11/21/2008 12:00AM

Sweet Goodbye fills gap for Harris, Grove

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As the dam of three multiple stakes winners who together had earned more than $1 million, Thirty Eight Steps was deeply mourned when she died three years ago at the age of 18.

Her owner, William R. Harris, chose a special name for the filly born just 2 1/2 months before her death - Sweet Goodbye.

Now, Sweet Goodbye, a Maryland-bred daughter of Louis Quatorze, is opening new doors for Harris, a resident of Mineral, Va., who has campaigned many successful homebreds since buying his first horse in 1961.

Her trainer, Chris Grove, has likened Sweet Goodbye to his former stable star Silmaril, the Maryland-bred millionaire who retired early this season with a dozen stakes wins.

"She does everything very easy," said Grove.

Sweet Goodbye left her rivals behind in the slop in the Northern Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park last Saturday, defeating males for her second stakes win in a row.

It was a predictable follow-up to the Maryland Million Oaks, which Sweet Goodbye captured by three lengths, defeating accomplished rivals Saxet Heights and Love for Not.

Brought along patiently by Grove, who waited until last June to send her out for the first time, in maiden special weight company at Delaware Park, Sweet Goodbye has won 5 of 6 career starts by a combined 27 1/4 lengths for earnings of $176,400.

Next on Sweet Goodbye's agenda is the Ladies Handicap on Dec. 14 at Aqueduct.

Harris, the retired owner of a mechanical contracting firm, Harris Heating, in the Richmond, Va., area, raises his horses at several large farms he owns near his home. But many of his best runners have been conceived and foaled in Maryland.

Sweet Goodbye and her stakes-winning siblings were all sired by stallions standing at Allen and Audrey Murray's Murmur Farm in Darlington, Md. Murmur served as the birthplace for all four.

Sweet Goodbye is from the first Maryland crop of Louis Quatorze, the 1996 Preakness winner who continues to make his mark at Murmur.

Harris, who owns about 20 broodmares, began his association with Sweet Goodbye's family in the 1970s, when he bought her great-granddam, Amaranth Street (by Up the Ensign), at the conclusion of her racing career at Charles Town.

From a mating with Anticipating (a son of Bold Ruler then standing in Maryland), Amaranth Street produced Amanti, who won or placed in 20 stakes for Harris, earning $306,981 in the 1980s.

Amanti also proved stellar in the breeding shed, producing multiple stakes winner Nawmon ($276,701) and multiple-stakes-placed Quiet Gratitude ($260,316) and Imadefender ($113,518).

Amanti's daughter Thirty Eight Steps (by long-prominent Maryland sire Thirty Eight Paces) remained unraced because of injury.

But Thirty Eight Steps produced as her first foal Norstep, a 1992 daughter of Norquestor who won or placed in nine stakes, earning $229,845. After that came the crack sprinter Deer Run (1997, Deerhound).

Grove's first stakes winner, Deer Run captured the Maryland Million Sprint and Fire Plug Stakes, and placed in eight other stakes, including a runner-up performance to D'wildcat in the 2002 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, a Grade 1 race. He retired with earnings of $408,530.

For the past several years, Harris's standout has been Five Steps, a Yarrow Brae son out of Thirty Eight Steps. Grove sent out Five Steps to earn a career total of $413,746, with 10 wins (four stakes), including two stakes this season.

At age 7, Five Steps made a third bid in the Maryland Million Classic this year (he finished second in the 2007 Classic and third in 2005) but exited the race with bone chips. Surgery was successful, and Five Steps went home to recover, then contracted a still-undetermined illness and was euthanized early this month.

Harris and Grove said good-bye to him with sad reluctance.