2009 Hall of Fame: Bullet Train
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Silverbulletday

Mike Pegram certainly liked what he heard on the other end of the phone. Trainer Bob Baffert was calling from the 1997 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale. “You just can’t believe what we just bought,” he said.
What he had just purchased for $155,000 was a yearling filly by Silver Deputy out of the Tom Rolfe mare Rokeby Rose. Three-million dollars in earnings, two Eclipse Awards, Breeders’ Cup and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) wins, and 12 years later, the champagne runner named after a light beer will enter the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame along with her trainer Aug. 14.

“I’m going to be happy for my man Bobby,” Pegram said in advance of Baffert’s entry. “Without him, there wouldn’t be her. I know it’s special to him to have her going in at the same time.”

Pegram, from southern Indiana, made his mark in fast food franchises out West, and named the filly Silverbulletday, after a preference for Coors Light, known as the “silver bullet.” A long-time friend and client of Baffert’s, Pegram was about to embark on a miraculous run as a Thoroughbred owner. His Real Quiet would win the 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I) and come within a nose of being the 12th winner of the Triple Crown. Silverbulletday would make her debut a week after Real Quiet’s agonizing loss in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

Silverbulletday was bred in Kentucky by Jeffry Morris' Highclere in partnership with Clear Creek. After being broken at J.B. and Kevin McKathan’s farm in Florida, Silverbulletday was shipped to Churchill Downs Derby week. “We had a present we didn’t even know we had,” Pegram remembered. He knew what he had after her 11-length maiden score.

She would make six more starts as a 2-year-old, impressively winning all but one—the Del Mar Debutante (gr. II) in late August. Owners always remember the losses.

“She drew the one hole and she missed the break a little bit,” Pegram said of her fourth-place finish. “I remember sitting there in disbelief. It was a gut check because we thought she was ‘all-world’ at that time and couldn’t get beat.”

Well, she wouldn’t get beat again until the following June. Silverbulletday bounced back, winning the Walmac International Alcibiades (gr. II) at Keeneland, and then topping stablemate Excellent Meeting in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. She finished the year with a 10-length romp in the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. III) under the Twin Spires in late November.

For her dominance, she received 233 of 234 first-place votes in the Eclipse Award voting.
“Jockey Gary Stevens had the greatest quote,” Pegram said at the time. “He said, ‘She’ll do anything you want her to, except what she doesn’t want to do. She’s a perfect woman.’ ”

At 3, wins in the Davona Dale (gr. III), Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. III), and Ashland (gr. I) set Silverbulletday up for the first weekend in May. Pegram and Baffert opted for the Oaks, which she won as the 1-10 favorite, instead of the Derby.

“The Derby gods were good to me the year before and there was no sense in being greedy,” Pegram said. “I’m just glad I’d won the Derby the year before because I know I would have been more tempted.”

However, they were tempted by the allure of the Preakness after the Derby was won by 30-1 longshot Charismatic. Silverbulletday drew post 13 for the Preakness, and was subsequently scratched in favor of the Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) for fillies, which resulted in another 1-10 victory.

With no more worlds to conquer among her own set, Silverbulletday was pitched after the boys in the 12-furlong Belmont, where she went off the third choice behind Charismatic and Menifee. She battled gamely on the front end but faded to finish seventh.

“The Belmont was not the best decision,” Pegram said. “But I don’t have any second thoughts. Things didn’t go her way that day. The good news was she was done at the three-eighths pole. She came back no worse for the wear.”

She roared through the Monmouth Breeders’ Cup Oaks (gr. II) and Alabama (gr. I) before facing older fillies, where she was beaten by Beautiful Pleasure in the Beldame (gr. I) and then finished a dull sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park. Even so, she again dominated her generation in the Eclipse voting, garnering 218 1/2 of the 219 votes cast.

At four, she would make five starts, winning only her debut in the Doubledogdare at Keeneland. Her final start was July 23, 2000, when she ran third behind Lu Ravi and Tap to Music in the Delaware Handicap (gr. III).

“That’s when the fanfare was over,” Pegram remembered. “I was at Delaware Park by myself, and I’m sitting there and I knew we were probably at the end of the line with her. I went out to the back gate of the car and had a beer and then went back in and watched Captain Steve win a grade I at Hollywood that same day. One ended and one began. That’s when you know you are on a good roll.”

Silverbulletday, who now resides at John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms near Lexington, has yet to have a stakes-winning offspring, but Pegram reports her 2-year-old filly by Elusive Quality looks like the real deal. She’s in training with Baffert in Southern California.

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