Silver Charm romps in his paddock at Three Chimneys soon after retirement. (Photos courtesy Horsephotos.com)
Looking at Silver Charm’s $16,500 yearling sales price, it is hard to imagine that he would turn into one of the best horses of the 1990s.
The son of Silver Buck didn’t sell in the auction ring when he returned a year later, but went home with new trainer Bob Baffert, who purchased him privately for $85,000 for prominent owners Bob and Beverly Lewis. That $85,000 purchase may have been the best horse-related one the couple ever made.
Silver Charm finished second in his debut beaten - by four lengths - at the Del Mar meet in 1996 but came back to win three straight races to close his 2-year-old season and open his 3-year-old campaign. After losing two of three meetings in California to rival Free House, Silver Charm headed to the Kentucky Derby (G1). The colt went off as the 4-1 second choice and won for the first time since February when he beat Captain Bodgit by a head with Free House third. The Derby win was trainer Bob Baffert’s first and was a reversal of luck as Baffert had lost the previous Derby by a nose to Grindstone.
Gray or Roan horse
Sire (Father): Silver Buck
Dam (Mother): Bonnie's Poker, by Poker
Major Accomplishments: 1997 champion
Silver Charm marched toward the Triple Crown two weeks later when he won the Preakness Stakes (G1) by a head, this time over Free House with Captain Bodgit third. But in the Belmont Stakes (G1), Silver Charm became the 12th horse to lose out on a Triple Crown when he lost the race by a heartbreaking three-quarters of a length to Touch Gold.
It was decided after the Belmont that Silver Charm would race as a 4-year-old, prompting his connections to give him a break. Silver Charm made his way back to the races in late 1997 to finish second in the Malibu Stakes (G1). Even after missing most of the second half of the year, Silver Charm ended his year finishing no worse than second in seven starts and earning the title of champion 3-year-old male.
Silver Charm looked even stronger as a 4-year-old when he made his first start of the year with a win in the San Fernando Stakes (G2) and followed with a four-length romp in the Strub Stakes (G2). He then headed to Dubai to face international competition in the third Dubai World Cup. In an impressive display of courage, Silver Charm fought back multiple challenges to win by a nose over Swain (Ire).
However, the trip seemed to catch up to him in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G2) in mid-June when he finished a tired second to Awesome Again in his first race back.
"He was a little bit short," Gary Stevens, Silver Charm’s regular rider, said after the race. "My horse was getting pretty weary under me."
Silver Charm confused everyone when he finished last in the San Diego Handicap (G3) a month later. Stevens reported after the race that it felt like the colt had bled heavily during the race but an examination showed that Silver Charm had only bled lightly.
After two months off, Silver Charm came back in an exciting way in the Kentucky Cup Classic Handicap (G3). The stretch run was one for the ages when Silver Charm and Wild Rush battled to the wire, finishing in a dead heat for the win, 17 lengths in front of the third-place horse. The win also signified the sixth straight time Silver Charm went off at odds under even money in the United States, a trend dating to the Belmont Stakes.
Silver Charm returned to California to take on Free House in the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G2), where he again beat his rival, this time by 2 ½ lengths. In another cross-country trip a few weeks later, Silver Charm faced perhaps the toughest field of his career in the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Of the 10 horses in the field, nine were Grade 1 winners, including his Dubai World Cup rival Swain (Ire). Silver Charm reaffirmed his ability in the race, finishing second in the field to a late-closing Awesome Again.
Silver Charm put in one more 4-year-old race 20 days after the Breeders’ Cup, winning the Clark Handicap (G2) by a head over Littlebitlively. Even with his layoffs throughout the year, Silver Charm ended the season with a record of six wins and two seconds in nine starts for more than $4.6 million in earnings.
In a move that at the time had only done by three Kentucky Derby winners since 1970, the Charm returned to the track as a 5-year-old. He came back in winning form with a 1 ¼-length victory in the San Pasqual Handicap (G2) for his last career victory. He shipped to Florida next and finished third in the Donn Handicap (G1) before meeting up with Free House again in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1).
The eighth time was the charm for Free House, as he defeated Silver Charm for the first time since the 1997 Santa Anita Derby (G1). After his second defeat that year, Silver Charm flew to Dubai to attempt to become the first horse to win back-to-back World Cups. But the horse flattened out, finishing sixth after bleeding.
For the first time since the San Felipe in March 1997, a jockey other than Gary Stevens was on Silver Charm when Chris Antley picked up the mount for the Stephen Foster Handicap. But in the end, the jockey change wouldn’t help the 1997 Kentucky Derby winner, who finished fourth. The loss was only the third time Silver Charm had finished off the board in his career and he was immediately retired.
"Yesterday was his last race," Bob Lewis told CBS the day after the Stephen Foster. "At its conclusion, I just looked at 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."
In his career, Silver Charm finished first 12 times, second seven times, and third two times for $6,944,369 in earnings, then the third-highest on the all-time North American-raced earners list. Today, Silver Charm sits in the 13th position on the list of North American-raced earners directly behind superstar mares Zenyatta and Goldikova (Ire). He raced at eight different tracks in two countries and five different states during his career and beat 23 Grade 1 winners in addition to countless other stakes winners.
SILVER CHARM (INSIDE) WINNING THE KENTUCKY DERBY
Silver Charm retired to Three Chimneys Farm in 2000 for a fee of $25,000. While Silver Charm only spent four breeding seasons in the United States before going to Japan, he has 502 foals in the United States. Out of those 502 foals, more than 82 percent started and 294 were winners, including multiple graded stakes winners Preachinatthebar, Miss Isella, and Spring Waltz.
Silver Charm’s stats in Japan have been just as impressive with 137 of his 171 foals making it to the track with 87 winners. Silver Charm made his way onto the Japanese stallion rankings in 2008, ranking in sixth on the first-season sire list.
A recent move to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders' Association's (JBBA) main stallion station has seen an uprise in the stallion's interests with breeders recently and the JBBA is excited for the 2013 season.
"The JBBA has three stallion stations in different areas of Japan and some of our stallions are rotated between the stallion stations every few years," Kaoru Matsuda of the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders' Association said. "He is now at the JBBA's main stallion station in Shizunai and breeders have been inquiring about him. We feel confident that he will be covering a larger book than last year.
Silver Charm proves to continue to be a favorite of fans around the world with Three Chimneys and HRTV both giving updates on the stallion more than a decade after his retirement.
“In the past, we have sent many pictures of Silver Charm to Three Chimneys, as they have always been very interested in how he is doing, and they have put up the pictures on their farm website for fans in the U.S.,” Matsuda said. “Also, HRTV came to our stallion station in February  to do a story on Silver Charm and Charismatic.“
In 2007, eight years after he last ran a race, Silver Charm was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame.