DERBY CHAMP SILVER CHARM STILL MAKES HIS MARK
As the 2015 Kentucky Derby draws near, folks far and wide are dreaming of the glory the first Saturday in May can bring. One of the things that brings those thoughts to some of the current competitors on the road to Churchill Downs are the actions of one of the past champions.
Silver Charm is a beautifully marked horse that just happened to lead Bob Baffert to his first Kentucky Derby winner’s circle. The year was 1997 and the former Arizona quarter horse giant was fresh off the so-called best and worst day of his life when Cavonnier came up just a nose short at the 1996 Run for the Roses. Now, he was back with a Florida-bred owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis to make another run at the most coveted prize in the sport. As it turned out, Silver Charm’s makeup was just what the doctor ordered for his conditioner’s case of Derby fever.
“Maybe it was fate, but I purchased Silver Charm the same week we took Cavonnier to the Kentucky Derby,” says Baffert. “He is certainly one of my all-time favorites because he was such a fighter. I knew every time I led him up to the gate he was going to give us everything he had and that is really tough on a horse. He finished second in the Santa Anita Derby that year, but the way he fought back and almost won was incredible.”
Baffert needed every ounce of fight in this son of Silver Buck to get his trip to the winner’s circle beneath the twin spires. As the runners turned for home, Silver Charm put on an all out drive for the lead. Coming from the third spot, he eclipsed front-running Free House just inside the three-sixteenths pole. As he battled to the lead, Captain Bodgit began gaining ground on Silver Charm with every stride as the wire drew ever closer. The Charm dug deeper and refused to be passed up by the on-rushing Captain and kept a head in front at the finish line. In an epic stretch duel, Baffert’s boy reversed the disappointment of 1996 and won the battle.
“When the other horse (Captain Bodgit) came to him I thought here we go again, I’m going to get beat at the wire,” recalls Baffert. “Somehow though, I knew Silver Charm was not going to let that happen and he didn’t. He just dug in and was tough. He didn’t win most of his races by much, but what a true competitor. When you buy a horse you can’t measure his heart. Like any great athlete you don’t know about that until they are put in that situation.”
Silver Charm’s heart and desire to compete established a measuring stick others today can be measured by. In 24 lifetime starts, this gallant gray won 12 times, was second 7 times and third twice. That means 21 times in the money. Included in those wins were thrilling triumphs in the 1997 Preakness, the 1998 Dubai World Cup, and the 1998 Clark Handicap. His warrior-like mentality and will to compete endeared to the hearts of many including those closest to him.
“He is my favorite horse of all-time,” says hall of famer and Silver Charm jockey Gary Stevens. “I don’t know if he was the best horse I have ever ridden but he is definitely my favorite. He was totally blue collar and he loved to battle and never lost any of the close battles he was in. He always knew where the wire was and was super intelligent. Silver Charm had a lot of class and was a “just win baby” type of runner. We had a special bond and he is one of my best friends.”
After his racing career Silver Charm headed off to a stud career at Three Chimneys Farm and later in Japan. Now at age 21, the Charm is back in the states and thrilling race fans again as an attraction at Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky. Nestled in the heart of Thoroughbred horse country, Old Friends has given this still spirited champion that many recognize a place to call home. Having battled through the first two legs of the Triple Crown and becoming the first horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup, Silver Charm was a prized catch for this Thoroughbred retirement home.
“Silver Charm is my favorite all-time Thoroughbred,” says Old Friends director Michael Blowen. “When we heard he was coming here I was just beside myself. What a competitor he was on the track. He is an athlete all those who battle in life can identify with. He has been super to have here and we couldn’t be happier to look out and see him everyday.”
So, as Bob Baffert prepares his top-rated runners for Kentucky Derby 141 and Gary Stevens decides which Thoroughbred he will ride, the thoughts of a warrior like Silver Charm will probably be running through their minds.
“I’m going to Old Friends to see Silver Charm,” says Stevens. “It’s been a long time since I have seen him and I can’t wait to get next to him again.”