Southern California's Greatest Racehorses: Silver Charm

May 14, 2015 07:40am
Silver Charm at Old Friends (12-2-14).
Photo: Stacy Edwards

Unlike many of the superstar thoroughbreds I will discuss in this series, this grey colored son of Silver Buck took awhile to grow on me as a young racing fan during the mid-nineties. Perhaps it was his somewhat brash young trainer or more likely it was the narrow defeats he handed one of my all-time favorite horses in the two biggest races of his career, but over the years my respect has grown infinitely. As we approach the second leg of the Triple Crown this Saturday, Bob and Beverly Lewis owned Silver Charm seems the appropriate conversation for this week’s rendition of Southern California Racing Greats.

It was several years ago, but just like in 1997, trainer Bob Baffert heads to Pimlico Race Course dreaming of racing’s elusive Triple Crown.  While this year’s Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah has wowed racing fans with his powerful stride and dominating performances, Silver Charm was more workmanlike and one of the gutsiest horses in recent memory. 

His career started with two sprints at Del Mar in August of 1996 where he finished second and then followed that up two weeks later with a maiden breaking performance over the same surface.  The future Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner would race just one more time as a two-year old in the Grade II Del Mar Futurity. In this seven-furlong event he wore down stable mate Gold Tribute in a thriller to capture the $250,000 event.

The racing world would not see Silver Charm again until February of his three-year old season when he reappeared in the Grade III San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park.  Funontherun for trainer Mel Stute was the narrow favorite over the Baffert trainee who went off at 5-2. Funontherun set the pace, but yielded late to runner up Free House and the eventual winner, Silver Charm. This sparked one of the most memorable three-year old campaigns of my life.

The top two finishers from the San Vicente met again in the San Felipe Stakes where the California bred son of Smokester turned the tables. This set the stage the following month for the Grade I Santa Anita Derby where talented filly Sharp Cat was added to the mix and made the 2-1 favorite. Despite her early speed, she was unable to beat eventual winner Free House or runner up Silver Charm. Both colts moved onward to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. The D. Wayne Lukas trained filly would return to face her own gender despite a valiant effort against the boys.

The 1997 “Run for the Roses” was one of the better renditions in my time as a racing fan.  The son of A.P. Indy, Pulpit, as well as Team Valor’s Captain Bodgit joined Silver Charm and Wayne Catalano conditioned Crypto Star as the four runners under 6-1 at post time. Again the bettors dismissed Free House based on his pedigree and connections despite his wins in Southern California. He went off at over 10-1.  In a thrilling stretch duel, the grey warrior showed his heart as much as ever in holding off the hard charging “Captain.” To this day I still have a hard time believing Silver Charm hit the wire first. Gary Stevens’ ride and ability to keep his colt’s head down at the wire was nearly as impressive as the ten furlongs run by the Lewis owned runner.  What a race!

After the dramatic finish in Kentucky, the top three finishers headed to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes where they were joined by “new shooter” Touch Gold. Despite taking quite a bit of money at the windows, Touch Gold was eliminated early with a horrid start setting the stage for another thriller between Silver Charm, Free House, and Captain Bodgit. The Maryland gamblers opted to make Silver Charm the third choice, but once again Gary Stevens was able to get him to the wire first and move on to Belmont Park in search of the first Triple Crown since the great Affirmed beat Alydar three consecutive times to win it in 1978.

As has become the trend in my lifetime, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was unable to win the third leg of the “Crown,” illustrating the immortality it takes to win racing’s most elusive accomplishment.  In a masterful ride, Chris McCarron and the son of Deputy Minister, Touch Gold, were able to defeat Silver Charm as well as Free House and Crypto Star to take the 1997 Belmont Stakes.  The racing world would have to wait for another time to see the long awaited Triple Crown achived. As long time New York Racing Association race caller Tom Durkin declared, “And Touch Gold will deny him in the crown by a heartbreaking half length.” It certainly was not for a lack of effort by the son of Silver Buck and his connections. Touch Gold was a very talented runner and simply more fresh on June 7, 1997.

While the majority of Silver Charm’s memories were made during his three-year old campaign, the classy colt continued racing until June of his five-year old season.  He returned to the track in December of 1997 with a runner up effort in the Grade I Malibu Stakes and from there won three straight, including a trip overseas to the lucrative Dubai World Cup. Despite tailing off a bit in his last few races, it is hard to knock anything this courageous colt ever accomplished. He always gave it his best and fortunately for racing fans he ran well past today’s norm for Kentucky Derby winners.  Silver Charm ran his last race on June 12th, 1999 where he finished fourth in the Grade II Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs behind winner Victory Gallop. He had quite a career, finishing with 12 wins, 7 seconds and 2 thirds in 24 lifetime starts and career earnings of nearly 7 million dollars.

After his racing career was complete, the twelve-time winner stood at Three Chimneys Farm for some time before being purchased by the Japan Breeders Association. He stood at the Shizunai Stallion Station in December 2004 before being moved to Shichinohe Stallion Station in 2008 and Iburi Stallion Station in 2009.  His career as a sire was far less productive than he was on the track, but did include progeny Preachinathebar and Miss Isella. In October of 2014, Three Chimneys and Old Friends Farms announced that the old warrior would return to the States and be retired at Old Friends where he is today. Fans can visit him and say thanks to one of the most memorable runners during this generation. I look forward to my first visit with Silver Charm soon.


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Scott has been a fan of handicapping and following thoroughbred racing since Garden State Park was rebuilt in Cherry Hill, NJ in 1985.  His first memories of the racetrack include the 1985 Jersey Derby won by Spend a Buck and the 1990 Met Mile clash between Easy Goer, Criminal Type and Housebuster, but it was not until his mid to late twenties that Scott became confident he had a knack for picking winners. He points to the summer of 2007 in San Diego while working on a masters degree in American History as the time where he took his handicapping, his communication skills, and his attention to detail to the next level.  It was at this time where he had his first real big score.   He had four of only five winning combinations in the now extinct “Place Pick All” on a $8 ticket netting himself $40,000. 

A few months after hitting a monster pick five at Santa Anita Park in February of 2013, Scott started his website, showcasing his and other experts' selections, as well as analysis and commentary on North American racing. From there, he began writing a weekly column for called "Race of the Week" and soon thereafter started writing for Horse Racing Nation. Currently, he is Horse Racing Nation's Southern California Racing Correspondent and can be found most days at Santa Anita Park or Del Mar Race Course.

Scott loves playing in horse racing tournaments and constructing pick four and pick five tickets.  His favorite all-time horses are Captain Bodgit, A.P. Indy, Fly So Free and Charismatic. He has lived in multiple states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado before returning to Southern California in the middle of 2015 to start "Shapper Da California Capper." 


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