08/27/2007 12:00AM

Lewis legacy not fading away

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DEL MAR, Calif. - There are no guarantees of continuity among racing's greatest stables. Just because mom and dad had a blast and made their mark in the Thoroughbred world doesn't mean that the kids will follow suit when their time comes.

The recent announcement by the Eclipse Award-winning Golden Eagle Farm that it will reduce its horse holdings from 282 to a couple dozen over the next six months is merely the latest example of an empire that dwindles or disappears as one generation gives way to the next.

Certainly, the same thing could have happened to the racing legacy of the Robert and Beverly Lewis Stable, which was responsible for a whole herd of champions and classic winners. Silver Charm, the best known of the bunch, was inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer, joining the Lewis mare Serena's Song.

It was a great run, and it seemed that for 15 solid years the Lewises were never without a horse or two competing at the very top of the game, whether they were named Charismatic, Timber Country, Orientate, Hennessy, Twice the Vice, or Commendable.

The stable was still going strong with champion 2-year-old filly Folklore when Bob Lewis took ill in late 2005. His death, on Feb. 17, 2006, was a blow to the industry he loved, and there was hope his legacy would not fade quietly away.

His son Jeff Lewis is determined not to let that happen, and the events of last Saturday at Del Mar suggest he is on the right track. The victory of the 4-year-old filly Bai and Bai in the $133,900 Solana Beach Handicap marked the stable's first significant winner of the Jeff Lewis era, while at the same time validating the direction in which Lewis would like to see the operation run.

Typical of the Lewis family style, Jeff Lewis described the purchase of Bai and Bai and her subsequent success as "getting lucky," and spread the credit around - to her former owners Harry Wilson and George Vinson, to her former trainer Bill Delia, to bloodstock agent Alan Porter, and to Bai and Bai's current cornermen, trainer Craig Dollase and jockey Aaron Gryder.

Lewis did concede, however, that the acquisition of Bai and Bai was "outside the box, compared to how my dad did it."

"He was not one to buy horses who were already racing," Jeff Lewis said. "He bought the younger horses at the sales, and he had spectacular success.

"But as I've said before, I'm not quite the risk-taker my father was. I'm rather picky on what I want from a breeding standpoint. Buying million-dollar colts on an all-or-nothing basis - I just can't do that. I'll be looking for fillies with residual value. And Mom is on board 100 percent with that approach. If they can't make a mark on the racetrack, then at least you've got a chance to find out if they can be a broodmare."

Bai and Bai is a granddaughter of Lyphard and Fappiano.

"Even though she wasn't as regally bred as you would want to buy in a yearling, she had proven her worth on the racetrack," Lewis said. "And she does have pedigree, it's just a bit more subtle."

Under the management of Jeff Lewis, the stable has shifted a few horses around to different trainers. Wayne Lukas, synonymous with much of the Lewis success, no longer has Lewis horses. They have a filly with Todd Pletcher, five colts with Steve Asmussen (including their Preakness starter Simon Pure), 10 head with Bob Baffert, seven fillies with Wally Dollase, and Bai and Bai with Craig Dollase, Wally's son.

The Solana Beach was the Lewises' first stakes win in their Southern California backyard in more than a year, dating back to Point Determined's victory in the 2006 Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park. A son of Point Given, Point Determined was recently retired.

As for Bai and Bai, she was already a local Bay Area celebrity with a huge fan following before the Lewises bought her in April. A daughter of Falstaff, Bai and Bai cost just $3,200 as a yearling at a sale held at the Pleasanton fairgrounds. She earned about $350,000 for her blue-collar connections, winning the 2005 California Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita and three Northern California stakes.

When he heard she was for sale, Jeff Lewis headed straight to Delia's barn at Golden Gate Fields.

"What impressed me most was her physical condition," Lewis said. "We radiographed every joint, and the vet who was working with me said that for a horse who had run as many races as she had" - 14 at the time - "she was in remarkably good shape.

"She doesn't carry a whole lot of weight. But maybe there's a connection between her relatively light frame and her lack of wear and tear, despite her fine racing performance."

Lewis declined to reveal what he paid for Bai and Bai. As for her original, piddling purchase price, Lewis shrugged it off.

"You can't judge a horse's value on what someone else paid for it before it started to appreciate," he said. "The people who sold it to us said they'll be back at Keeneland at the yearling sale for the first time ever. They got enough from us, and from the filly off the racetrack, to have a little bankroll. And I think it's just great."