George Steinbrenner was standing in Calder's walking ring idly chatting about baseball on the afternoon of July 14 when he was nearly mowed down by a muscular bay that resembled a demure filly as much as his Yankees resemble the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
"Who was that monster?" he asked as he backed from her path. Then, a flash of recognition. "That's Dream Supreme," he announced, ever the proud papa. "Can you imagine if I got hit by her?"
Eight other fillies and mares can. They were among the unlucky group to catch Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stable's 4-year-old on one of her better days in the nation's richest distaff sprint, the $400,000 six-furlong Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. III).
"Nobody can beat her by seven lengths when she runs her best race," said trainer Bill Mott, explaining her loss to Dat You Miz Blue in last month's Vagrancy Handicap (gr. III) after Dream Supreme added the Princess Rooney to her growing résumé. Then, a promise: "We're going to meet her again."
Mott had expressed his concern with Dream Supreme's inside post position before the Princess Rooney, and watched as the daughter of Seeking the Gold broke a bit sluggishly, allowing Hidden Assets and Dynamite Diablo to match strides for the lead through an opening quarter of :21.59. Jockey Pat Day had meanwhile maneuvered Dream Supreme outside, and took up the chase of Hidden Assets when a :23.15 second quarter cooked Dynamite Diablo.
"I just let her settle herself and find a place to run," Day described.
The last time Dream Supreme and Hidden Assets hooked up, in February's Shirley Jones Handicap (gr. III) across town at Gulfstream, Dream Supreme drew even with Hidden Assets on the turn but could not pass her, eventually finishing third. Mott chalked up her performance to rustiness from a three-month layoff. Much sharper now, Dream Supreme whisked by Hidden Assets near Calder's three-sixteenths pole and sauntered to the wire 4 3/4 lengths clear, under what Day emphasized was "very mild encouragement."
In 1:10.48 over a fast track moistened by intermittent showers, Dream Supreme took home $240,000 to push her earnings to within shouting distance of a cool million. Though she is not finished by any stretch of the imagination -- Mott noted her next assignment would be a title defense of Saratoga's Ballerina Handicap (gr. I) where last year she emulated the 1993 win by her dam, Spinning Round -- the trainer was setting no long-term goals.
"She's already won two grade ones and really doesn't have anything more to prove," he said. "Right now it's just a joy for her owner to watch her run."
The joy that Steinbrenner experienced on Calder's Summit of Speed program, which featured seven stakes ranging from two to six furlongs and more than $1 million in purses, was clearly radiated back to him. There are few owners whose celebrity can subject Hall of Fame connections such as Mott and Day to the background, but Steinbrenner, as he walked the grounds signing autographs and assisting women down stairs, was clearly in his glory.
The afternoon did not begin so promisingly, however. Across the street at Pro Player Stadium, Steinbrenner's Yankees were in danger of being swept in a three-game series by the Florida Marlins, and dark clouds overhead soured the mood at the track.
Sunlight broke through when track announcer Phil Saltzman announced that the Yankees had prevailed in extra innings -- "I really thought that would set me up to get booed down here," the owner joked -- and then Illusioned, another Kinsman homebred, won the $250,000 Carry Back Stakes for 3-year-olds in the race preceding the Princess Rooney. His victory, equally as impressive as his more accomplished stablemate's, came in just his fifth start.
"That was quite a trifecta," smiled Steinbrenner.
Fortunately for the remainder of the starry-eyed horsemen, Kinsman had only two runners in the Summit of Speed stakes, which left the other five available. Mark Guidry guided Nelson Bunker Hunt's 3-year-old filly Hattiesburg to her fifth straight win in the Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III), while the globetrotting Texas Glitter captured the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint Handicap.
In two of the more unique events you are likely to see, Puma rallied to win the quarter-mile Rocket Man Handicap while four true Quarter Horses took on four Thoroughbreds in "The Challenge," won by -- appropriately enough -- former major league pitcher Rob Murphy's Thoroughbred Diamond Studs.