10/18/2002 12:00AM

BC Countdown - Juvenile Fillies: Team Lewis tackles Breeders' Cup drought

Email

For all the success Bob and Beverly Lewis have enjoyed in the Triple Crown, they've endured as much frustration in the Breeders' Cup.

True, the Lewises owned one-third of Timber Country, the 1994 Juvenile winner. But as for horses they have owned themselves, "The Breeders' Cup certainly hasn't shined on us," Bob Lewis said this week from Southern California.

On their own, the Lewises are 0 for 8 in the Breeders' Cup. Four of the losses have come by 1 1/2 lengths or less. Saturday at Arlington Park, the Lewises hope their luck changes when Composure and Santa Catarina represent them in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies and Orientate goes off as a potential favorite in the $1 million Sprint. Composure and Santa Catarina, both trained by Bob Baffert, figure to be the second and third betting choices behind the undefeated Storm Flag Flying in the 12-horse Juvenile Fillies field.

It was in the 1994 Juvenile Fillies, with Serena's Song, where the Lewises suffered their most heart-breaking Breeders' Cup defeat. Serena's Song hooked up with stablemate Flanders early on down the backstretch and the two were virtually inseparable for the last five furlongs of the race. It came down to a head-bobbing finish won by Flanders, who was injured in the race and retired.

"Although we didn't win, we came away feeling like we did," Lewis said. "All I had hoped for prior to the race is that she would represent us well and represent herself well. It's certainly one of the races that is most notable in my mind. Yes, we lost the race, but it's one of the more thrilling moments we had."

Serena's Song would go on to win 18 of 38 starts, earn the Eclipse Award as the outstanding 3-year-old filly of 1995, and became the sport's all-time leading female money-earner with $3,283,388. Earlier this year, Serena's Song was inducted into Thoroughbred racing's Hall of Fame, though her earnings record has been surpassed by Spain.

Though she won 11 Grade 1 races, Serena's Song went 0 for 3 in the Breeders' Cup. She finished fifth in the '95 Distaff and second to Jewel Princess in the '96 Distaff.

"That one really stung," Lewis said of the '96 Distaff. "Not to take anything away from Jewel Princess, but we felt Serena's Song was the best horse."

In 1995, the Lewises suffered another tough defeat in the Juvenile with Hennessy, who had the lead in midstretch but was passed late by Unbridled's Song. Much was made of trainer D. Wayne Lukas's decision to ride Donna Barton while Pat Day sat in the jocks' room.

"We have no regrets," Lewis said. "You can search and try to find an excuse that day, but Unbridled's Song was just better."

The last of the Breeders' Cup heartbreaks for the Lewises came with Silver Charm in the 1998 Classic. After prompting the pace down the backside, Silver Charm made the lead turning for home and ran stubbornly until deep stretch when passed by Awesome Again. He lost by three-quarters of a length. The year before, Silver Charm had fallen three-quarters of a length short of victory in the Belmont Stakes in a bid to win the Triple Crown.

The Lewises' Composure and Santa Catarina have the best chances to upset Storm Flag Flying. Santa Catarina has already been beaten by Storm Flag Flying in the Frizette. Composure looks like a horse on the improve, coming off a victory in the Oak Leaf at Santa Anita.

"Mike Smith got off her and he said she was really beginning to run at the finish line," Lewis said. "That is a very encouraging statement."

Still, Lewis was knows it will take a yeoman's effort for anyone to beat Storm Flag Flying.

"That is a racehorse, I'll tell you," he said. "We're going to have fun going after her, though we're not making any wild predictions."