Owner to see filly shoot at record riches


Horse Racing

July 23, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The celebrity trainer Bob Baffert won't attend Silverbulletday's assault on history today in the Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park, but the filly's colorful owner Mike Pegram will.

"I ain't going to let that girl run by herself," Pegram said Thursday from his summer home near Del Mar racetrack in Southern California.

While Pegram watches to see if Silverbulletday will become the richest filly or mare in history, her trainer will remain in California for the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park. Pegram's Captain Steve will compete in it.

Pegram said it was not difficult deciding whether to stay on the West Coast for Captain Steve or fly cross-country for Silverbulletday.

"She has never won without me," Pegram said. "Captain Steve has. That was that."

Pegram has attended all of Silverbulletday's 22 races, which include 15 wins and three second-place finishes. She has collected $3,027,207 in paychecks, $256,181 shy of the record for females held by Serena's Song.

In 38 races in 1994, 1995 and 1996, Serena's Song earned $3,283,388. The $360,000 winner's share of the Delaware Handicap's $600,000 purse would push Silverbulletday beyond that and into the history books.

But few seem to be taking notice.

"I think what's happened," Pegram said, "is that she's one of those fillies who's done everything so easy that people take her for granted."

But Pegram doesn't.

He calls himself a racing fan who happens to own horses. And he's become outspoken lately over how racing so quickly denigrates its champions when they start losing races. He mentioned Cigar, Skip Away, and Silverbulletday as examples.

Silverbulletday, 4, has lost her last three. As a 2-year-old, she won six of seven, and at 3 she won eight of 11. Both years she won Eclipse awards as outstanding 2- and 3-year-old filly.

She's won 14 stakes, including five Grade I's. (She finished seventh in last year's Belmont Stakes, her only race against males, but ran superbly in the process.) . In last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, she finished sixth as the favorite in the worst performance of her career.

Pegram said that because he and Baffert over-raced Silverbulletday last year, she entered that race a tired horse.

"At the beginning of this year I said I wanted two things for Silverbulletday," Pegram said. "I wanted her to break the earnings record, and I wanted her to be at her best on Breeders' Cup day."

He said that after the Delaware Handicap she will race sparingly, or perhaps not at all, before the Breeders' Cup Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

Outgoing and generous, Pegram owns homes on the West Coast and McDonald's franchises in Washington state. In what has turned out to be one of racing's great investments, he paid $155,000 for Silverbulletday as a yearling.

Said Pegram: "This is always hard to say, because I don't want to take anything away from Real Quiet's achievements [Pegram's Real Quiet won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness], but Silverbulletday is the one who's the horse of a lifetime."

Pegram plans on retiring her at the end of the year.

Winning the Delaware Handicap won't be easy. Her main rival, Lu Ravi, beat her by a head July 4 in the Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park. But Pegram said that Silverbulletday, whom he named for his fondness for the cans of beer known as "silver bullets," is ready.

"She's going to fire a big shot," Pegram said. "She's back on her game."

Paulson helped Maryland

Allen Paulson's death Wednesday reminded Marylanders what a large contribution he made to the state's reputation as a thoroughbred stronghold and to one of its premier horse farms.

Paulson, 78, died of cancer in California. He won two Eclipse awards as leading owner and one as leading breeder. He also won the Eclipse Award of Merit in 1996 for the Maryland-bred Cigar.

When he got into the horse business in the early 1980s, he bought 70 yearlings at Keeneland, Saratoga and other top sales. One was Allen's Prospect, whom he named for himself.

When Allen's Prospect got hurt racing as a 3-year-old, Paulson was still building Brookside Farm in Kentucky. Through mutual contacts with the Pons family at Country Life Farm, Paulson decided to stand Allen's Prospect at the Pons' farm near Bel Air.

Paulson retained 10 breeding rights to Allen's Prospect. Beginning in 1987, the stallion's first year, and continuing for eight straight years, Paulson used every one of those breedings, sending some of his top mares to Maryland.

Their offspring helped launch Allen's Prospect and sustain Country Life Farm. Now 18, Allen's Prospect has been Maryland's leading sire three of the last four years. He's led the nation in wins twice and in winning foals twice.

Paulson also sent mares to Corridor Key, a former Country Life stallion of which he owned a quarter. In early 1990, he sent Solar Slew, in foal to Palace Music, to Country Life to be bred to Corridor Key. On April 18, in the foaling barn at Country Life, Solar Slew gave birth to a tough little foal who grew into Cigar. Two-time Horse of the Year, Cigar became the greatest Maryland-bred in history.

Also noted

Laurel Park will conduct its sixth annual "Summerfest" from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. It includes pony rides, petting zoo, craft displays, health fair, music, prizes, and live entertainment. ...Beginning tomorrow, more than a million households will receive betting vouchers from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in what the NTRA is billing as the largest direct-mail promotion in racing history. Worth at least $2, with one worth $1 million, the vouchers must be redeemed Aug. 6 at participating racetracks, including Laurel Park and Delaware Park.

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