A decade after her last race, Mariah's Storm is still providing inspiration.
The filly, who raced for Bill Peters of Des Moines from 1993-95, came back from a broken leg to become one of the nation's top fillies. Her story serves as the framework for the movie Dreamer: Inspired By A True Story.
Mariah's Storm, who started her career at Ak-Sar-Ben, won 10 of 16 races and was a finalist in the Eclipse Award voting for 1995's champion older filly or mare. Her biggest triumph was beating 3-year-old champion Serena's Song in the 1995 Turfway Park Breeders' Cup.
Her career and life could have ended two years earlier. She was racing in the 1993 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland when she broke her left front leg.
"You could hear it pop all over the track," Peters said.
Her condition was so tenuous that she was kept in her Keeneland stall for a month after the meet ended. She returned to training in the spring of 1994.
"The first time we breezed her (in a workout), my heart was pounding pretty hard," Don Von Hemel said. "That day, she jumped a shadow and my heart just about stopped."
Mariah's Storm returned by winning the Ak-Sar-Ben Oaks by 5 1/2 lengths and took four of six races as a 3-year-old.
At 4, she won four of six races again, capped by her meeting with Serena's Song. Mariah's Storm roared by her in the stretch to win by 5 1/2 lengths.
"When she changed leads (lead legs), she just shot forward," Peters said. "I've never seen a horse just shoot forward like that."
However, Mariah's Storm's career didn't have a Hollywood ending, She got sick the night before the Breeders' Cup Distaff and in hindsight, both Peters and Von Hemel say they should have scratched her. She finished ninth in the Distaff, but finished her career by winning the Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs.
She battled hoof problems throughout her career, and when they worsened, Peters retired her and bred her to the top stallion Storm Cat. Since he doesn't have a breeding operation, he sold her at auction in the fall of 1996 for $2.6 million, the year's biggest bid.
Even that turned out to be a bargain. The foal Mariah's Storm was carrying turned out to be European champion Giant's Causeway, who earned $3 million and now stands for a stud fee of $150,000.
"She had so much heart, and she put the heart back into her foals," Peters said.
Mariah's Storm is now at Coolmore Farm Kentucky branch. Both Peters and Von Hemel have continued to visit her.
"Sure she recognizes us. She still loves apples," Peters said. "We still love her."