The scene from the paddock at Belmont Park was the calm before the storm. The fillies and mares stood regally as their saddles were tightened, and they began their walk around the ring. Trainers gave the jockeys their final instructions and good luck wishes before the “Riders Up!” call was made.
Under a steady drizzle, the horses and their riders headed to post. With the shutter of cameras from trackside photographers, the bustle of fans rushing to find the best spot on the rail to watch the horses go by, and handicappers making their final bets before grabbing one last beer – the atmosphere was simply electric for one of the premier races of the day. With thousands of spectators filling the grandstand, fans, handicappers, and media alike whispered in eager anticipation for the showdown among the country’s most fierce Thoroughbred amazons.
Despite the questions and concerns raised from the public over recent weeks, Mike Smith mounted his steed with a quiet confidence. Despite the tumultuous atmosphere, Inside Information’s mind was on business. Her nostrils flared and neck bowed as she made her way to the track, and fans and horsemen alike admired her as she passed. Though some of the other fillies seemed unsettled by the frantic energy at Belmont Park, Inside Information entered the gate with a calm assurance.
With her head held still and an ear cocked towards Mike, awaiting his command, the two sat in what seemed an eerie silence before they would be released into battle one final time…
On October 14th, 2017, the great Breeders’ Cup Champion Inside Information passed away at the age of 26 due to the infirmities of old age. As the somber news of her passing broke, a steady stream of replays, photos, and memoirs were posted in her honor. Through her brilliance displayed on the track, she was a horse that had etched her name into the memories of even the most casual of race fans, but even more so to those who knew her directly — especially to the one who journeyed with her to victory on so many occasions.
Feminine, athletic, perfectly balanced, and professionally behaved – Inside Information was a picture of an ideal Thoroughbred filly. The Ogden Mills Phipps homebred was one of four Champions sired by Private Account and had a pedigree laced with class. Early in her training, it became obvious to her Hall of Fame trainer “Shug” McGaughey that a gifted filly was under his tutelage, and she was quickly paired with a jockey that Shug felt would connect with her best…
Known for his soft hand and keen intuition when it came to horses, Smith almost instantaneously connected with the filly. With her sharp mind and Smith’s guiding leadership, the two began an unforgettable journey together.
Inside Information began her career in the Autumn of 1993, with Smith guiding the two year old filly to victory in her first career start at Belmont Park. Following her debut win up with a 3rd place finish at Aqueduct, preparations began for her sophomore campaign.
By her three year old year, Inside Information had begun to mature into a magnificent goddess of a Thoroughbred. Physically more defined and mentally more focused on the task that was on hand, things were about to look very different for the Inside Information team. After easily winning two allowance races, Mike Smith and Inside Information would face almost nothing but Grade 1 competition for the rest of her career. Having already proven to be a talented pair, Mike Smith and Inside Information had actually only given a preview as to what was in store for her 4-year-old season.
“We knew she would be good, but that 4-year-old season was unreal,” recalls Mike.
Unreal may have been an understatement, as the bay filly and her guiding captain were nearly unstoppable. Stake win after stake win, Inside Information was one of the best of a talented group of fillies in the crop of 1991. She danced every dance and conquered any challenge given to her. Even on a bad day, the petite bay filly was better than most, although questions were asked following her final start before the Breeders’ Cup…
It was the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland Race Course. On the day of the race, Inside Information was uncharacteristically fractious heading to the gate on what would be the last regular graded stakes appearance of her career. Though Mike’s soothing hands encouraged the filly to relax as she entered the gate, she anxiously tossed her head, swinging violently into the gate post, causing her to break sluggishly. Though she regained her stride, it was obvious she was lacking her her usual vigor. Inside Information’s normally authoritative presence crossing the wire was almost lackluster. Despite the lack of zeal in her performance, Mike still managed to guide the filly to victory that day, but concerns were raised about whether the filly had lost some of her previous form or competitiveness.
One individual in particular had no such worries in mind.
“Before the start of the Spinster she was acting up and hit her head on the gate. To this day I believe that’s one of the reasons she wasn’t on her A-game that day,” says Mike. “Prior to the Breeders’ Cup, she was working up a storm and was all business — like she knew what was coming. We knew she’d be good…”
A special “Thank You” to Coglianese Photos for the story header image of Mike Smith aboard Inside Information
As the steel gates opened, Inside Information did not leap into action with her usual grace and authority, as she faltered slightly among the crowded hustle of horseflesh. Her head dropped and ears pinned, but like any great athlete, Inside Information checked herself and quickly regained her regal composure. Her ears cocked back in anticipation for Mike’s command to attack.With a growing assurance in her stride, she emulated a fluid energy from her lean form and a keen concentration on the task at hand.
In what seemed the quickest race of her career, Inside Information began to take an almost supernatural control over the field. As Mike felt the surging power increase with every stride, he knew this was a ride he would never experience the likes of again. “She felt pretty keen before the race, but man… once she got going, there was no stopping her. That power was incredible,” the awe of the moment still evident in his voice these many years later.
Under a loose rein and modest urging, Inside Information exploded around the turn steadily lengthening her stride in a complete display of dominance and authority. Like sparring lionesses, the admirable ten horse field of stars suddenly found themselves surrendering to her great prowess. The Belmont Park crowd roared as Inside Information cruised home 13 ½ lengths in front of her Stablemate Heavenly Prize and Pat Day, and Tom Durkin’s now legendary call reverberated through the October air…
“Mike Smith asked her for run — and in an instant, the response was devastating! Inside Information, oh, look at this! A colossal victory!”
With his finger pointed towards the heavens, Mike and Inside Information charged home in a performance that he knew would be talked about for years to come. In an unforgettable display of athleticism, power, and chemistry between horse and rider, the pair recorded the largest winning margin in Breeders’ Cup history, and in that moment, a good racehorse became a champion and a Breeders’ Cup winning jockey became a Breeders’ Cup winning legend.
“I was just so proud of her,” says Mike. “After that, I knew she was one of the best horses I had ever, and likely WILL ever, ride in my career. I was blessed to be on her.”
Seemingly in response to the almost unearthly display of greatness, the rain stopped and a rainbow appeared over Belmont Park that afternoon. It was a moment of almost surreal peace and serenity as Mike Smith and Inside Information made one final walk to the Winner’s Circle together.
Quite simply, no story could have had a more perfect ending.
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