Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
Rain has been known to dampen the spirits of many a person.
But not trainer Shug McGaughey, especially on a gray October afternoon in 1995.
For on that day, McGaughey’s 4-year-old filly Inside Information splashed through the mud at Belmont Park to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in a landslide, grabbing the lead at the half-mile pole and then drawing clear by 13 ½ lengths to establish a Breeders’ Cup record for largest winning margin that stands to this day.
It was the kind of dominant performance that would have been the talk of the town for years, except for what happened four races later when the “unconquerable, invincible, unbeatable” Cigar recorded his famed victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“If that wasn’t an Eclipse Award performance, I don't know what is,” said jockey Mike Smith shortly after riding Inside Information to her one-sided triumph.
True to Smith’s words, Inside Information was voted the champion older female of 1995 after her spectacular win in the Distaff, which closed out her career with an exclamation point as big as the skyscrapers in nearby Manhattan.
Inside Information won three of her four starts on a wet track, but the homebred daughter of Private Account out of the Key to the Mint mare Pure Profit was so much more than a mud lark.
Brilliant in both rain and shine, Inside Information won 14 of 17 starts for owner Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2008.
In 1995, she nearly matched Cigar with a perfect season, but a stumbling start in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga proved costly and she finished second to Classy Mirage by six lengths. She finished that year with six wins in seven starts.
When the speedy Inside Information was on top of her game, few fillies or mares could run with her at the start or the finish, and that was proven from day one.
In her career debut on Sept. 15, 1993 at Belmont Park, she coasted to a 7 ½-length victory, marking the first of an astonishing nine occasions when she would win by five lengths or more.
A rough start led to a third-place finish in a November allowance race at Aqueduct and signaled an end to her juvenile campaign.
She returned at 3 with high expectations for a sensational 1994 campaign and started the year in the right fashion with a pair of allowance wins at Gulfstream Park and then a 2 3/4-length score in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss, which served as her stakes debut.
She was even more impressive at Keeneland in April, taking the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes by 5 ½ lengths and then, in an even more staggering performance, doubled that margin when she took the lead at the start and blazed to an 11-length win in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes.
Fate stepped in and she was sidelined from June until November after a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Mother Goose, but she returned better than ever.
Under McGaughey’s patient handling, she used a pair of allowance wins to lay the foundation for a sensational 1995 season. The stakes portion started with a 5 1/2-length score in the Grade 1 Shuvee Handicap. That was followed by a pair of wins at Monmouth Park in the Grade 3 Budweiser Breeders’ Cup and Grade 2 Molly Pitcher Handicap.
Following the loss to Classy Mirage at Saratoga, Inside Information made amends with an 11-length knockout punch in the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap at Belmont and then worked considerably harder to post a victory by a head in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.
The Spinster put in place a highly anticipated showdown with the brilliant 3-year-old filly Serena’s Song at Belmont Park in the Breeders’ Cup.
Serena’s Song was the leading lady of her division during a sensational campaign that saw her defeat males in the Haskell Invitational Handicap and Jim Beam Stakes and be part of the favored entry in the Kentucky Derby. Though she faded to 16th in the run for the roses after setting a brutal pace, she came into the Distaff with a record of seven wins in nine starts in 1995 against her fellow females.
Inside Information had a safety net at the Breeders’ Cup in the form of stablemate Heavenly Prize, a closer who was second in the 1994 Distaff and finished second by three-quarters of a length to Serena’s Song in the 1995 Beldame.
As it turned out, the muddy track was all the help Inside Information needed.
Fourth after the opening quarter-mile, Inside Information grabbed the lead at the half-mile pole as Serena’s Song tracked in third. Turning for home, Smith asked for another notch of speed and through the stretch run Inside Information kicked mud in the faces of her rivals, turning what was supposed to be a classic duel into a laugher.
Ahead by seven lengths in early stretch, she widened the margin to 13 ½ lengths at the finish line as stablemate Heavenly Prize rallied to finish a distant second while Serena’s Song floundered in the wet going and faded to fifth.
It was Inside Information’s last race and her most unforgettable performance.
“You push the button on her,” McGaughey said about Inside Information in a 2010 Daily Racing Form story, “and a lot of times she did things that even fooled me.”
Especially on a rainy day in October of 1995 when Inside Information raced into Breeders’ Cup history.
Note: The story originally ran in 2014 and has been updated.
- Inside Information was the dam of Smuggler, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2005.
- Classy Mirage, who notched an upset victory over Inside Information at Saratoga, was trained by “The Giant Killer,” H. Allen Jerkens.
- In her six Grade 1 wins, Inside Information won by a combined 46 ¾ lengths.
- Inside Information is one of three Breeders’ Cup Distaff winners for McGaughey (joining Personal Ensign in 1988 and Pleasant Home in 2005) and one of his three older female champions (Personal Ensign in 1988, Queena in 1991).