By Dick Jerardi
Uriah St. Lewis never got discouraged. Not when Discreet Lover was 56-1 in his 2015 debut. Not in 2016, when the horse was 87-1 in the Ohio Derby, 82-1 in the Indiana Derby or 238-1 in the Pennsylvania Derby at his home track. Or later that year when the horse was 72-1 in a stake in Maryland and then 62-1 in a New York stake. Not in 2017 when Discreet Lover was 86-1, 84-1, 55-1, 58-1 and 37-1 in one stake in Maryland and four in New York.
The horse St. Lewis purchased for $10,000 in May 2015 at Timonium never stopped trying. So, the owner-trainer was not going to stop either. In the 37th start of his career, Discreet Lover won the Grade III Excelsior at Aqueduct, the horse’s and trainer’s first graded stakes of their careers. Along the way, Discreet Lover picked up checks, including a third in that Ohio Derby, a second in the Parx Derby, two seconds in Laurel stakes, a third in a Penn National stake. Now, after 41 starts, Discreet Lover is better than he has ever been and St. Lewis is going to take his horse of a lifetime back to Saratoga on Aug. 4 for another shot in the Grade I Whitney, a race where he finished fifth behind Horse of the Year Gunrunner last year.
“It’s a dream come true,” St. Lewis said of having a horse like Discreet Lover. “That’s what every trainer in the world is looking for.”
The horse by $1,000 sire Repent that was bought for $10,000, has won $821,560. And if Discreet Lover can get one of those “Win and You’re In” races, the owner-trainer is thinking Breeders’ Cup in November at Churchill Downs.
Discreet Lover has been favored just three times, but he won them all. The five-year-old has six wins, seven seconds and six thirds. He was a solid fourth at 72-1 in the 2018 Metropolitan Mile and, most recently, an excellent third in the Suburban at 41-1.
Discreet Lover sprinted in the first eight races of his career, but St. Lewis always thought he was a distance horse. So his last 33 races have been at a mile or more.
“He’s easy to work around,” St. Lewis said. “The only thing he does is bite. He loves to bite. He doesn’t kick at you, he doesn’t strike you. He just nibbles. And he travels. Any place we take him, he runs.”
True that. In addition to running 17 times at Parx, Discreet Lover has run at Saratoga, Belmont Park, Aqueduct, Delaware Park, Laurel Park, Pimlico, Penn National, Charles Town, Thistledown and Indiana Grand.
“I’d love to have Jose Flores with us because Jose Flores rode him most of the time,” St. Lewis said.
Just two days after finishing third on Discreet Lover in a March 17 stake at Laurel, Flores, the Parx Hall of Fame jockey, tragically suffered injuries during a race that were so devastating that he died a few days later.
When Discreet Lover won the Excelsior in his next start, St. Lewis pointedly said it was for Jose. The races are still for Jose. It’s almost, St. Lewis said, like Jose is still on his back and finding a way to keep the horse going during his races.
And Discreet Lover keeps trying, making anyone ever associated with the horse proud.
“We just go for the ride,” St. Lewis said. “While we are going for the ride, he’s been picking up $80,000, $90,000, $70,000. You can’t complain.”
St. Lewis has heard from several breeders. So whenever Discreet Lover’s racing career is over, the horse will have a second career.
“I would like to finish his career this year,” St. Lewis said. “I would love to let him maybe win the Whitney and maybe get to the Breeders’ Cup and be very competitive in the Breeders’ Cup and then I will retire him.”
Before the end, there are more races to be run. And one thing is certain. If Discreet Lover is in the race, he will come running in the stretch. He may not pass all the horses, but he will pass many of them and, every once in a while, all of them.