2nd Crown shot doubles Lewises' pleasure

After Silver Charm, `two old codgers' hardly expected another shot


124th Preakness

May 16, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Bob and Beverly Lewis are proving that nice couples can finish first.

For the second time in three years, the Lewises have savored the joy of winning both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and now they have a second shot at the Triple Crown.

Two years ago, when Silver Charm finished second in the Belmont, they hardly thought they would get another chance. Charismatic's victory in yesterday's Preakness has provided it.

"It's absurd to even think about that [second chance]. That's ridiculous. To think a couple of people from Newport Beach who are really not knowledgeable in this industry in terms of horsemanship, but have been players or investors or whatever you want to call us, dumb or something, it's unbelievable," he said.

The Lewises are not racing blue bloods with Roman numerals at the end of their names. They would be comfortable among the railbirds. He was a beer distributor who seemed in awe of his good fortune, especially since he had wanted to lose Charismatic in a $62,500 claiming race in February to recoup his investment.

"Can you imagine two old codgers like my young bride and myself, can you imagine we've gone for the Triple Crown twice in a lifetime? Can you believe that? How can a couple of country bumpkins from Newport Beach be so fortunate?" he said.

The Lewises seemed to have stepped off the screen of "It's a Wonderful Life," and he has a self-deprecating sense of humor.

Throughout the post-race news conference, Lewis, who turned 75 Wednesday, held his arm around his "bride" and had a smile as long as the backstretch.

He said: "I don't want to be a cornball, but we've been blessed with three wonderful children. We have three magnificent grandchildren. We've had a marriage of soon to be 52 years. I don't know how you can go through life and be so lucky. We thank the good Lord. It's just been marvelous."

Lewis is so upbeat he referred to aging Pimlico as a "great racetrack," and he can talk about how wonderful his life has been even though he had a massive heart attack in 1972 and underwent double bypass surgery years later.

He didn't needle all the racing experts who thought Charismatic couldn't repeat his Kentucky Derby victory. He was too busy enjoying the fact that his horse paid $18.80 to win.

"Ain't that something? It's unbelievable. I'll tell you this is [almost] better than the beer business," he said.

When Silver Charm tried for the Crown, Lewis brought 110 guests to the Belmont but wasn't much of a host because he had the flu.

"I struggled through the thing, and frankly I was kind of happy when it was all over with. I don't think I can really appreciate just what that loss meant to us at the time," he said.

Asked whether he'll bring that many guests to the Belmont this time, he said: "I'm going to go home and talk to the war department here to see what Beverly says, and then I'll let you know."

Regardless of how many guests he brings, it'll be quite a party.

"If we could be successful in New York, wouldn't it be phenomenal?" he said. "It would really be a tear-jerker. It would be something that would just be unbelievable, and it would be so special for us to be so honored. If he does [win], won't it be wonderful for thoroughbred racing to have a Triple Crown winner once again?"

Lewis vows to enjoy every moment of the next three weeks. He invited reporters to call anytime of the day or night and added: "I hope you'll all be supportive. I don't want to buy you off, but if you need a case of beer, holler."

Pub Date: 5/16/99

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