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Silver Charm’s Run to $10M Derailed

February 1, 1999

HALLANDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Silver Charm’s path to becoming thoroughbred racing’s first $10 million horse just got a little longer.

By finishing third to Puerto Madero in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap, the big gray California horse will need to run another race or two to reach the milestone. Maybe more.

``It just tells you that you can’t win every time,″ said Bob Lewis, Silver Charm’s owner.

However, it continues a trend in which one of racing’s few marquee names hasn’t quite lived up to his billing.

The Donn marked only the second time in 21 starts that Silver Charm had finished worse than second. But after just missing the 1997 Triple Crown after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he hasn’t won a Grade I race in the United States since that season.

Silver Charm’s big win last year came on foreign soil, in the $4 million Dubai World Cup. He finished second to Awesome Again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last November.

On Saturday, he was hampered by starting from the outside post in the 12-horse field. Unable to break fast enough to cut inside quickly, he was forced to settle in behind the back and left himself too much ground to make up.

``It’s early in the year,″ trainer Bob Baffert said. ``If you use him up too early, you’ll wind up knocking your horse out.″

That becomes even more significant now. An ambitious schedule calls for Silver Charm to run next in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 6, then return to Dubai to defend his World Cup championship.

If he wins both those races, Silver Charm would pull within some $316,000 of Cigar’s all-time earnings record of $9,999,815. Saturday’s result did allow him to move past Alysheba into third place with $6,683,006.

Meanwhile, Puerto Madero showed he has the credentials to make a name for himself in the handicap division.

The Chilean-bred horse won for the 11th time in 16 starts, a better percentage than Silver Charm’s. But his first 10 races came in South America, so there was no way to gauge the quality of competition.

Since arriving in California less than a year ago, Puerto Madero has won three times in six starts and twice finished second to Skip Away, the leading candidate for 1998 Horse of the Year.

``He’s structurally grown into a better horse,″ trainer Richard Mandella said.

Puerto Madero will skip the Santa Anita Handicap, the next race in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s new series featuring older horses. Instead, Mandella is pointing to Dubai and a likely rematch with Silver Charm.

``He’s very, very proud,″ jockey Kent Desormeaux said of Puerto Madero. ``He’s a handful to hold to the ground. He knows what his job is and he wants to get it done.″

Saturday’s race drew 21,325 to Gulfstream Park, the largest crowd for a Donn Handicap since 1991. It also produced a mutuel handle of more than $18 million, the best at Gulfstream for any day except those involving the Florida Derby.

``From a marketing standpoint, this is what it’s all about _ making a big day bigger,″ NTRA commissioner Tim Smith said.

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