If she were human, you would say Smuggler was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. After all, her sire, Unbridled, and dam, Inside Information, both were champions. In addition, Smuggler is a homebred who races for the Phipps Stable, which has a long tradition of breeding the best to the best and getting the best.
But Smuggler hasn't always had it easy. While being genetically blessed, she also was genetically cursed. She had to overcome physical adversity to earn the 2005 Eclipse Award as North America's outstanding 3-year-old filly, according to Ogden Mills Phipps.
Inside Information, the Eclipse-winning older female in 1995, "was as good as really any filly, other than Personal Ensign, that our family has had," Phipps said. "But she always had some back problems because of narrowing of the vertebrae, and her foals have had those same kinds of problems."
Phipps sent Inside Information to Unbridled, the strapping 1990 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner, because he thought some additional size might correct the spinal deficiencies of the mare's offspring. But Smuggler didn't turn out to be very big and she had a back similar to her mother's.
"It wasn't as bad as some of the other foals, and she's had some trouble," Phipps said. "But we've been very lucky with her because she was still able to really live up to her potential."
Smuggler has five older siblings, and only one has raced. Named Manipulator, he also was sired by Unbridled.
As a 2-year-old, Smuggler won twice and finished second in the Three Ring Stakes at Calder Race Course. She did not compete again until the following May, when she scored in her 3-year-old debut, taking an allowance event by 2 ¾ lengths at Belmont Park. She then finished second in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I), a race won by her dam.
"I think some of it was lack of experience and because of all the time off that she had," said Phipps of Smuggler's loss to Eclipse finalist Round Pond in the Acorn. "But she showed us a great deal, and she probably ran a better race than she was entitled to run. I thought coming out of that race that she would win the next one."
And Smuggler did, charging up on the outside to defeat Spun Sugar by a neck in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I), even though the Phipps runner hesitated after she made the lead. It was another two lengths back to Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner and Eclipse Award finalist Summerly.
Nearly a month later, in the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), Smuggler was a more dominant force. Trailing the leaders in third early, she made a sweeping move on the far turn and her tiring rivals offered little resistance as she grabbed the advantage. At the wire, she was 3 ½ lengths in front of Summerly, who held off Spun Sugar by a head for second.
Smuggler "has the same heart as her mother had, but Inside Information probably had a little more speed and ran closer to the pace even though Smuggler doesn't run that far off of it," Phipps said. "In both of them, there is the ability to kick in and go fast for a long way."
Phipps and Smuggler's trainer, Shug McGaughey, planned to point her for the Alabama Stakes (gr. I), but more adversity blocked the bay filly's path.
"I think she would have been a big favorite to win the Alabama, but she got an abscess in her lung up in Saratoga," Phipps said. "It seemed strange because she was fit and well, and her blood count was good. Then she comes down with that. It took us a long time to find it, and once we did, we knew she couldn't run in the Alabama. Later in the year, when we tried to bring her back for a race in November, she had an episode with colic."
But even though Smuggler's 3-year-old campaign was cut short, Phipps is happy with her accomplishments.
The Mother Goose and CCA Oaks "are two of America's greatest races," Phipps said. "They're exactly what you're trying to win with a filly. In my mind, if you can win them and a Breeders' Cup race, you can't do much better than that."
Plans call for Smuggler to run again in 2006 and "then she'll be retired," Phipps said.Voting for 3-Year-Old Female:
Smuggler, 177; Indian Vale, 24; Summerly, 20; Round Pond, 16; In the Gold, 9; Sweet Catomine, 9; Cesario (JPN), 2; Leave Me Alone, 1; Splendid Blended, 1; Sweet Symphony 1; Voter Abstentions 2.To purchase photographs of this year's Eclipse Award winners, click here.