Tragedy is Nothing New, but it Still Stings

Courtesy of Becky Johnston

With today's sad news of the passing of Go Between after a workout and Indyanne's death after a courageous battle for survival from a breakdown earlier this meet at Santa Anita.  I couldn't help but be a little melancholy.  Looking through Indyanne's pedigree I see her sire Indian Charlie (In Excess), the son of the Leo Castelli mare Soviet Sojourn. 

Leo Castelli was part of that amazing three-year-old crop of 1987 that included Alysheba, Bet Twice and Lost Code.  The west coast fillies of Soviet Sojourn's (b.1989) class were exciting too, but they also had some sad tales.

Soviet Sojourn began her racing career at Turf Paradise with a third-place effort in an allowance race before moving to the maiden special weight ranks almost six week later.  She promptly won the five furlong event in 1:03 2/5 by better than five lengths. 

Campaigned by Hal and Patti Earnhardt and trained by Bob Baffert, the Leo Castelli daughter was out of the Diplomat Way mare Political Parfait.  The Earnhardts also bred and own the brilliant Indian Blessing.  Indyanne's last race was a face-off with their champion daughter of Indian Charlie who also carries a good dose of Soviet Sojourn's class.  Both fillies share the Mr. Prospector line on their bottom side.

After the maiden win, Baffert wheeled Soviet Sojourn back in a couple of weeks for the Grade 2 Landaluce at Hollywood Park in 1991.  She was favored at 4/5, but she ran into the speedy Brian Mayberry trained filly Fluttery Danseur.  She could do no better than second, beaten less than three lengths in 1:09 2/5.

While Fluttery Danseur took her campaign back east to the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth in August, Soviet Sojourn showed up at the end of July in the Grade 3 Junior Miss Stakes, which she promptly won by a convincing four lengths over Wicked Wit and Spoiled Lady in 1:09 3/5 for the six furlongs. 

The Baffert filly successfully stretched out to seven furlongs in the Grade three Sorrento Stakes at the end of August.  The race would produce a rival for his filly in runner-up La Spia by Capote.  The juvenile race also featured another daughter of Capote, third-place finisher She's Tops, owned by Herman Sarkowsky.  She's Tops went on to produce the Grade 1 winner Dixie Union for the same connections.

Next up for Soviet Sojourn was the coveted one-mile Del Mar Debutante, a Grade 2 event at the end of August in 1991.  We can watch this showdown.

The James Bond movie producer Cubby Broccoli owned La Spia, but the two fillies were going to face a new shooter in the Grade 2 Oak Leaf in their next start when they stretched out to a mile and a sixteenth.

The Oak Leaf at Oak Tree was contested just over two weeks prior to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies that would be run at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in November.   The new competition for Soviet Sojourn and La Spia would be Buckland Farms' beautifully bred, but still a maiden, Pleasant Stage by Pleasant Colony, out of the Stage Door Johnny mare Meteor Stage.

The race would come down to the three fillies, but trouble was afoot.  While Pleasant Stage raced greenly and had to be checked and reproduced in the stretch, La Spia would take an inexplicably frightening step and appeared to be close to falling.

Here is the stretch run of the 1991 Oak Leaf.

Seemingly, none the worse for the wear, the trio would meet again at Churchill Downs.  Soviet Sojourn would be joined by trainer Chris Speckert's languid striding, yet agile, Pleasant Stage, who would once again find trouble in the stretch. 

The always gutsy filly La Spia trained by Randy Winick would try to get her 007 team in the winner's circle, but first, the three fillies would have to face the best from the east and that meant Claiborne Farm's beautifully bred Preach.  The two-year-old winner of the Grade 1 Frizette was by Mr. Prospector out of the Honest Pleasure mare Narrate. 

Here is the 1991 running of their race.


Although neither Preach nor Soviet Sojourn would win on this day, the two fillies saved their biggest efforts in producing excellent sons that would excel on the racetrack and in the breeding shed.  Preach produced her first foal in 1994, the Grade 1 Blue Grass winning colt by A.P. Indy, Pulpit.

Soviet Sojourn would foal two fillies before she got her colt.  The In Excess sired Indian Charlie won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.  Both he and Pulpit would go into their respective  Kentucky Derby races (1997 and 1998) with high hopes, but it would not be their day. 

Pulpit lost to Silver Charm, but still won four of his six starts while Indian Charlie watched stablemate Real Quiet take the Derby.  He also racked up an impressive record of five wins in six lifetime starts.

The Earnhardt's two-year old filly Soviet Sojourn would re-appear in December for a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet, but the Warren Stute trained Magical Maiden and Jack Van Berg trained Icy Eyes would seal the exacta.  Soviet Sojourn came in third in the mile and a sixteenth contest.

Soviet Sojourn's last start would come in the 1992 Santa Ynez Breeders' Cup.  The seven-furlong race was restricted to three-year-old fillies, a Grade 2 event at Santa Anita in February.


Soviet Sojourn and Preach certainly left their mark on both the racetrack and in their offspring, but tragic ends would come for two of the other fillies.  Pleasant Stage, who went on to place in the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn and the Coaching Club American Oaks died at Del Mar in the summer of 1992 after an adverse reaction to a vitamin B injection.

Who could forget the news of Looie Capote's injury and death in a trailer fire while being transported.

Tragedies seem to happen at every turn with these fragile animals, whether it is on the track or off the track.  We should take good care of them while they are with us and make sure we do right by them.  Go Between's trainer Bill Mott and Indyanne's trainer Greg Gilchrist both subscribe to this rule.

Unfortunately, Greg Gilchrist, is no stranger to these tragic turns of late.  He and his staff lost Harry Aleo's brilliant sprinter Lost in the Fog to cancer and then also lost the enigmatic and entertaining Harry Aleo.  Now this.

I would like to think that both Indyanne and Lost in the Fog have been made whole again.  That the sassy gray filly has found her way to Lost in the Fog and challenged him to a match race while Harry Aleo sits in the grandstand and cheers for his colt to just nip the filly at the wire.

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