09/09/2016 3:10PM

Hovdey: It's only fitting to have strong field for Lewis Stakes


Here’s what you get for $75,000 on a Sunday in September at Los Alamitos: five 3-year-old fillies going six furlongs from the stables of Richard Mandella, Bob Baffert, Doug O’Neill, John Sadler, and Phil D’Amato, who is fresh from his first Del Mar summer training title.

For $75,000, you get from the D’Amato barn the unbeaten and untested Enola Gray, who appears to have more upside than Mount Everest and whose lip tattoo reads “Freak.” You get the Claiborne Farm filly Bendable, an exciting late bloomer like Enola Gray; the $775,000 Tapit filly Jade Princess, who knows what it’s like to chase Songbird and Carina Mia, so Enola Gray should be no shock; and the $630,000 Twirling Candy filly Uptown Twirl, who won the Surfside Stakes over the course and distance last April.

For $75,000, you get all this, plus the name of Beverly J. Lewis attached, which is more than most races deserve and worth at least another zero in the purse.

The Lewis name should ring bells forever. Beverly and her husband, the late Robert B. Lewis, made Thoroughbred racing history as partners in the most famous California-based stable of the 1990s. Their Oregon University green-and-gold colors were flown high, far and wide, attached to some of the most exciting performers of the era. The Robert B. Lewis Stakes is a major 3-year-old event each winter at Santa Anita.

Twenty years ago, Serena’s Song was nearing the end of her remarkable run for the Lewises and trainer D. Wayne Lukas. At 2, she won the Oak Leaf, the Starlet, and came within a head of winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. At 3, the daughter of Rahy beat the boys in the Jim Beam and the Haskell. At age 4, Serena’s Song started 15 times at nine different tracks, won from seven to nine furlongs, and came within a neck of beating males again in the Whitney.

Her career totals read 38 starts, 18 wins, and another 11 seconds for earnings of nearly $3.3 million. After that, it seemed silly to wait five years for Serena’s Song to take her place in the Hall of Fame, but there she was in 2002, her first year of eligibility.

In March 1996 at Parrish Hill Farm in Kentucky, a chestnut son of Summer Squall was delivered to the Drone mare Bali Babe. The Lewises bought him for $200,000 as a weanling and named him for each other. Anyway, that was the joke. Charismatic went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness before suffering a career-ending injury while attempting to win the Triple Crown in the Belmont, finishing third on three legs. For his bravery as much as his record, Charismatic was crowed 1999 Horse of the Year.

There were scads of others. The Lewises were part of the group that raced champion and Preakness winner Timber Country. They raced the hotshot 2-year-old Hennessy, better known these days as the sire of Beholder. They won Breeders’ Cup races with champions Folklore and Orientate.

Sunday also marks the 20th anniversary of the Del Mar Futurity victory of Silver Charm, not a bad way to celebrate the Beverly Lewis Stakes. Trained by Baffert, Silver Charm went on to win the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, along with an Eclipse Award as 3-year-old male champion. At 4, he won a thrilling rendition of the Dubai World Cup and later that year finished a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In 2007, Silver Charm joined Serena’s Song in the Hall of Fame.

Anyone can visit Silver Charm at Old Friends Equine in Kentucky, where he holds court as, quite literally, an equine eminence grise. Charismatic is a stallion in Japan and has a ticket already stamped to come home anytime he wants.

Serena’s Song has been retired as a broodmare after producing seven stakes winners. Her genetic legacy lives on and in large part keeps the Lewis brand alive in the game.

“She had the good sense to give us fillies with her last three foals,” said Jeff Lewis, Robert and Beverly’s son, who manages the family’s Thoroughbred interests.

One of those daughters is Night and Day, whose second foal, Made You Look, won the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga and is aiming toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The Lewises sold him for $360,000 as a yearling.

“Mom also has four horses training in Kentucky with Charlie LoPresti,” Jeff Lewis noted. “California was proving a little too tough for our fillies. But we sure hope to have that big horse again someday to be able to run there.”

The Lewis impact was considerable. Beyond their racing stable, Robert Lewis served as president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California and was on the board of the Oak Tree Racing Association, while Beverly has been on the board of the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation. Together, the Lewises were presented with the 1997 Eclipse Award of Merit, the only husband-and-wife team ever so honored.

Though Beverly Lewis lives not far from Los Alamitos in Newport Beach, her health precludes her attendance on Sunday, while Jeff Lewis is traveling.

“I’m sorry to say we won’t be there, but our thoughts certainly will be with those running in the Beverly Lewis,” he said. “It’s a great tribute to my mom and dad from a sport they loved so much.”