7-Year-Old Silmaril Retires a Millionaire
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Trainer Chris Grove cinched the saddle tight on Silmaril one last time yesterday in the paddock at Laurel Park and felt the tears well up. One of the greatest race mares in the history of Maryland racing was about to make her final start, with a chance to become the 17th Maryland-bred to earn a million dollars on the track, and Grove knew, win or lose, it was time to say goodbye.
"I wanted her to go out in style, go out with a win," Grove said. "That's how real champions go out."
On the backstretch at the start of the $80,000 What a Summer Stakes, Silmaril trailed in last place as heavy favorite Your Flame in Me cut out a fast pace, but by the time the field reached the turn, the 7-year-old had begun her run. Churning well off the rail and gathering momentum, Silmaril swept past the five other runners in the field under jockey Jeremy Rose; by the eighth pole, the race was over as she pulled away to win by two easy lengths, running the six furlongs in a sharp 1 minute 10.54 seconds.
Not since the champion filly Xtra Heat ruled Maryland sprint races in the early part of the decade have a large number of fans gathered outside the Laurel winner's circle just to look at a local star. When Rose guided Silmaril in for her final picture, the crowd burst into applause and the mare momentarily tried to back out, startled by the sound.
Rose, 28, competed in 1,183 races last year, but the magnitude of this one overtook him as it had Grove.
"This is the first time since [the 2005 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes winner] Afleet Alex that I had goose bumps hitting the wire," Rose said. "I am happy to be the last jockey to ride her."
In the race before the What a Summer, Grove had sent out a full sister to Silmaril named Another Jewel in a maiden race. That filly had been beaten in her only start at odds of 50-1, but Grove put blinkers around her eyes for the race and watched her win.
Jockey J.D. Acosta, scoring his 999th career victory, rode Another Jewel for Grove, pinning Rose's mount, Joyful, down on the inside in an excellent display of race riding. The fiery Rose arrived at the paddock for Silmaril's race still smarting from the defeat.
"I told Jeremy when he came to the paddock to let it go," Grove said. "It was fate to win that race."
Rose couldn't have been more focused for the What a Summer, expertly timing Silmaril's attack.
"When we went cruising by the field, I knew they were not passing her," the jockey said.
Sue Quick, wife of co-owner and breeder Stephen Quick, said that when Silmaril turned for home: "The valet said, 'She isn't even blowing. She's a damn racehorse.' "
Even with the prestigious $300,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap looming next month on the stakes schedule, Grove and Silmaril's owners said this was the last race. She retires in top form, with 16 victories in 36 starts and earnings of $1,032,973, 16th on the all-time Maryland-bred list. She won two graded stakes races in her career, including her crowning achievement, a victory over the champion Ashado in the 2005 Pimlico Distaff.
Grove gave credit to the team that has cared for Silmaril in her six-year career: groom Hugo Garcia, foreman Carlos Mancilla and exercise rider Oscar Mancilla Jr.
"As far as I'm concerned she's done," said Stephen Quick, who bred and co-owns the horse with Christopher Feifa.
Silmaril will be retired to Quick's St. Omer's Farm in Harford County, but likely will soon be sent to Kentucky to be bred to a top-class stallion.