Saturday, May 1, 2010

Silver Music's swan song: G2 winner dies back at home in Virginia while covering mare

I told Sid Fernando this afternoon that maybe this is the best possible way to go for an athlete who is past his prime.

Silver Music, a Grade 2 stakes winner for whom I've been honored and privileged to be the caretaker since autumn 2008, died this morning -- May 1, 2010 ... Kentucky Derby Day -- in the state of his foaling, while covering a mare at Hilltop Farm in Gordonsville, Va. He was 19 years of age.

The striking gray was foaled on Valentine's Day, 1991, on the expansive Spring Hill Farm near Casanova, Va., a homebred of Edward P. Evans, one of the nation's more noteworthy breeders of racing thoroughbreds. The colt was a son of Silver Ghost (Mr. Prospector-Misty Gallore, by Halo) and was out of the Stop the Music mare, Music Bell, who is still alive and well in retirement at Spring Hill Farm at age 24.

I last saw him on April 3, when the accompanying photo was taken. He was an impressive horse, and it has been an honor and a privilege to be his caretaker for the last 20 months of his life.

Though only a modest winner at the track, his dam, Music Bell, came from exceptional family and proved to be an outstanding producer. Her dam was Grade 3 stakes winner Belladora (Stage Door Johnny-Prayer Bell, by Better Self), a three-quarters sister to 1969's American 2-year-old champion Silent Screen (by Stage Door Johnny's sire, Prince John). Both Prayer Bell and Silver Music's fourth dam, Spinaway Stakes-winner Sunday Evening (Eight Thirty-Drowsy, by Royal Minstrel) have been designated reines de course.

Music Bell also produced G2 turf winner Musical Ghost (Red Smith H. at 11f) and $784K-earning Japanese runner Ghost Soldier (both full brothers to Silver Music), plus a five-times stakes-winning filly in the sprinter Prospector's Song (Prospector's Music). Silver Music's full sister, the unraced Ghost Bell, produced Philadelphia Park stakes winner Monsoor (Mt. Livermore).

But Silver Music was his dam's first foal, and he is who first made her mark as a producer.

After a lackluster debut at Churchill Downs at 2, Silver Music was transferred by owner Lauren Cohen to the barn of David A. Vivian in Florida.

The colt broke his maiden for Vivian in his sixth career race, going 6 furlongs on dirt for a $50,000 tag at Calder Race Course. Silver Music collected his second career win in his ninth and final start at age 2 -- this time going a mile and a sixteenth on grass in allowance company -- then finished a well-beaten 11th in the Tropical Park Derby-G3 on Jan. 2, 1994. After a turf allowance-placing at a mile and an eighth for Vivian, Silver Music was sent west to train under Wallace Dollase in California.

There, the colt blossomed.

Dollase sent him out on March 30, 1994, in the Baldwin Stakes, an "about 6 1/2-furlong" affair on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita. Silver Music closed from seventh, 12 lengths in arrears, to win by by a half under jockey Chris Antley, upsetting Danehill's full brother Eagle Eyed in the process.

Silver Music would finish no worse than second in his next five races for Dollase.

The colt undertook quite a stretchout -- to a mile and an eighth -- in his next start, the California Derby-G3 on dirt at Golden Gate Fields. Sent off at 7/1, he lost the race by a half-length to the longest-shot in that race's history, Screaming Don, who repaid his backers $103.60 on each $2 wager. Next-out for Silver was another "tough beat," this time by a head in the 8.5-furlong Will Rogers H.-G3 on grass at Hollywood Park, to Wes Ward-trained Unfinished Symph, who would go on to be third that year in the Breeders' Cup Mile-G1.

Another second-place finish followed in the Sausalito Handicap back at Golden Gate, in which Eagle Eyed exacted revenge by 4 1/2 lengths. Then, Silver Music won as the odds-on favorite in the Bold Reason Handicap at a mile and a sixteenth on the Hollywood lawn, setting the stage for his biggest victory.

On July 23, 1994, Silver Music rallied from last of six, nine and a half off the pace, to win the Swaps S.-G2 on the main track at Hollywood Park. He came home in 2:00 3/5 for the 10 furlongs, defeating Grade 1-caliber horses in Dramatic Gold (who went on to run third that year in the Breeders' Cup Classic) and reigning Hollywood Futurity champion Valiant Nature, in second and third. Silver Music earned a career-best 106 Beyer speed figure for the race, and next set his sights on older horses in the Pacific Classic-G1.

That start was not as successful, as Silver Music finished fifth behind Tinners Way (who won the race in track record-equalling time of 1:59 2/5), Best Pal, Dramatic Gold and Slew of Damascus. Finishing in arrears of Silver Music were Del Mar Dennis, Stuka, Bertrando (whose track record Tinners Way had equalled) and Risen Roman.

Still, it was a season that featured three stakes wins, two on turf and one on dirt, at distances ranging from about 6.5 furlongs to a mile and a quarter; a campaign that resulted in The Blood-Horse declaring Silver Music the "most versatile" 3-year-old of his crop, a point that would be hard to argue.

Silver Music started only once at age 4, a modest fourth in a stakes race at Golden Gate, then was retired to stud duty at Pinebourne Farm in New York. He retired with five wins -- three in stakes races -- from 19 starts, for $351,905.

At stud, Silver Music sired several winners and three stakes-placers (to date) from modest opportunity, both in numbers and in quality of mares. His leading earners are Time to Rap ($169,894) and Stevie Stressor ($163,273), the latter of whom for a time was the track record-holder for 7 1/2 furlongs at Belmont Park. Perhaps reflecting their sire's versatility in their own, modest way, Silver Music's three stakes-placers include Classlylilprincess and Silver and Green -- both as 3-year-olds, around two turns on grass at Suffolk Downs -- and Stage Music, as an unraced 2-year-old, sprinting on dirt among NY-breds in the New York Stallion Great White Way Stakes at Aqueduct.

From a dwindling group of progeny at the track, Silver Music's latest winner was Talking Blues, a full brother of Time to Rap, who scored in the NY-bred maiden-claiming ranks for owners Castle Village Farm, at Aqueduct on New Year's Day.

No mares were yet confirmed in foal to Silver Music this season, his second in Virginia. Amid the Old Dominion's declining breeding business, only one mare was covered last year by Silver Music. That foal -- being carried by Bushes Victory, a modest-winner but a full sister to Colonial Downs turf-sprint stakes winner Broad Victory, by Spartan Victory and out of Alabama Oaks-winning Below Broad Street -- is due June 1.


  1. My condolences Glenn. You were gallant in assuming the care of this wonderful stallion. May Silver rest in peace as his offspring continue to pass on those great bloodlines!

  2. condolences, Glenn. I let peeps know on Twitter after you emailed me today, too.

  3. Condolences. You gave a very nice recap on this beautiful horse

  4. RIP to this wonderful Stallion, whom I too had the pleasure of caring for back in 2001. He was absolutely an amazing horse!


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