12/02/2014 2:57PM

Silver Charm’s arrival at Old Friends celebrated

Nicole Russo
Hall of Famer Silver Charm, pictured with Sandy Hatfield of Three Chimneys Farm, arrived at Old Friends in Midway, Ky., this week to spend his retirement.

The star-studded roster at Old Friends Equine retirement now has a new gem, as the organization celebrated the arrival of dual classic winner, champion, and Hall of Famer Silver Charm on Dec. 2.

The 20-year-old son of Silver Buck arrived at Old Friends in Georgetown, Ky., the prior day after being repatriated from Japan, where he had stood since 2005. Silver Charm is the first Kentucky Derby winner to call an Old Friends facility home – and the second American classic winner, joining 2002 Belmont Stakes winner Sarava.

“As you know, I’ve been trying to do this for a long, long time,” said Old Friends founder and president Michael Blowen, who had made it known several times in the past decade that his facility stood ready to welcome the horse home upon his pensioning. “I couldn’t accomplish anything. It was like running in mud. And then about a month and a half ago, [Three Chimneys Farm manager] Sandy Hatfield called me up and says, ‘You got room at your farm for an old gray stallion?’ And I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ I couldn’t tell anybody, so I got on the golf cart, drove to the back of the farm and ran around like an idiot because I didn’t know what else to do.”

Silver Charm won 12 of his 24 career starts – with 11 graded stakes wins and eight additional graded placings – for earnings of $6,944,369. A graded stakes winner all four seasons he raced for owners Robert and Beverly Lewis and trainer Bob Baffert, he rose to national prominence in the spring of 1997, winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Silver Charm’s Triple Crown bid came up shy when he finished second to Touch Gold in the Belmont Stakes, but he continued on to be prominent in the older horse ranks the following season, winning the 1998 Dubai World Cup and finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. For his accomplishments, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

Silver Charm retired to stand at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., for the 2000 season. He was sold to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association to stand in that country beginning in the 2005 season; initially at Shizunai Stallion Station on the island of Hokkaido, and later at the JBBA’s satellite facilities. Silver Charm is represented by 308 winners through Dec. 1, for total progeny earnings of $27,228,387. His 15 stakes winners are highlighted by graded stakes winners Preachinatthebar, Miss Isella, and Spring Waltz. Another daughter, Silver Highlight, won the Wonder Where Stakes, third leg of Canada’s Triple Tiara.

The horse was sold with a buy-back clause in his contract, and Three Chimneys and the Lewis family – which Blowen said had set up an endowment to ensure the horse’s long-term care - assisted in arranging his retirement to Old Friends upon his recent pensioning.

Silver Charm’s return trip took him from Hokkaido to Anchorage, Alaska, followed by a second flight to Chicago. He spent four days in the quarantine facility at Arlington Park before a final van ride to Kentucky.

“He looks fabulous,” Blowen said. “I think he’s the fifth one we’ve brought home from Japan, and he looks the best by far.”

Florida-bred Silver Charm was produced by the winning Poker mare Bonnie’s Poker, who also called Old Friends home, from 2004 until her death in 2010.

Due to various health protocols involving imported stallions, Blowen said Silver Charm will be in quarantine about another three weeks before being made available to fans.

“[We] are thrilled and proud to have Silver Charm returning to America and beginning his retirement at Old Friends Equine,” the Lewis family said in a statement. “The racing thrills and excitement that he brought to our lives will never be forgotten. … We hope that Thoroughbred racing fans from around the world will enjoy visiting Old Friends and saying ‘Hello’ one of America's great racehorses.”