The 1998 Dubai World Cup

As he made the transition from sophomore to older horse, Silver Charm came into his four-year-old season on an extended wave of good form.

From his debut at Del Mar in the summer of 1996 to his runner-up finish in the 1997 Malibu Stakes, the gray/roan Thoroughbred had never known a result outside first or second place. Adding to that his classic victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, along with his second in the Belmont, Silver Charm finished out 1997 with the Eclipse Award for Champion Three-Year-Old Colt.

Back at the races at four, the son of Silver Buck now had a chance at contests reserved for older horses. If he was able to maintain the form he showed at three, then the possibility of another big year for the Thoroughbred owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis was definitely not out of the question.

He got 1998 started with wins in two-thirds of Santa Anita's Strub Series. First came the Grade II San Fernando Stakes in mid-January, and next up was the Grade II Strub Stakes three weeks later. Those were the only two starts in Arcadia for the Bob Baffert trainee that winter, and his next start did not even come in the United States. What awaited him was another mile and one-quarter challenge thousands of miles away.

Two years earlier, the Dubai World Cup made its debut. The first winner of that race was none other than the awesome Cigar, who made it part of his amazing sixteen-race winning streak. The 1997 renewal went to the Irish-bred Singspiel, who was the reigning Champion Grass Horse and winner of the 1996 Group I Japan Cup.

Neither Cigar or Singspiel would be seeking a repeat in 1998, so the one guarantee in the third Dubai World Cup was a new winner was in store.

The entrants included Loup Sauvage, who had found group stakes success across Europe; Luso, a group stakes winner in no less than three countries ; Swain, who won or placed in various group stakes between England and France; and Malek, a winner of group stakes in his native Chile and the recent victor in the Santa Anita Handicap. As expected for a Group I, there were some classy runners looking to take the Dubai World Cup. If Silver Charm won it, it would certainly rank among the most significant victories of his already sparkling career.

A field of ten left the starting gate on the night of March 28, 1998. Silver Charm and Gary Stevens began from the extreme outside in post ten, but they were up to second in mere moments. Behrens, another graded stakes winner from America, orchestrated the tempo with rider Jerry Bailey as Silver Charm enjoyed a good tracking trip to his outside. They were in the top four going around the first turn and to the end of the backstretch when Silver Charm decided it was time to go.

Heading back into second, Silver Charm had a perfect path ahead of him in the stretch. He got by Behrens to take the lead, but Loup Sauvage rallied between the two as he looked to get to the wire first. Behind that trio came Malek and Swain as Behrens bowed out.

Loup Sauvage took control on the inside as Silver Charm went to second with Malek and Swain close by. But Silver Charm tapped into a new level of strength as he reeled in Loup Sauvage and regained the lead impressively. Swain had more left than Malek, and he closed with a dramatic rush as he went for the win. The toughness in both Swain and Silver Charm was on full display in the waning seconds of the Dubai World Cup.

Swain rapidly ate away at Silver Charm's advantage, getting closer and closer until he was even with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. Together, they engineered a photo finish as the crowd at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse watched an amazing finish to the Dubai World Cup.

But there would be no dead heat. In his thirteenth start, Silver Charm kept his streak of top-two finishes intact while becoming the first Southern California-based horse to win the Dubai World Cup. He also made history as the first horse to take the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Dubai World Cup, and he did so while defeating a group containing classy horses. That accomplishment makes the Dubai World Cup one the most memorable victories of his career.

It was similar to the Kentucky Derby, where Silver Charm held off a charging Captain Bodgit at the wire. And it was also similar to the Preakness, where Silver Charm got past a tough Free House in another photo finish while again just beating Captain Bodgit. Those big stages did not bother Silver Charm. He seized the opportunities presented to him before millions, and as a result he became a champion while winning a triple all his own.

The number of horses from Southern California winning the Dubai World Cup has grown over the years. But Silver Charm stands as the club's pioneer thanks to his astounding rally that night in the spring of 1998.

Entry added January 13, 2022. AF