As stellar as Silverbulletday was in gaining honors as the champion 2-year-old filly in 1998 and as the champion 3-year-old filly the next season, there will always be a “what if” attached to her career.
What if she had not drawn far outside, post 14, for the Preakness? What if she had received a more favorable post and been allowed to compete in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown?
What is known, of course, is that trainer Bob Baffert and owner Mike Pegram did not feel as though she would have a fair shot at beating the boys from post 14. They made the difficult decision to scratch her from the Preakness and start her in the Black-Eyed Susan the day before.
“Somebody’s trying to tell us not to run,” Baffert said after a full field of 14 was drawn for the Preakness. “She’s a great filly. The Preakness is a great race. But these fillies come around rarely. I have to be really careful what I do.”
The style of the bay daughter of Silver Deputy also factored into the decision not to run in the 1 3/16-mile spring classic. She was not one to settle toward the back of the pack. Regular rider Gary Stevens would have had to ask her early to ensure that she would secure the up-front position she desired.
“From the 14 hole, she would have had to sustain that run all the way,” Baffert said. “I don’t know if even she could do that.”
Silverbulletday’s readiness for a start at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course was made clear in the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan. She easily turned back six rivals within her division, justifying her 1-9 favoritism with a two-length victory she made look routine. More impressive than the margin, her time of 1:47 4/5 was two-fifths of a second better than the stakes record set by Imaginary Lady in 1989. She clocked only three-fifths of a second off the track record Private Terms established in 1989.
Baffert admitted the outcome felt bittersweet. “It’s a little like a consolation prize,” he said. “I know the Black-Eyed Susan is a great race, but we had her ready for the Preakness. But I always put her before me, and I always will.”
Baffert and Pegram did test Silverbulletday against males in the Belmont Stakes. She blazed along on the lead before the mile-and-a-half distance began to take a toll on her and she faltered to cross the line seventh to victorious Lemon Drop Kid.
It was one of the few blemishes on a glittering résumé. She capped a brilliant 2-year-old campaign by besting a quality field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, topping runner-up Excellent Meeting and third-place Three Ring. She rattled off 15 victories in 23 career starts. She placed second three times and took third once for career earnings for $3,093,207.
As Baffert said upon Silverbulletday’s induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, “She took us on a magic carpet ride, took myself and my family to 10 racetracks over 26 months and it was just fabulous.” He went on to describe Silverbulletday as “one of the greatest fillies of all time.”
Stevens viewed it as a privilege to ride her. He was fond of saying after victories, “When she makes her move, it always makes the hair on my neck stand up.”