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Bob & Beverly Lewis: Racing's First Couple in the 1990's

Robert and Beverly LewisThoroughbred racing, like any other sport, has been home to the exploits of scamps, scallywags and scoundrels.

At the other end of the scale of human character and integrity, few people in the sport have ever been as genuinely beloved and admired as Bob and Beverly Lewis.

Their marriage was a heartwarming tale of love and devotion that lasted 58 years.

Their legacy as owners who graced the sport with a rare brand of dignity and class will last much longer than that. They were as gracious after their most crushing defeats as they were after their most exhilarating victories, a character trait best reflected in the moments after the 1997 Belmont Stakes when Silver Charm finished second and their hopes for a Triple Crown sweep ended.

Bob Lewis turned to trainer Bob Baffert and said, “Robert, we came close. Thank you very much.”

If someone has a personal memory of Bob Lewis, it no doubt involved seeing a beaming smile on his bespectacled face. Few people enjoyed life with as much passion as he did, and even fewer could instill as much joy into those around him as Bob and his wife Beverly have.

Bob and Beverly, as they were best known, raced six champions in a 10-year span. Yet it was moments like that one at Belmont Park which explain why they will be remembered more for their legion of friends than their Eclipse Awards and why an entire industry mourned when Bob Lewis passed away in 2006 at the age of 81.

“He was a very good friend, a special friend who was there for you no matter what,” said Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who trained Bob and Beverly’s second Kentucky Derby winner, Charismatic.


At the time of Bob’s death D.G. Van Clief, then the commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and president of the Breeders' Cup, said, “Bob Lewis was not just one of horse racing's most successful and influential owners, he was also one of its most beloved, unforgettable individuals. His wisdom, class and character have left an indelible mark on this industry.”

Yet for the many tributes that were offered, Baffert may have put it best when he mourned his longtime friend by saying, “If there was a Hall of Fame for owners, Bob would be the first one inducted.”

Bob Lewis was born in Minneapolis on May 12, 1924, but spent his childhood in Glendale, California.

After serving in the Army, his personal and business life moved forward in grand fashion. He met Beverly at the University of Oregon and married her. Meanwhile, he began working for breweries in California. He opened the Foothill Beverage Company in 1956 and turned it into one of the nation’s most successful Anheuser-Busch distributors.

It wasn’t until 1990 that Bob and Beverly bought their first Thoroughbreds, and it wasn’t long before they assembled one of the west coast’s best stables, filled with well-bred runners that were placed in the able hands of two of the sport’s best trainers, Lukas and Baffert.

Four years after their entry into the sport, they had their first champion in Timber Country, the top 2-year-old male of 1994. Owned in partnership with Overbrook Farm and Gainesway Thoroughbreds and trained by Lukas, Timber Country won the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 1995 Preakness.

Timber Country was third in the 1995 Kentucky Derby, and was joined by a stablemate who ran solely in Bob and Beverly’s green and yellow colors and became their second champion.

Their filly Serena's Song lost by a head in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies but blossomed at 3. She won the Santa Anita Oaks and then clobbered the boys by 3 ½ lengths in the Jim Beam.

She and Timber Country were sent off as a 3.40-to-1 favored entry in the 1995 Kentucky Derby but Serena’s Song wilted after setting blazing fractions and finished 16th.

Serena’s Song went on to beat males in the Grade 1 Haskell and was named the champion 3-year-old filly of 1995. She wound up winning 18 of 38 starts, earning $3,283,388. A winner of 11 Grade 1 stakes, she entered the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2002.


Bob and Beverly made an unforgettable return to the Triple Crown in 1997 with Silver Charm.

A son of Silver Buck, Silver Charm showed great promise at 2 for Baffert, but was sidelined after winning the 1996 Del Mar Futurity and did not race again until he turned 3. He won the San Vicente to start the year, but in his final Kentucky Derby preps he wound up second to Free House in both the San Felipe and then the Santa Anita Derby.

In the Kentucky Derby, Silver Charm was the 4-1 second choice behind Captain Bodgit, but on the first Saturday in May, he was second to none. Under Gary Stevens, he held off a late charge by Captain Bodgit to prevail by a head and give Bob and Beverly as well as Baffert their first taste of victory in the Run for the Roses.

"When they plant me six feet under," Bob Lewis said, "I want my tombstone to say 'Loving husband, adoring father, and winner of the 123rd Kentucky Derby.' And if I have to come back to check it, I will."

Two weeks later, Silver Charm took the Preakness, prevailing in a three-way photo over Free House and Captain Bodgit.

All that stood between Silver Charm and the first Triple Crown sweep in 19 years was the mile and a half Belmont Stakes, where he was sent off as a 6-5 favorite over six rivals. Silver Charm, as he would throughout his career, ran gallantly. He held the lead at the eighth pole, but could not withstand a final surge from Touch Gold and finished second by three quarters of a length in a heartbreaking result.

In a reflection of their great sportsmanship, Bob and Beverly kept Silver Charm in training through his 5-year-old season, and even brought him overseas twice, highlighted by a victory in the 1998 Dubai World Cup.

Voted a champion at 3, Silver Charm won 12 of his 24 starts and retired with earnings of $6,944,369, the third-highest figure at that time. He entered the Hall of Fame in 2007.

Just two years later, Bob and Beverly returned to Belmont Park once again on the verge of completing a Triple Crown sweep. This time, their 3-year-old colt Charismatic, who once raced in a claimer, won the Kentucky Derby for Lukas at 31-1 odds and then proved doubters wrong by taking the Preakness as the 8-1 fifth choice.

In the Belmont, Charismatic ran with gusto, forging to the front at the quarter pole. In the stretch, though, Charismatic could not repulse Lemon Drop Kid and Vision and Verse and wound up third behind the two longshots.

The disappointment of another failed Triple Crown bid took on a far different and shocking complexion when jockey Chris Antley pulled up Charismatic and jumped off him. In a scene as poignant today as it was two decades ago, Antley quickly grabbed Charismatic’s badly injured left leg, which had sustained a fracture of the cannon bone and lateral sesamoid. By cradling Charismatic’s leg, Antley was credited with saving Charismatic’s life as he prevented the colt from putting weight on the leg and inflicting more damage on it.

To no one’s surprise, Bob Lewis handled the tumultuous turn of events with dignity and class.

“Our only concern right now is Charismatic,'' Bob Lewis said. ''We hope to God he is going to be fine. We accepted the accolades in Louisville and Baltimore, and today was just one of those things that happens.''

Though denied the Triple Crown, Charismatic, who never raced again but enjoys a life at stud in Japan, was named Horse of the Year for 1999 as well as the year’s champion 3-year-old male.

In subsequent years, Bob and Beverly raced 2002 sprint champ and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Orientate, and in 2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Folklore became their final champion shortly before Bob Lewis passed away on Feb. 17, 2006 from heart failure.


With the help of their son, Jeff, Beverly continued to operate the stable after Bob’s death.

It was about two and a half months after Bob’s death that the Lewis family had their ninth starter in the Kentucky Derby as Santa Anita Derby runner-up Point Determined was sent off as the co-fourth-choice in the 2006 run for the roses.

The silks were the same as usual, but there was something so deeply different about this race for Beverly.

"We were married 58 years, so something's missing," Beverly said about her late husband to the Los Angeles Times. “You have to take the difficult things, and accept them. Just do what you can with it."

Yet even without her beloved husband, Bob’s spirit lived on in the way his wife and children approached another trip to Louisville.

"Of course we'll miss Dad, but we're going to have a good time,” Jeff told the Los Angeles Times, “and we don't expect it to be somber."

The storybook finish to the 2006 Derby never materialized as Point Determined finished ninth. Yet for Beverly and her three children there were no regrets.

Surely Bob would not have wanted any.

Fun Facts

They had three children, Jeff, Nancy and Jimmy.

The Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita was renamed in Bob’s memory as the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

Bob and Beverly’s green and yellow silks were a tribute to their alma mater, the University of Oregon.

Bob and Beverly received the Big Sport of Turfdom in 1995 and the Eclipse Award of Merit in 1997.

Beverly still operates a small stable and serves on the board of directors of the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation which is dedicated to help backstretch employees and their families.

Bob and Beverly purchased Silver Charm for $85,000.

Chris Antley’s care for Charismatic after the horse’s injury was voted the NTRA Moment of the Year in 1999.

Among their numerous philanthropic contributions, Bob and Beverly donated $10 million to the University of Oregon for the establishment of the Robert and Beverly Lewis Neurosciences Center. They also donated $5 million to help create the Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Cancer Care Center at Pomona Valley Center.

Bob and Beverly raced approximately 50 stakes winners, including 2000 Belmont Stakes winner Commendable.

- See more at: http://www.americasbestracing.net/en/the-latest/blogs/2015/1/26/bob-and-...

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