Silver Charm, the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who thrilled racing fans with his whisker-thin victories and defeats, has been retired after a fourth-place finish in a stakes race at Churchill Downs.

The 5-year-old horse will start a career as a stallion, his owners, Bob and Beverly Lewis, said today. Silver Charm retires in third place on the thoroughbred career earnings list behind Cigar and Skip Away.

"He's given so much to horse racing and he's performed beautifully and given a lot of excitement for all of us," Beverly Lewis said in an interview from the couple's home in California. "The time has come."

The dappled-gray Silver Charm finished 8 1/2 lengths behind Victory Gallop in the Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday, his fourth straight defeat. In his previous start, Silver Charm bled and wound up sixth in the March 28 Dubai World Cup.

"Yesterday was his last race," Bob Lewis said. "At its conclusion, I just looked at [trainer] Bob Baffert, and he looked at me, and we both agreed that retirement time had arrived.

"He came out of the race in great shape . . . and he's going to be retired in beautiful condition."

Silver Charm ended his career winning half of his 24 starts and earned $6,944,369, behind only Cigar's $9,999,815 and Skip Away's $9,616,360.

In 1997, Silver Charm became the first horse since Sunday Silence in 1989 to win both the Derby and Preakness, the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Like Sunday Silence, Silver Charm came up short in the Belmont Stakes.

Silver Charm failed to hold off Touch Gold over the final eighth of a mile and finished second, three-quarters of a length back in the seven-horse field.