2nd-place finish a 'Silver' lining Rally in horse's first race since Belmont gives Baffert reason to smile

December 27, 1997|By ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER Sun staff writer Tom Keyser contributed to this article.

ARCADIA, Calif. -- The good news is Silver Charm is back.

"He showed a lot of heart and he hasn't lost a competitive step," trainer Bob Baffert said after the $200,000 Malibu Stakes yesterday at Santa Anita Park.

The better news is that Silver Charm might be improved after a layoff of more than six months.

"He showed instant acceleration instead of needing 50 yards to get wound up like he used to," jockey Gary Stevens said after the Malibu, the first leg of the three-race Strub Series.

The bad news, at least to those among the throng of 39,480 who bet the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner down to 3-10 favoritism, is that Silver Charm ran second in the field of nine, a half-length behind 9-1 shot Lord Grillo.

Lord Grillo, an Argentine-bred making his second start in the United States, was ridden patiently by Eddie Delahoussaye before they pulled away in deep stretch to win Santa Anita's seven-furlong opening-day feature in 1 minute, 21 2/5 seconds.

Silver Charm put on a furious late charge to no avail.

Lord Grillo paid $20.60, $4.20 and $3.20. Silver Charm, coupled in the betting with Trafalger, who ran eighth, paid $2.20 and $2.10. Swiss Yodeler, who had a one-length lead entering the stretch, finished third and returned $4.40.

Stevens and Silver Charm turned for home desperately seeking racing room along the rail behind a wall of four horses.

Chris McCarron, riding Mud Route, one of the members of the moving wall, was doing all he could to keep Silver Charm pinned.

By the time Stevens and Silver Charm escaped the traffic, Lord Grillo was home free.

"We should have won by five [lengths]," Stevens said. "I knew I was going to have to be very lucky to get through. But the fact he accelerated the way he did when we did get room was the sign that was important. It was the sign that he's taken that step forward."

Silver Charm was racing for the first time since June 7, when Touch Gold thwarted his bid for a sweep of the Triple Crown with a three-quarter length victory before 70,680 at the Belmont Stakes.

The 3-year-old Florida-bred son of Silver Buck came down with a fever after the Belmont, and Baffert decided to rest the gray colt until the Malibu.

Silver Charm, who ended his 3-year-old campaign with three victories and four seconds in seven starts, seems certain to be voted 1997's 3-year-old champion.

Ballots are in the hands of the electorate of nearly 400 people and the winners in all divisions will be announced Jan. 8.

Next up for Silver Charm are the final two-thirds of the Strub Series: the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 17 and the 1 1/8 -mile Strub Stakes on Feb. 7.

Silver Charm's owners, Beverly and Bob Lewis, were named yesterday as winners of the 1997 Eclipse Award of Merit. Joining such recipients as Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Joe Hirsch and Bill Shoemaker, the Lewises became racing's goodwill ambassadors during their colt's run for a Triple Crown.

In many interviews with his wife at his side, Bob Lewis expressed unabashed enthusiasm and optimism for the sport. The Lewises are also great philanthropists. They made their money selling Budweiser beer, building a small distributorship into the fifth-largest in southern California.

They'll receive their award at the Eclipse Awards dinner Feb. 10 in Palm Springs, Calif.

Pub Date: 12/27/97

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