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Silver Charm Proves He's Not Ready to Quit

Clark Handicap: His stretch run, after slipping behind by half a length, surprises even his jockey.

November 28, 1998|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The jockey of Silver Charm thought he had been beaten. The trainer of Littlebitlively thought his horse was going to win. But it was Silver Charm who cast the deciding vote. He dug in through the final sixteenth of a mile Friday to win the $444,800 Clark Handicap by a head at Churchill Downs.

The win in the Clark, in what was probably Silver Charm's last race in Kentucky, gave Silver Charm a symmetrical four-race record at Churchill Downs. The gray colt started there with a win in last year's Kentucky Derby and before the Clark he finished second twice, including a loss to Awesome Again in the Breeders' Cup Classic three weeks ago.

Wild Rush, who finished in a dead heat for the win with Silver Charm at Turfway Park in September, pressured trainer Bob Baffert's horse all the way around in the Clark. At the head of the stretch, while Silver Charm was disposing of Wild Rush, Littlebitlively swooped up on the inside and took a half-length lead by mid-stretch.

Gary Stevens, riding Silver Charm for the 13th time, is still learning about how much tenacity the colt has.

"Inside the furlong pole, I'd pretty much thrown in the towel," Stevens said. "When the other horse opened up a half-length on us, it felt like Silver Charm was giving everything. But all of a sudden, he said no and just dropped his head down and found another gear. Where it came from, I have no idea. I was just as surprised as anybody."

Littlebitlively, ridden by Calvin Borel, was 37-1 against Silver Charm, the 3-10 favorite. At 124 pounds, Silver Charm carried 11 pounds more than Littlebitlively, who had won only two of nine starts this year.

"I thought we had him," said Bobby Barnett, who trains Littlebitlively. "But that other horse, he's Silver Charm--that's all you can say."

This was the 124th running of the Clark Handicap, which is as old as the Kentucky Derby. Thirteen Derby winners had won the Clark before Silver Charm, but none since Whirlaway in 1942.

Of Silver Charm's stretch run Friday, Baffert said, "Every time I think he might be done, he's not."

Baffert and Silver Charm's owners, Bob and Beverly Lewis, plan to run their horse next year, when they'll try to win the Dubai World Cup for the second time. Friday's win, worth $275,776, gives Silver Charm 11 wins in 19 starts and purses of more than $6.5 million. He's fifth on the money list, and next year will take a run at Cigar's No. 1 total, which is $185 short of $10 million.

Wild Rush finished third, one length behind Littlebitlively. Silver Charm ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 and paid $2.60 for $2.

"Silver Charm has so much desire," Stevens said. "There's no quit in him. I really get choked up when I ride him and he runs like this. He's like a car with a never-ending fuel supply."

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