by Teresa Genaro
Amanda and Jeré St. Lewis could barely speak for laughing, for crying, yelling, for taking deep, deep breaths at what their family had just accomplished.
In April at Aqueduct, Discreet Lover gave owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis his first graded win in the Excelsior Stakes (G3) on the Wood Memorial undercard, the first in a training career that has spanned three decades. Just shy of six months later, the horse did it again, this time in a Grade 1, and this time in the main event.
Winning any edition of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) is worth celebrating. Winning the 100th running, winning at odds of 45-1, winning by defeating a trio of Grade/Group 1 winners – now wonder Amanda and Jeré were speechless.
It was a race that offered no shortage of intriguing storylines. Would Gronkowski fulfill the promise he showed when second in the Belmont Stakes (G1)? Would Diversify win the Gold Cup for the second year in a row? Would European invaders Mendelssohn or Thunder Snow finally get that U.S. graded win on dirt?
As one might have expected, favored Diversify and Mendelssohn hooked up early and swiftly, blazing through fractions of :22.72, :45.64 and 1:09.13. They separated themselves from the field, Diversify maintaining a length advantage, the two of them a dozen lengths ahead. Could their speed carry them to the finish? Could they possibly maintain that pace?
The field came to them, or they to the field, coming around the final turn of the 10-furlong Gold Cup. Thunder Snow joined the fray, the three of them running across the track. Diversify was the first to reluctantly throw in the towel, followed by Mendelssohn, leaving, it seemed, strides before the wire, Thunder Snow to claim redemption after his crazy performance in the Kentucky Derby (G1) last year.
Manny Franco on Discreet Lover had other ideas, riding furiously four wide under the 45-1 second longest shot on the board. While spectators may have thought it was too close to call at the wire, Franco left no doubt, exulting in the saddle, confident in his victory, the margin a neck.
“I knew I had a lot of horse under me,” he said. “I was hoping they would come back to me, and they did.”
“He can come flying,” St. Lewis said. “The wire came right when we wanted it to come.”
Mendelssohn held on for third, with 69-1 longshot Carlino getting up to deny 3-5 favorite Diversify fourth by a half-length. Gronkowski, Uno Mas Modelo and Patch completed the order of finish.
Three years ago, St. Lewis bought Discreet Lover for $10,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of two-year-olds in training. The Repent colt had been an RNA as a yearling at the OBS August sale, bringing a final bid of $14,000.
Saturday’s win made the horse a millionaire.
“He just happened to luck into this one horse,” Amanda said. “People don’t give us too many horses, so we have to buy them ourselves.”
Bred in Florida by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Discreet Lover is out of the unraced Discreet Cat mare Discreet Chat.
There was nothing discreet about the St. Lewis family on Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park. Uriah used to work at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga fixing computers; Amanda worked as a mutual clerk.
From working behind the scenes, they are now front and center, in the most coveted place at the racetrack: the winner’s circle for a Grade 1 race.
Just outside that winner’s circle, St. Lewis walked up to Amanda, handed her his winning ticket.
“I’m going back to check on the horse,” he told her.
“Are you coming back for champagne?” she asked.
“I don’t care about the champagne,” he said.
And no matter, because no amount of bubbles could make Amanda and Jeré sparkle more brightly, or revel more effervescently. After 30 years in the business, with a $10,000 horse, they’re going to the Breeders’ Cup.