Silver Charm, the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who thrilled racing fans with his whisker-thin victories and defeats, has been retired after a fourth-place finish in a stakes race at Churchill Downs.
The 5-year-old horse will start a career as a stallion, his owners, Bob and Beverly Lewis, said Sunday. Silver Charm retires in third place on the thoroughbred career earnings list behind Cigar and Skip Away.
"He's given so much to horse racing and he's performed beautifully and given a lot of excitement for all of us," Beverly Lewis said in an interview from the couple's home in California. "The time has come."
The dappled-gray Silver Charm finished 8 1/2 lengths behind Victory Gallop in the Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday, his fourth straight defeat. In his previous start, Silver Charm bled and wound up sixth in the March 28 Dubai World Cup.
"Yesterday was his last race," Bob Lewis said. "At its conclusion, I just looked at (trainer) Bob Baffert, and he looked at me, and we both agreed that retirement time had arrived."
"He came out of the race in great shape, ... and he's going to be retired in beautiful condition."
Silver Charm ended his career winning half of his 24 starts and earned $6,944,369, behind only Cigar's $9,999,815 and Skip Away's $9,616,360.
Lewis said Silver Charm had bulked up, weighing in excess of 1,300 pounds, which was affecting his performance on the track.
"He's really grown into that enormous frame that he has," Lewis said. "... To get that jump start that he had been able to before just took a lot of ability. He wasn't able to go on with it."
"There is a time when horses tell you whether they want to continue to run or not. And I think that time has arrived."
In 1997, Silver Charm became the first horse since Sunday Silence in 1989 to win both the Derby and Preakness, the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Like Sunday Silence, Silver Charm came up short in the Belmont Stakes.
Silver Charm failed to hold off Touch Gold over the final eighth of a mile and finished second, three-quarters of a length back in the seven-horse field.
The gray horse became a favorite of racing fans at Churchill Downs, where thousands gathered for his final workout before heading to the Belmont.
"He has so many fans, it's just unreal," Beverly Lewis said. "Wherever he goes, he's accepted as a true champion."
She said the horse had been training well before the Stephen Foster, but didn't have that "extra punch" for the race.
"We want him to retire with dignity and grace, and that's what I think he'll do," she said.
Silver Charm's victories also included the 1998 Dubai World Cup and a dead-heat with Wild Rush in the Kentucky Cup Classic Handicap.
He became renowned for his razor-thin finishes at the wire. Only twice di Silver Charm win by more than two lengths, and seven of his defeats were by a length or less.
"He's just a joy to be associated with," Beverly Lewis said. "He's given us the time of our lives."
It's the second time this month the Lewises have retired one of their champions to what they hope will be a long career as a stallion.
The Lewises also own Charismatic, this year's Derby and Preakness winner who broke down in a third-place finish at the Belmont. The colt underwent successful surgery and has been retired to a stud career.
Beverly Lewis said she expected the Florida-bred Silver Charm to stand at stud in Kentucky, but that a horse farm had not been chosen.
"He's just an awesome horse," Bob Lewis said. "So magnificent in appearance and so professional. He looks to be the kind of horse that will not only be a great athlete, but go on to become a meaningful and outstanding stallion."
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