Year 6 opened with a bang on August 26, 2000, as Em's Always Busy won the first race of the year. The two-year-old bay son of Busy Signal won his debut over a long-forgotten stakes horse named Behappywithteneyes, a son of Apollogetic. Em's Always Busy would have a lasting effect on the breed, helping to shape dirt sprinters as a whole, while Behappywithteneyes would fade into obscurity and then oblivion.
The first stakes races of the year are defined only by their winners. Mischief Maker took the San Vicente, and One In A Million defeated the Year 5 Baltimore Crown hero Memorex Victory in the San Fernando. Tri Star won the Gotham Stakes going a mile, his first prep for a run at the Louisville Derby. The brilliant router Battle's Baby Girl took the Dearly Precious Stakes, and a fiery black colt name Silver Valor made his first start since breaking his maiden in mid Year 5 while winning the Single Star Derby. Farewell Friend won the Holy Bull Stakes, and Derby winner Soldier Girl picked up the pace with an allowance victory following her layoff.
A couple of other juveniles impressed during Week 1: Serena Sound, a pretty chestnut filly with a white face and the first daughter of Serena Sleet, took the Silver Spur Stakes, while a chestnut colt out of Sahara Gold won the Middleground Stakes. That colt's name, Anxious Gold, is one being slowly dismissed from the history books as other flashy two-year-olds take his place, but at the time, Anxious Gold was THE fastest two-year-old the SIM had ever seen - in reality, he was the first truly great juvenile ever. He was also the first foal from his dam, Sahara Gold, who would go on to be something of a legend herself.
The only other race of note Week 1 came at Sunshine Park in a typical maiden special weight for sophomore fillies. The winner, Dance With Me Now, was a strangely bred filly for Jon Xett. After a disappointing racing career, he sold her to Alyse Schuver, and she went on to produce Steward's Cup winner Smoke and Flame, as well as millionaire Shalevet Pass, whose War Daddy and Woman King are still lighting up the headlines today. Second in that race was Future Affair, who went the other direction: her claim to fame is being the dam of one of the original "Zipless II" type horses, producing Bringinguptherear. Xett's other entrant in the race, Crash, was a terrible racehorse, finishing on the board only once in 12 starts, but the daughter of Pike Place Dancer went on to produce Grade 1 winner Danseur Deja Vu (whose daughter All Over Again is still represented today), and Eachquarterfaster, a graded stakes winner whose son Playful Mood is forgotten for his race record ($1.9 million earned) but known for his daughter Landing on Stars, who is currently responsible for Landing on Dust, End of the Stars (Beyond the Stars), etc.
Week 2 was a little bit more exciting. The very first race went to the horse that I still consider to be one of the greatest - both on the track and in the shed - of all time, Loki Flame. He won a five furlong maiden race on the dirt over a full field of thirteen rivals. The chestnut colt won by nineteen - fast much? A few races later, Ara Davies' Sports Jersey won the San Felipe takes by five lengths. Ironically, it was only a few races after that where Davies unveiled her next superstar, as Elusive Pegasus dominated a 4 1/2 furlong baby race in New York. The son of Priceless Forever would be Loki Flame's arch nemesis for the next two years, and in the shed.
Ali LaDuke produced back to back winners in Lexington, unveiling a two-year-old Steward-bred filly named Sim Goddess to win a 4 1/2 furlong maiden event right before Onwardsilvercharm won his three-year-old debut in an allowance race. Also in Kentucky, Graduation Year rebounded from his Texas loss to Silver Valor by outrunning Tri Star in the Lexington Stakes and Cascade won a hotly contested Ashland Stakes. Cascade, a daughter of Rain Dancer, was coming off a loss to One for the Ages in the Steward's Cup, but "Ages" finished second here, just ahead of Salutations, who would go on to win a Steward's Cup herself one day. Mischief Maker won the Fountain of Youth, and Anxious Gold won #2 of his career when taking the Serena Slew Stakes.
Speaking of Serena Slew, a son of his debuted Week 2, winning a 4 1/2 furlong baby race for owner/breeder Robin Tan. His name was Kleine Romanze, and the white-faced bay would win $3 million before retirement. He boasted a pretty terrible pedigree and never made it as a stallion (with only 8 winners to his name!), but this remains forever one of my favorite horses to grace the SIM. From his flashy look to his incredible gameness, this tough cookie was a star from 4 1/2 furlongs - 1 1/4 miles. He will pop up often in the next few years.
Possibly the most famous filly in SIM history, Forever Risk, kicked off her three-year-old campaign by winning the Bonnie MIss at Sunshine Park.
Week 3 kicked off with Riddle Me This, a 2 year old Steward-bred filly, winning the second race at five furlongs on the dirt for Susie Raisher. "Riddle" won five of ten on the dirt and six of seven on the turf. In addition to her exceptional race record, she would become the dam of several remarkable horses, including the great gelding Whileaworldsleeps. Rapid Bay won his second stakes of the year in the Energy In Excess Stakes, and Xett also took a Grade 1 with Awesome Dancer. Cascade won her final Louisville Oaks prep in the Arcadia Oaks, but Davies lost the Arcadia Derby with Sports Jersey as his nemesis Farewell Friend won. One in a Million defeated Derby Dancer in the Arcadia Million, and across the country in New York, a little dark bay Steward-bred named Darling Gold broke her maiden. Darling Gold would go on to produce a Steward's Cup Juvenile winner in Impressive.
Fresh off her Year 5 Steward's Cup Turf Mile upset with Duskinthemeadow, Susie Raisher immediately began looking for her next big mile star. Little did she know that she would find it in Birthday Candles, a poor claimer who won for $32,000 Week 3. Three improving starts later, he would win the Steward's Cup Turf Mile over his more heralded stablemate, who failed to defend his crown against the 99 - 1 longshot. That wasn't Raisher's only turf success Week 3, as her two-year-old Steward-bred Runaway, a son of Future Hero, dead heated in a five-furlong juvenile race with a colt named Effortless Focus. A robust gray, Runaway pioneered multi surface horses, winning 11 of 12 on the turf and 3 of 3 on the dirt. This future Hall of Famer's only loss would come later in his juvenile season. Effortless Focus, another questionably-named Steward-bred, would also only lose once in his career, winning thirteen of fourteen, including the Steward's Cup Turf in Year 8. The white-faced chestnut earned over $7 million on the track, and is destined for the Hall of Fame some day. Raisher's final big reveal of Week 3 came with Gotham City, yet another Steward-bred (the horses born Year 5 were possibly my best crop ever), a son of Priceless Forever that won a five furlong maiden race.
Battle's Baby Girl won the Wood Memorial, previewing her ability to run with males throughout her career. Onwardsilvercharm won the Bluegrass Stakes, and Ready for Apremont won the Florida Derby. He rounds out the trio of future sprint legends who competed on the Derby trail that year, along with Mischief Maker and Tri Star.
Year 6, Week 4, was the second time the Dubai event ran at Desert Oasis Park. Good old Crown winner Memorex Victory defeated Rapid Bay in the Golden Sprint, and Colourfast took the Duty Free over Duskinthemeadow. Astarabad managed to lose the Turf Classic to a horse even I don't remember named Phar and Free, and only four horses took to the track in the Desert World Cup with its $5 million purse. Even then, this race was tough to fill, but it brought together four of the best older horses in the game: Derby Dancer, People's Champion, Flying Colors, and Proskoa. Remember that Derby Dancer had been disqualified from winning the Steward's Cup Classic just a few "months" before, and People's Champion was rapidly becoming the most popular campaigner around. Derby Dancer won in hand, adding to his legend. Back in the states, Soldier Girl defeated males in the Hot Springs Handicap.
Three nifty juveniles broke their maidens Week 4. Give Applause, a son of Future Hero for Jon Xett, made his initial start on dirt back in Week 2, and rebounded to win on the grass week 4. This brilliant chestnut would one day be in the Hall of Fame, multiple Steward's Cups later. Hedancesdiscopants, an ugly stump of a gray colt, won going six furlongs on the dirt, but his future was at a mile on either surface. He amassed $2.2 million in earnings winning the random Grade 1 here and there, and became a wildly popular runner with is crazy name. Not bad for a $5,000 TBSYrl purchase!
The most well known maiden winner of Week 4 was Solstice. The chestnut filly with moderate breeding took a five furlong maiden race and drew very little attention to herself. In fact, it wasn't until race 8 of her still-unmatched 21 race win streak that I finally noticed her.
Of course, Week 4 was also the Louisville Derby and Oaks.
Forever Risk won the Oaks handily, dancing to the win in front of Cascade and One for the Ages. The Derby wasn't so easy. Rivals Farewell Friend, Sports Jersey, and Onwardsilvercharm would face Tri Star, Mischief Maker, and Ready for Apremont. The filly Battle's Baby Girl was also entered, as well as Graduation Year, who was fresh off two straight losses, including the one in Texas to Silver Valor. Silver Valor was noticeably absent from the Derby, having injured himself leading up to the Derby.
In a brilliant battle to the wire, Sports Jersey thrust his nose in front ahead of Farewell Friend, with Onwardsilvercharm another head back in third. Sports Jersey gave Ara Davies her first win in the Derby.
The Week 5 Baltimore Crown was a different story. Back against females, Battle's Baby Girl took the Baltimore Oaks. She only entered that race because Forever Risk opted to face males in the Crown. Only five entered, including Sports Jersey and Mischief Maker. The gray Mischief Maker fought valiantly, leading throughout until the final strides, when the brilliant chestnut filly floated past him to nab the victory, Sports Jersey in third. Forever Risk was mildly injured in the race and would miss the summer campaign, but return in the fall. Mischief Maker was seriously injured and would miss almost the rest of the season. He would head for sprint races, and remain there for the rest of his career. With no chance at a Triple Crown, Sports Jersey would bypass the third leg.
Silver Valor prepped for the Long Island Classic by winning the Flamingo Stakes easily. One In a Million continued his winning ways in the Inglewood Gold Cup, his second $1 million event in a row.
Week 6 produced a Long Island Classic that should have been forgettable. Silver Valor was heavily favored over a field of three rivals, with Dreams Are Forever the second choice. Silver Valor didn't just win, he won by 22 lengths, shattering the record and emerging as one of the most talked about horses since Priceless Forever. Immediately, people began clamoring for a matchup with Sports Jersey and Forever Risk - who was the best sophomore in the land?
The only Week 6 maiden winner of note was On Broadway. Her name means little to you, the daughter of Danzig and Auntie Mame would have a successful career on the turf, finishing third and then second in two Steward's Cup starts. She ran well against colts and was able to defeat fillies. However, it's what she did as a broodmare that makes her famous. On Broadway produced not only Cabaret, but also Kismet.
With the year half over and the horses sorting themselves out, Week 7 came as kind of a break in the storm. Behappywithteneyes finally broke his maiden. Anxious Gold won his third start. One In A Million took the Oceanside Classic, becoming the first horse to sweep the California Handicap Triple. Onwardsilvercharm defeated Battle's Baby Girl and Tri Star at The Spa, while Farewell Friend got his groove back on in a New Jersey stakes. Em's Always Busy won his first Grade 1, the Hopeful. All in all, a quiet transitional week.
Back in Week 4, Riddle Me This and Loki Flame won graded stakes races at Oceanside, and they did it again in Arcadia Week 8. The Kentucky Cup races produced some excitement, as turf monster Punishment won his second start of the year, and Rapid Bay took yet another sprint. Elusive Pegasus beat up on a colt named Pi Kappa Dancer for the second straight start, but revenge was coming for Jon Xett's plucky chestnut. Sports Jersey took the Haskell, Derby Dancer won the Whitney, and Cascade won a hotly contested Midsummer Oaks.
The lone important maiden winner was Tulloch, a dark bay juvenile son of Commitisize who won going a mile on the grass. Tulloch would end up winning Steward's Cup races, a SIMMY, $1.7 million, and become one of the greatest sires of his time.
Week 9's biggest race was when Onwardsilvercharm took the torch from Sports Jersey and won the Midsummer Derby. Sports Jersey finished second, with Farewell Friend fourth.
Week 10, Riddle Me This and Loki Flame were at it again, completing their sweep of the biggest stakes for juveniles in California for the year. One in a Million had his win streak snapped in an inconsequential stakes against the old chestnut Deheringly, and Silver Valor won the Super Derby impressively. The upstart Cascade defeated Awesome Dancer and One for the Ages in the Spinster, proving how difficult it was to be born into the same year as Forever Risk, who had the SIMMY Title sewn up with her Baltimore Crown win. In case the voters needed another reason, Paquette sportingly started her two chestnuts against each other in the Ruffian Handicap - a fitting race for her two brilliant charges. Soldier Girl never had a chance as Forever Risk won with ease, causing more hype around a potential match between the star filly and Silver Valor.
I will readily admit that the Two Year Old Sprint Championship was created for Anxious Gold.
With no Steward's Cup race for young sprinters, there needed to be something to fill the void, and this brilliant young horse had no where to go. The Trial system, where the top four finishers could go to the final, was created, and Anxious Gold easily took his division. Nonchalant Speed defeated Em's Always Busy in the other division. Week 12, they faced off in the $1 million Championship. There was never any question about the winner, Anxious Gold won it easily with Em's Always Busy in second. Anxious Gold would race once as a three-year-old before retiring. The brilliant chestnut sired 8 stakes winners as a stallion (6%), including two millionaires, but none of his offspring were as brilliant as he.
The Steward's Cup took place in Louisville. Sim Goddess opened the day by winning the Juvenile Fillies. The dark bay would get the SIMMY for her division. Elusive Pegasus and Gotham City were favored in the Juvenile, but off a confidence-boosting allowance prep, Pi Kappa Dancer won by a head. Tejano's Pride took the Filly and Mare Turf, while Awesome Storm turned the tables on Rapid Bay in the Sprint. After Birthday Candle's Mile surprise, Always In Love, who had toiled away in allowances throughout the year, won the Filly and Mare Sprint, the very first one offered. Soldier Girl defeated her archrival Awesome Dancer in the Distaff, while Cascade finished fifth. Punishment won the Turf and headed into retirement. Then came the Classic, pitting older stars One in a Million, People's Champion, and Derby Dancer against Sports Jersey and Onwardsilvercharm. "Wally" defeated them all, giving LaDuke her first Classic win - the second wouldn't come for 11 more years.
In California, $2 million was put up to pit the two best three-year-olds, Silver Valor and Forever Risk, against each other. Frankly, this gave other horses a chance at winning the Steward's Cup money, and the race would be fair - two speedy stalker types against each other with no outside influence. Forever Risk won it narrowly after a tremendous stretch duel, with the announcer screaming "And yes! Brilliance has found a way!" at the line.
Both horses retired, and of course, the choice for Forever Risk's first mate was Silver Valor. The product was a hulking, long legged black colt named Briliancefindsaway.