I "met" Jon Xett in the spring of 1999 during the Triple Crown heroics of Charismatic via a chat room, and found Ara Davies on the excellent, and now defunct, website racemare.com. The two joined the SIM eight days apart, Jon on the first race day of Year 3 and Ara on the second. They are the second and third "oldest" players in the SIM after Ladonna King, but they aren't the only two who joined that year to leave an impact on the SIM. Brandy Carter and Jess Paquette joined mid-season.
The first group of horses bred by SIM players were ready to make their debuts during Year 3. How good could this group possibly be? Not only did the very first breeding season include Priceless Forever, but also Shepickedupadance, Flying Colors, Littlebitotrouble, Razzmatazz, Tickle Me Silly, and of course, the incomparable mare Three Day Event. Not bad for people who really didn't know what they were doing. It's hard to tell how big that first crop was, but it appears to be right about one hundred foals. Most horses at that time were still being randomly imported into those stables you could choose.
While Year 1 had offered only 68 races, and Year 2 expanded to 116 races, Year 3 was set with 148 races carded. It's laughable to think of that now, with over 1,000 races a week, but at the time it seemed staggering.
Year 3 started off with two nondescript 4 1/2 furlong maiden races, one for each gender. The first race went to Energy in Excess over Flying Colors, while a filly named Blanket of Roses finished sixth. This is significant because those three runners were some of the best of that generation. Energy in Excess would win $1.6 million, two SIMMY Awards, and the Steward's Cup Sprint. Flying Colors earned $1.6 million and finished second in the Baltimore Crown. Blanket of Roses, after winning $1.1 million on the track, produced Rowdy With a Halo and Attracting. The latter won $2.6 million.
The second race was just as hot for future stars. One of my all time favorites, Smokemifyagotem, won, but she will come up later. Mysty Weather, who finished eighth, became the dam of a horse so obscure even I barely remember him, You Too Slew, who banked just under $1 million. Third place finisher Razzmatazz, one of the best fillies that year, is the dam of Jazz, who still stands today. The most interesting horse in that race, however, is a mare named Waltzing Star. She finished fourth in what would be her only career start. It's too bad she never got to prove herself on the track, because this freakishly good broodmare is the dam of Tri Star ($1.2 million), Star Gazing ($900k), and Apprehensive Star, a random turf mare who is the dam of supersire Star Studded, amongst others.
Just a week later, Energy in Excess and Smokemifyagotem did battle at six furlongs in a NW2. The filly for the best of the colt to win for the second time.
They weren't the only stars to debut that week. Shepickedupadance won going five furlongs for Whitehead, the result of a mating Whitehead did between Miesque and A.P. Indy. Although most people thought the name was silly, it was derived from the concept of a horse "picking up" a gait, such as a jog or canter. For example, "Spot picked up a jog and headed for the sand dunes." The lovely leggy filly had enough personality to dance right off the screen at us. It's the first time I named someone else's horse for them.
Deheringly took a five furlong maiden race, and although he would retire in Year 6 with only four wins, he finished on the board thirteen times in twenty starts with $1.1 million earned.
A desperately plain bay mare named Solitude finally broke her maiden Week 1 after seven tries. The forgettable mare only won once more, and would retire one day with two wins in twenty-one starts. Ironically, twenty-one is the number of wins her freakish daughter Solstice would win in a row later on in history.
The first Derby prep of the year showcased that strong filly from last year, A.P. Alert, as well as Infinite Fury and Island Rescue. The horse that won was a longshot named Adonis. His trainer? None other than Jon Xett, who also took the race following, a $50,000 claimer. That made Xett 2 for 2 in his first week, including a Derby prep. I think I would have stayed, too. Adonis never really went on to do much else, but the second Derby prep that year was far more telling. Finishing first was the demon filly Foreigner, with Tilt a Whirl running second. If you don't think the big races were dominated back then, Kellie Whitehead had three Derby prospects in that race.
The third Derby prep that week saw Ladonna King's Tribute to Dehere in the winner's circle, Juvenile fluke Marquee de Lys third.
Week two, Foreigner went back to the fillies and won a "match" race over one other filly who dared to show up. Wait a Minute went from winning the Fantasy Stakes against fillies to tackling colts in the Southern California Derby. She won over King's Be Holy Bull. A.P. Alert stuck with colts and won the Lexington Derby while Marquee de Lys ran up the track again.
Two other races caught my eye Week 2. In a five furlong two-year-old maiden. R Far Out Star made her debut and lost to a Jennifer Stewart runner named Price is Phoney who won a Grade 2 to end her career two years later. R Far Out Star ran five times in Year 3, but never won, finishing second three times. To be fair, every horse that beat her turned out to be "someone," but out of frustration, she was retired after her juvenile season. Four years later, her son Gotham City took the Baltimore Crown as the sixth of his thirteen wins.
The other race of note was the Matriarch Handicap, the first start for owner Ara Davies' first runner, Fleet Lady. The classy mare would go on to win the Steward' Cup and two SIMMY Awards, then produce the $1.8 million earning Fleet Afoot. Again, I think I would have stayed, too.
The Louisville Derby in Week 3 drew nine runners. Jennifer Stewart had three of them, and her filly Foreigner was favored. Another filly, Wait a Minute, was the second choice, and Matthews' other runner, Tilt a Whirl, was dismissed as fourth or fifth choice. It was the white-faced bay closer who rolled home first, putting away the front-running Foreigner in the stretch. Be Holy Bull got up for third, while Wait a Minute finished fourth. She probably could have won the Oaks, which went to AP Alert. Tilt a Whirl went on to win the Baltimore Crown over Foreigner and AP Alert, but Foreigner had her day in the Long Island Classic. Tilt A Whirl, the first horse to go for the SIM Triple Crown, had quite a fan base by this point, but so did Foreigner, who refused to be the first horse to finish second in all three. She won the Long Island Classic effortlessly, never losing her lead, as Tilt a Whirl closed for second over A.P. Alert and Adonis. Now the joke of the SIM, Marquee de Lys finished last. Be Holy Bull avenged his Triple Crown failure by winning the Midsummer Classic in a battle to the wire with stablemate Tribute to Dehere.
Smokemifyagotem and Shepickedupadance both won again, and for Smokem, that win came in the Twin Spires Stakes.
The Twin Spires Stakes came about when Tony Wollman, the SIM's first ever player, quit for personal reasons. He wanted to leave behind a legacy, and suggested the TWin (Tony Wollman) Spires Stakes. It was to be run in two divisions, and if a trainer won both divisions in a given year, they were to win a bonus. The Twin Spires Stakes still continues to this day.
At this point in the story, you are probably wondering what happened to Priceless Forever. The chestnut colt had not yet debuted while all of his peers had multiple victories. This move was by design from his trainer, who wanted to make a splash by debuting in the first juvenile stakes of the season. Priceless Forever won in hand, of course, setting him up for an undefeated season which ended with a good five length thumping of the Steward's Cup Juvenile.
Jess Paquette won her first race during Week 4 with Dreams Gallore. She had run horses during week 3 that hadn't proven successful, but again, a stakes win - over Wait a Minute - would be a big draw. Brandy Carter's first runner was Warn Me Not, a poorly managed filly who would go on to finish nowhere in the Year 4 Louisville Derby, but be a decent broodmare later with a $690k earner in Tumultuous. Hey, we all have to learn via mistakes!
And one of those mistakes was made by Ara Davies. Eager to go into breeding almost immediately, Davies found Rain Dancer on the sales page as part of the Guy Saratoga Dispersal. Unraced since finishing third in the Steward's Cup Distaff, Rain Dancer looked as if her best racing days may be behind her. Davies immediately retired the gray filly, unaware that she would one day be the great broodmare of all SIM time.
Now, I pride myself on not interfering in the SIM. I let the players make their own choices, and try not to influence any decisions. But retiring Rain Dancer? That was not okay. I immediately shot an email at Ara, demanding that she race that filly instead of retiring her. I'm sure Ara was somewhat taken aback, not really knowing me, but she agreed. Rain Dancer won two out of two starts for Ara in Year 3.
Steward's Cup Day saw Three Day Event take the Inglewood Starlet and Littlebitotrouble take the Futurity. Wait a Minute defeated males going seven furlongs in the Malibu Beach, and Jon Xett found his next superstar when Yokoa Cat, a quirky, backwards type of horse, broke his maiden going two turns. The actual Steward's Cup racing started out with a bang. Smokemifyagotem was five for five leading into the Juvenile Fillies, while Shepickedupadance was three for three. The two untested fillies locked heads in the race, battling from the start all the way to the wire. They were a good eight lengths ahead at the finish, but only noses apart. Shepickedupadance won the race, and to this day, it remains one that I remember best. I still remember *feeling* that race, wishing no one had to lose. After Priceless Forever and Fleet Lady won their divisions, good old Skip A Stream got his nose down on the wire first, reversing the decision with Commitisize from a year ago. Multiple graded stakes winner Big Gulp took the Sprint, outlasting claiming/allowance horse Apollogetic. Excellent Meeting got the best of two tired sophomores, Foreigner and AP Alert, in the Distaff. It was the final race for for Lost Ecstacy, who finished third.
The dark bay horse Magellan won the Turf. Year 3 was his only year racing, but in it he won a Grade 2 and a Grade 1 prior to the Turf win. He took the SIMMY that year for Champion Turf Horse, and won with such dazzling style by open lengths that a race was named for him, the Magellan Stakes, which is the final leg of the Two Year Old Turf Triple (the second leg is the Commitisize). Unfortunately, Magellan was a poor sire, with only one remarkable offspring, and that was Speedyjetsdaughter, the dam of Louisville Oaks and Steward's Cup Juvenile Fillies winner The Inevitable. Magellan is largely forgotten.
The older horses had quite a Year 3. Manistique defeated males twice before her retirement after re-injuring her leg in the Baltimore Special. Battle Cry won the Strub Stakes and the Oceanside Classic before running third in the Steward's Cup. And Storm and Silence had his best year ever, taking the Sunshine Park Handicap, the Arcadia Millions, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup before holding off Tilt a Whirl in the big race. He and his stablemate retired to stud duty, where Battle Cry was far more successful, leaving Storm and Silence to fade into the annals of SIM history.
It was only a four week break until Year 4 began, bringing with it a three-year-old Priceless Forever. The number of horses in the SIM had swelled to around four hundred with 50 players.