With wife Beverly and son Jeff at the helm, relatives of the late Robert Lewis say they are happily fostering the ebullient owner’s passionate flame for racing.
And there was probably no better place to promote that legacy than Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where they inspected horses Aug. 5 entered in the upcoming Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale. At the same time, they were preparing for the Aug. 6 induction into the Racing Hall of Fame of Silver Charm, one of their great stars.
Jeff Lewis said that while he’s helped his mother trim the family stable of horses-in-training from about 50 upon his father’s death to half that number now, they are always on the outlook for good fillies to fill racing and potential broodmare needs.
“We are trying to get it down to 15 to 18 horses in training, but at the same time building up our broodmare band,” he said after inspecting some prospects in the Three Chimneys Farm consignment with his mother. “We had about eight broodmares when Dad passed away, and now we are up to about 15, adding a few to the barn as they came off the track.”
But, he added with a chuckle, the days of sometimes free-wheel bidding by his father are likely over.
“Dad had a sportsman attitude toward this business that everyone would acknowledge today is very unusual, and a risk-taking tendency that, frankly, his son and possibly his wife don’t possess to the same degree,” said Jeff, who is president of the California-based beverage empire his father founded in 1956. “It’s very challenging in figuring out a strategy when you have a matter of a budget.”
So, Bob didn’t have a budget?
“I don’t really think he did,” Beverly said with her trademark smile. “He said he did, but he blew it every time he got here. But he bought some great horses.”
Included in the mix of great horses campaigned by the Lewises include Silver Charm and Charismatic, who each won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I), in 1997 and 1999, respectively. Their star filly Serena’s Song–one of six Eclipse Award winners they raced–retired with 17 graded stakes wins and $3.2 million in earnings.
But Silver Charm is the horse of the moment, and Beverly said she and her late husband truly enjoyed their time with the gritty son of Silver Buck.
“Those were great races,” she said of Silver Charm’s career, which included graded stakes victories at ages 2, 3, 4, and 5. “He was such a fighter. He didn’t want to win by a couple of lengths; he just wanted to get his nose in front. People loved him; horse lovers loved Silver Charm.”
Jeff said he learned much from his father and mother about horse racing, but also counts on the expertise of advisors, among them Denali Stud’s Craig Bandoroff, Taylor-Made Sales’ Jeff Hayslett, and bloodstock agent Alan Porter.
“We are not really in the market for million-dollar-plus yearlings, specifically colts,” Jeff said. “There is too much risk there. On the filly side, you can make a substantial investment, maybe not to that level, but you can make a substantial investment, and even if the horse doesn’t prove to be a champion, you’ve got something that you can work with in the future if you have the time and the patience.”
The 25 or so horses in the racing stable for the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust are divided among trainers Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, Wally Dollase, and Todd Pletcher. About six are at Saratoga, including the Asmussen-trained Mister Fusaichi, a $550,000 purchase at the 2005 September yearling sale, who will start Aug. 6 in a maiden special weight event.