At the start of Year 2, a whopping 35 people had joined the SIM, and actual groups of "Steward-breds" were making their way onto sales pages. I put that in quotes because they weren't nearly as successful as they are today, but they had to start somewhere! The year was expanded to seven weeks, pushing the Derby Day fun to Week 3.
The first race of the year showcased Infinite Fury, a tiny little bay colt who is one of my all-time SIM favorites. He's the kind of horse who slops into SIMblivion, renowned by no one. Infinite Fury ran through Year 5, and while he only won five times, he finished behind A.P. Alert, Wait a Minute, Deheringly, and Energy In Excess, and even had the ability to be second going 1 1/8 miles and second in the Steward's CUp Sprint. He was a sprinter who ran mostly at a mile or more, and never got to show his true colors. I love that little guy, and he's one I would like to honor with a headshot one day when I'm rich.
The Derby preps kicked off with Storm and Silence taking the Santa Catalina over Bet Me Mom and Big Gulp. Bet Me Mom took the Southern California Derby just a week later, and Big Gulp scored in the Bluegrass Stakes. Battle Cry took the Holy Bull Stakes, and suddenly Ladonna King held the two aces for the Louisville Derby. Worldly Manner looked to be the only threat after a smashing ten length Fountain of Youth Stakes win.
Serena's Song won her first start of the year, and one race later we were introduced to two of the great fillies in SIMdom. The glorious gray A.P. Alert outran Hall of Famer Wait a Minute to the wire of a six furlong maiden race. Unlike Wait a Minute, whose impact on SIM history remains strong as the dam of Chinese Bandit, A.P. Alert is forgotten. She won the Louisville Oaks as a three-year-old and won five Grade 1 races in a very tough group of fillies which included Foreigner, who will be discussed later, as well as Rain Dancer, Lost Ecstacy, and Excellent Meeting. As a broodmare, A.P. Alert can still be felt if you know where to search. Although none of her offspring were world beaters, she is the second dam of $800k earner Above and Beyond, whose daughter Above and Below is still in my broodmare band and had a yearling sell for $88,000 a few weeks ago. The A.P. Alert daughter All Alert is the dam of Almost Paradise, a $700k earner famous for being one of Eric Nalbone's first two standout horses, and All Alert is also the dam of Remember the Race, dam of Remember to Smile, whose I Am Legend was one of the choices for the Year 26 Louisville Derby. The best known daughter of A.P. Alert is Bright Halo, a two time winner whose first foal, Tropicaldepression or "Tro" won $1.3 million and sired 68 winners. But enough about that family.
Rain Dancer had a frustrating year, her final with Guy Saratoga, winning the Fantasy Stakes before finishing third behind Excellent Meeting in the Louisville Oaks. She didn't win again, but had a record of 5: 1 - 2 - 2 for the season.
That same day, Tilt a Whirl dead heated for the win with Bet the Cat in a 4 1/2 furlong maiden race, topping Marquee de Lys and Busy Signal. Finishing fifth in that race was Island Rescue. All of them would go on to prove extremely important, except for poor Bet the Cat, whose next win came Year 4 in a $100,000 claiming race.
The second Louisville Derby field boasted a field of eleven, all of whom were worthy. The filly Lost Ecstacy bypassed the Oaks for the race, and Big Gulp, Apollogetic, Storm and Silence, and Bet Me Mom all took part. The favorite was Worldly Manner, Tony Wollman's front running speedster, over Battle Cry. It was Battle Cry at the wire, though, winning clear to give Ladonna King her first - and to this day, only - Derby victory. Battle Cry bounced in the Crown, finishing third behind the filly Excellent Meeting and Bet Me Mom, who came back to win the Long Island Classic. Dismissed at long odds for being a hanger, Bet Me Mom simply shook up the Crown finish order, defeating Battle Cry and Excellent Meeting. Bet Me Mom is another old SIM joy that has long been forgotten. A tiny but burly bay colt with the smallest of stars, Bet Me Mom was bred to sprint but he was the SIM's first true mile and a half horse. If he was running today, the Steward's Cup Marathon would be right up his alley. Unfortunately, he was useless as a sire, and his line has long since died out.
Manistique returned to action Week 4, winning a Grade 1 as if it were nothing. After a brief rest, she conquered the Beldame, then took aim on the Steward's Cup Distaff, site of her injury one year before. Unfortunately, she was not to meet Serena's Song for revenge. That gallant mare was thrown to the boys, and defeated them in the Inglewood Gold Cup. Because that worked, she was sent to the Oceanside Classic, then to the Steward's Cup Classic. Both efforts were valiant, but both fell short of the winner's circle. Serena's Song retired with seven wins, a second, and a third, in nine starts.
The second Steward's Cup started with a longshot victory. Marquee de Lys, recently transferred from Tony Wollman to Jennifer Stewart as Wollman left the game, took the Juvenile over his more heralded rivals Tilt A Whirl (winner of the Hopeful), and Be Holy Bull, one of Ladonna King's two standout two year olds of that year. The other, Tribute to Dehere, took a week 7 maiden race, and those two King horses would be inseparable in memory in years to come, so similar were their talents and records. Marquee de Lys was a one hit wonder, he never won again and sired only one winner, but ironically, his line lives on. Marquee de Lys is in the fourth generation of A Kingdom Awaits, who currently stands for $1,000 and boasts a lovely female family. Marquee is another old favorite, a horse no one remembers but who paved the way for other Juvenile winners to disappoint in their successive seasons.
The Juvenile Fillies hosted only a field of four, but what a four they were. A.P. Alert finished second and Wait a Minute ran third, while Fleet Candles finished fourth. The name Fleet Candles doesn't ring any bells off the top of your head, but it should: she produced $2.2 million earner and Midsummer Classic winner Caccio al Ladro and Nunca Ser Agarrado, who would seek revenge and win the Juvenile Fillies in Year 11. Even more important, however, is that Tears That Fall, a no-name $30k earning maiden out of Fleet Candles became one of the most important broodmares in SIM history - her first foal was a horse named Midnightconfession, whose $3.7 million in racetrack earnings did nothing to top his legacy as a stallion with 168 winners, 28 stakes winners, and $25 million in progeny earnings.
And that doesn't touch on the winner of the race, Foreigner. The Argentinian-bred Foreigner was purchased by Jennifer Stewart during the break for something like $25,000. The fiery red filly was known for her bad attitude, gate antics, race delays, and blinding speed. She won her races with breathtaking ease, slipping to the lead and storming away, and won the Juvenile Fillies by three lengths. She will come up again in Year 3 during the Triple Crown season.
Commitisize won the Turf Mile, defeating Skip a Stream by a nose. This was another great rivalry of the early SIM, as Commitisize won four of five meetings with Skip a Stream over a two year span. The handsome dark bay was an unmatched sire, giving the SIM Tulloch amongst others. One interesting story line that continued through the year was Skip A Stream being dropped into claiming races. Remember that the plain bay was fifth in the Steward's Cup Turf Mile of Year 1, and his owner dumped him in a $26,000 claimer Week 1 of Year 2. Skip A Stream finished second, but the race was on dirt. Marie Matthews picked him up, and ran him back in a one mile $50k claimer on the grass. Skip a Stream won, and continued his march through the year with two allowance victories. He finished second by a nose in the Steward's Cup Turf Mile that year, the first lesson about regaining a horse's confidence.
Manistique did get her revenge in the Distaff, outrunning Excellent Meeting, Rain Dancer, and Lost Ecstacy to the wire. She retired to produce Honor Bright as her very first foal, followed by Magnifique. The former earned $1.7 million on the track and gave us the $8.9 million earning Notable Dancer, and the latter had progeny earnings of $5.4 million in seven foals to race.
And then the Classic, which pitted Battle Cry, Bet Me Mom, Storm and Silence and Serena's Song against not only a full field, but also Event of the Year. The Year 1 Horse of the Year had won two of three Year 2 starts leading up to the Classic, losing by a head to Serena's Song in that Inglewood Gold Cup. He played no games with the Classic, however, winning by a length over Battle Cry and Serena, retiring with his second Horse of the Year title and his fourth overall SIMMY. What I liked about Event of the Year is that he ran in the days when SIM horses were given handicaps, and he carried as much as 136 pounds to victory in his Arcadia Millions win over more seasoned rivals.
That historic victory isn't the only reason the Year 2 Classic was remembered. Run under the cover of darkness at Louisville Downs, Marie Matthews' hot headed colt Pulpit savaged Storm and Silence during the race. Pulpit was disqualified from mid pack and placed last, while Storm and Silence was all but eased out of it to the stretch. Ladonna King can remember the incident with clarity, and it wouldn't be the first time an aggressive horse savaged another.
Breeding finally began for the SIM during the second break. I can distinctly remember Event of the Year going up for stud for the first time to the tune of $50,000 a pop, quite a sum at the time when most people had no more than ten horses. I remember a conversation with Jennifer Stewart, who wanted to breed Serena's Song to her fiercest rival. The resulting chestnut colt was named "Priceless Forever," slightly over the top but catchy nonetheless. Within a day, Kellie Whitehead had fired off a furious email, stating that while she loved the mating, she too had thought of the name Priceless, and wanted the "Forever" to be removed due to its excessive nature. This feud proved to be the first ever SIM Drama!
The break between Years 2 and 3, another ten week hiatus, would provide the SIM with several more Steward-breds, and two of its most distinguished and cherished members.