horse stat sentences and add purse money. Only the winner received purse money.
The very first ever SIM race, a six furlong two year old open allowance, consisted of one colt and four fillies. These early races are difficult to judge because there were so few horses in the SIM at that point, around one hundred in that first year, that the races barely filled and every horse in them went on to be useful. The also rans in this race included Antahkarana, who is the second dam of current SIM broodmare Connoisseur (dam of Aesthetic), and Berl Lee, whose Berly Forever went on to earn over $1 million. Third place finisher Hookedonthefeelin produced Ready to Run, the dam of sprint sensations Ready For Apremont and Runtoapremont. So even without looking at the first two finishers, this race had an important impact on the history of the SIM.
Future Hall of Famer Excellent Meeting, who has fallen just short in voting two years in a row now, won the race over future Louisville Derby winner Battle Cry. In Year 1, Excellent Meeting would win her first two starts, but fail to run in the Steward's Cup due to an owner vacation. Although she will come up in other sections of this series, she went on to produce three $1 million+ earners, is the second dam of Long Island Classic winner Lighting a Candle, and her influence is still felt today: Excellent Meeting is the fifth dam of Year 26 stakes placed runner Puppet.
And then there is Battle Cry, who of course comes up again in years to come. As an overview, he is in the Hall of Fame, sired 119 winners, gave us the ultimate sire line in Fighting With Wit.
All that in the SIM's first ever race.
The rest of that day's races read like a who's-who of SIM stars. Event of the Year took the Southern California Derby en route to an epic Triple Crown run later that season, followed by Serena's Song winning an allowance race. Manistique won the Southern California Oaks prior to the Louisville Oaks, and Favorite Trick defeated Jersey Girl (dam of future Derby winner Sports Jersey) and Skip A Stream (future Steward's Cup winner) in a Grade 2 at a mile on the dirt. The final race of the day went to Storm and Silence, future Steward's Cup Classic winner.
In the early SIM, the Derby and Oaks were run during Week 2. Event of the Year won that Derby impressively, scoring by six lengths. In the race he too defeated Skip A Stream, as well as Victory Gallop, Comic Strip, Chilito, and Sweetsouthernsaint. Chilito is the only one of those also rans who proved useful, he became the leading sire of sprinters way back when, throwing Mischief Maker and Black Ice two crops apart.
Manistique's nine length thrashing of the Louisville Oaks came at the expense of the aforementioned Jersey Girl, but also My Flag, who would go on to produce Year 5 Derby winner Soldier Girl, amongst others.
Possibly one of my favorite races occurred Week 2, as Worldly Manner defeated Storm and Silence and Battle Cry in the Bashford Manor. We get this kind of race in the SIM these days: Worldly Manner went on to win that year's Steward's Cup Juvenile, as I said, Storm and Silence and Battle Cry won the Steward's Cup Classic and Louisville Derby, and finishing fourth was Apollogetic, who would finish second in the Steward's Cup Sprint a few years later.
The first Baltimore Crown was a heartbreaker. Of the small handful of SIM players, they all hoped that we were going to see a Triple Crown winner to kick things off. Unfortunately, Event of the Year stumbled badly at the break and missed by two noses to Victory Gallop and Real Quiet. He would return to win the Long Island Classic by seven lengths, making many wonder if he could have won the whole thing save for that stumble.
In Week 4, the SIM's first ever Steward bred debuted with a smashing victory. The diminutive gray Rain Dancer took a seven furlong allowance as a prep for a juvenile filly Grade 1 a week later. Rain Dancer, too, will come up later, but she of course is best known as the dam of Conduit among a horde of other superstars.
The first Steward's Cup put the entire year's work on display. Run Week 6, the first race was the Juvenile. Worldly Manner, named Champion Two Year Old off the effort, defeated Bet Me Mom (future Long Island Classic hero) and Storm and Silence and Battle Cry in the race, shortly before the lovely SIM heroine Lost Ecstacy outran Silverbulletday (dam of $8.5 million earning Elusive Pegasus) and Rain Dancer in the Juvenile Fillies. That is another one of my favorite races; few people remember Lost Ecstacy, a solid little bay filly by Holy Bull, but I recall her and her fierce rivalry with Rain Dancer. Over the years, their record stood at three wins for Lost Ecstacy, and two for Rain Dancer.
Fiji, whose effect on current turf routers can't even be touched yet, won the first Filly and Mare Turf, over Auntie Mame. In history, Auntie Mame would pop up again as the dam of On Broadway, whose daughter Cabaret remains one of the greatest turf runners the game has known. Favorite Trick took the mile, and finishing fourth was Ridewood Pearl, dam of Here Indeed (Steward's Cup Turf Mile) and Rydrew Princess, best known as the dam of The Scarlet Nite.
The race of the day was probably the Distaff. Both Serena's Song and Manistique were undefeated up to that point, and coming to the wire, Manistique stumbled and injured her leg, missing the win. After surgery Manistique was able to return to the races in Year 2, but never faced her older rival again. Simsters long debated which of the two fillies was better.
Event of the Year capped the first SIM season with a victory in the Classic. He won in hand over the best older rivals the SIM had to offer, and stamped himself as one of the great three-year-olds in SIM history for the future.
At the end of Steward's Cup day, all the ages of horses on the HTML pages were updated by hand. SIMMY Awards were voted on without distress of who had been nominated; the process was relatively simple.
At the end of the Year, there were a total of 20 people playing the SIM. Tony Wollman was the first person to ever join. He campaigned Excellent Meeting and Worldly Manner. Kellie Whitehead trained Event of the Year, and her best friend Marie Matthews controlled Manistique. Jennifer Stewart handled Serena's Song, and Molly Cassadine trained Steward's Cup Turf winner Chief Bearhart. These names were essentially the Nalbone/Xett/Fergusons of the early SIM, with one addition: Ladonna King, who joined Year 1 and is the only player to participate in all years of the SIM. She trained both Battle Cry and Storm and Silence, as well as Fiji.
Other important names popped up at this time, such as Donna Houchins, Mary Lukas, Guy Saratoga and Maggie Magster. The latter campaigned Lost Ecstacy, while Guy Saratoga handled the early days of Rain Dancer's career.
Kellie Whitehead was named Owner of the Year in the SIMMY voting, and Event of the Year obviously won both Horse of the Year and his age group. With the SIM so new, virtually none of the Year 1 runners retired until after Year 2, so breeding didn't kick off yet. Year 1 ended on December 12, 1998, and the very first break lasted eleven weeks long. That time was spent adding new horses and people, campaigning to grow the SIM from the start.