Does the word walkover ring a bell? It wasn't exactly the situation in which no one wants to challenge a lopsided favorite who is awarded victory by default, but Silverbulletday's gallop through the Grade II, $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes yesterday was about as close as it comes.
Mike Pegram's filly showed why she was undoubtedly of Triple Crown caliber by running away from six rivals and setting a stakes record of 1 minute, 47 4/5 seconds for 1 1/8 miles. The winning time was just three-fifths of a second off the track record held by Private Terms.
At 1-to-9 odds, she cruised to the finish line comfortably ahead of a rallying Dreams Gallore to equal what happened two weeks ago in the Kentucky Oaks. The margin was identical -- two lengths.
But the expected victory was tempered by what might have been had Silverbulletday not drawn the extreme outside post for today's 124th running of the Preakness.
"It was very sullen in the paddock," said winning rider Gary Stevens, who has been aboard the filly for eight of her past nine wins. "I can't explain it. We're all a little let down that she's not running tomorrow. Since Wednesday, I've felt like somebody kicked me in the stomach.
"I feel sorry for Mike Pegram. He's going to be sitting in the stands and watching."
Said trainer Bob Baffert: "It's a little like a consolation prize. I know the Black-Eyed Susan is a great race, but we had her ready for the Preakness. But I always put her before me and I always will."
Stevens compared Silverbulletday to two of the greatest filly runners ever -- Ruffian and Personal Ensign -- and said she exceeds others he has ridden like Serena's Song and Winning Colors because "there are no flaws in her."
The race itself went predictably with jockey Pat Day sending the speed horse, The Happy Hopper, out to push Silverbulletday early through fractions of : 23 3/5, : 47 1/5 and 1: 10 4/5. She faded after six furlongs while Dreams Gallore launched her rally from sixth.
"At the three-eighths pole, I had plenty of horse," said Robby Albarado, the jockey on Dreams Gallore. "I thought I could get to her, but I thought I could get to her the last time [in Kentucky]. But she's a sensational filly, and everybody knows that. I just had the second best."
Silverbulletday had everything going for her, including the No. 1 post on a day when the rail was golden. Stevens said he studied the earlier races and learned that speed mastered all.
Shortly after the break, he "tapped her on the shoulder with the stick," an unfamiliar tactic to Silverbulletday. "She took the cue and went on. That was a very comfortable thought."
Stevens then nursed her on the lead and "she exploded for the wire. In the stretch I had the same feeling I do every time I ride her. It makes the hair on your neck stand up."
Said Baffert: "This is just a great filly. She's such a pro. Nothing bothers her. She can do anything."
But no one will ever know if she can break from post 14 in her first bout with male horses and prevail. "She would have had to sustain this kind of run all the way," Baffert said. "I don't know if even she can do that."
In the $100,000 Gallorette Handicap on the turf, Edgar Prado broke Winfama on top, controlled a slow pace and scored the mare's first victory outside of Florida.
"I thought she would go on and win it after they put up 24 and change [: 24 4/5] for the first quarter," said trainer Marty Wolfson. "She's won a lot of races just this way. I was just lucky to have Edgar for this one and for Sharp Appeal tomorrow. He's the best-kept secret in the game."
Pub Date: 5/15/99