STANTON, Del. - Mike Pegram searched Delaware Park in vain for a can of beer. He found plenty of draft, but Pegram, the down-to-earth owner of champions, drinks his beer only from cans.
He named his favorite horse after the cans known as "silver bullets." And yesterday, Silverbulletday, Pegram's two-time Eclipse-Award-winning filly, attempted to make history in the Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park.
A crowd of 19,511 watched, the most to attend the races at Delaware Park since it reopened in 1984 after financial problems had shut it down.
A victory in the $600,000 stakes for fillies and mares would have propelled Silverbulletday past Serena's Song as the richest female thoroughbred in North America. That Pegram could find only draft was not a good omen.
After battling Lu Ravi down the backstretch and around the far turn, Silverbulletday weakened and faded to third. She earned $66,000 (compared with $360,000 for first). That left her $190,181 shy of Serena's Song's record $3,283,388.
And that left Pegram thirstier than ever.
Lu Ravi spoiled his day by beating his filly for the second time. A 5-year-old A.P. Indy mare stabled at Churchill Downs, Lu Ravi edged Silverbulletday by a head July 4 at Monmouth Park.
In yesterday's rematch, Lu Ravi prevailed by a length over the runner-up Tap to Music and three lengths over Silverbulletday. Lu Ravi established that she is one of the top distaff runners in the country. Her showdown with divisional leaders Beautiful Pleasure and Heritage of Gold would come in the Breeders' Cup Nov. 4 at her home base Churchill Downs.
"I don't think a lot of people realize what an outstanding filly she is," trainer Carl Bowman said of his Lu Ravi. "Silverbulletday is a horse of national stature. This gives Lu Ravi a great deal more recognition."
The 2-1 second choice behind the 4-5 Silverbulletday, Lu Ravi paid $6.40 to win and headed a $31.20 exacta and $58.20 trifecta. The Maryland-based Proud Owner charged from last for fourth. Lu Ravi completed the 1 1/4 miles in 2 minutes, 2.21 seconds.
Jockey Pat Day urged her immediately into the lead and then guided her gently through a quarter-mile in 24.05 seconds and a half-mile in 48.12 seconds. Those moderate fractions assured that Lu Ravi would have strength for the finish.
Shane Sellers, Silverbulletday's rider, positioned his filly just outside Lu Ravi - in the clear and in position to win.
"I just couldn't kick with him," Sellers said, referring to Day aboard Lu Ravi. "He kicked with his filly. I nudged on mine. But there wasn't a whole lot there. I didn't have enough horse to keep up with him."
As the beer-less Pegram watched from the grandstand, he pleaded with Silverbulletday.
"Come on, honey," he said. "Come on, honey."
But as she faltered down the stretch, Pegram groaned.
"She ain't going to get her," he said again and again.
The loss was the 4-year-old Silverbulletday's fourth in a row. After outstanding years at 2 and 3, she has won 15 of 23 races.
As she passed third under the wire, Pegram said to a friend: "Jason, where's the beer?"
NOTE: Day rode the Elliott Walden-trained Three Wonders to victory in the Grade III $250,000 Kent Breeders' Cup Handicap. Kim Boniface-trained Field Cat finished second, Michael Dickinson-trained Dawn of the Condor third.