ROBERT & BEVERLY LEWIS by Jay Hovdey
Bob and Beverly Lewis hardly need the attention. In fact, they would really prefer that no one made a fuss. But for a good cause, they always seem to be on call, which is why they were delighted to lend their names to the annual fundraising dinner for the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation on its efforts to bring scholarship opportunities to the children of backstretch workers.
If Bob Lewis has said it once, he has said it a million times. And when he says it, he means it. Lewis was delighted when he and Beverly were named Big Sports of Turfdom by the Turf Publicists of America in 1995. He was extremely delighted and honestly humbled when they received the 1997 Eclipse Award of Merit as husband and wife. And in 1999, when the National Turf Writers Association presented the Lewises with the Mr. Fitz Award for their personification of the spirit of horse racing-you guessed it-Bob was really pleased.
Now, as they once again receive the gratitude of California’s racing community, the Lewises follow such Gregson Foundation honorees as Noble Threewitt, Jack Robins, brothers Mel and Warren Stute, Laffit Pincay and Eddie Delahoussaye.
“I was not privileged to know Eddie Gregson all that well,” Bob Lewis said recently, “but I did know him, and this foundation is a great tribute to his life. He deserves the accolades, because the work of the foundation is very important. The people who take care of our Thoroughbreds are vital to the business, and their welfare should be of concern to everyone.
“We’ve been to the Gregson Foundation event several times in recent years, and hopefully it will be another successful dinner,” he added. “Most of all, we’re very delighted to be selected, and we thank everyone who made it possible.”
Bob Lewis is the first guy to admit he is both lucky in horse racing, and in love. As head of the University of Oregon cheerleading squad, some 55 years ago, Bob snagged Beverly’s phone number when she signed up to try out for the squad. He asked her out, sparks flew, and, in August of 1947, they were married.
“I didn’t make the rally squad,” Beverly likes to recall. “But I got the yell leader.”
Working side by side, with Bob driving the truck and Beverly doing the books, they built the successful Foothill Beverage Co. practically from scratch. The key, Bob insists, was lashing their star to the Budweiser label and positioning their company to take advantage of the burgeoning Pomona Valley region, where Foothill made its headquarters.
“I had faith in my own ability to know the market,” Bob said. “We were in the right place at the right time.”
By the late 1980’s, the Lewises were ready to make the leap into Thoroughbred ownership. Since then, their good fortune has been well documented. Almost from the moment they entered the game, 15 years ago, the names of Bob and Beverly Lewis started cropping up alongside major stakes horses, classic winners and champions.
By now, the list makes good reading as a starter set for a Hall of Fame. In fact, Serena’s Song, their champion filly of 1995, already is enshrined with a plaque on the wall lat the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs.
Charismatic, winner of the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness for the Lewises, was later voted Horse of the Year. Silver Charm, winner of the Derby and Preakness in 1997, was not only champion of his 3-year-old generation, he also went on to win the 1998 Dubai World Cup.
Timber Country, owned by the Lewises in partnership, took the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Jevenile to be champion 2-year-old, then added the Preakness Stakes the following year. Commendable, in the right place at the right time, gave them a Belmont Stakes in June of 2000. Orientate criss-crossed the continent to earn an Eclipse Award as the sprint champion of 2003, sealed with his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
There is more. Twice the Vice won a Del Mar Oaks, High Yield took the Blue Grass, and Hennessy, winner of the Hopeful, missed the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by a nose. Valid Wager, Exploit, Scrimshaw and Consolidator have added significant wins among colts, while A.P. Adventure, Inspiring, Composure and Salty Perfume did likewise against fillies.
As a result of such inordinate success, the Lewises have become fully exposed as the most recognizable couple in California racing. Bob has served on the boards of both the Breeders’ Cup and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. In 1995, he stepped forward to lead the Thoroughbred Owners of California as its chairman. In 2003, he joined the board of directors of the Oak Tree Racing Association, a leading backer of racing charities and equine research.
Along the way, the Lewises have lent their support to such diverse racing charities and welfare organizations as the Winners Foundation, the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, the Shoemaker Foundation, the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America, NTRA Charities, Tranquility Farm and the California Equine Retirement Foundation.
I therefore came as no surprise – except, perhaps, to Beverly and Bob – that they were honored in 1997 with the prestigious Eclipse Award of Merit for their contributions to the racing industry. When they took center stage at the Westin Mission Hills Resort in Palm Springs, Bob Lewis might have felt like a Johnny-come-lately, but he fit in alongside a list of Award of Merit winners that included Paul Mellon, Jimmy Kilroe, Alfred Vanderbilt and Allen Paulson. Beverly Lewis, on the other hand, was making history. No other woman has received even a spouse’s share of the Award of Merit in the 30 years it has been presented.
“The industry has been so good to us,” Bob said. “I often think it’s
too bad that there aren’t more people who reach the twilight of their
lives, as we have, and are continuing to have so much fun. Horse racing
gets all the credit. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, please
bring me back as a Budweiser beer salesman and a Thoroughbred horse
Following are a few highlights in this remarkable couple’s career in thoroughbred horseracing: From the Kentucky Derby to the Dubai World Cup, not many high-profile races have escaped the Lewises in the 15 years they’ve been active in the sport. Following are a few highlights in this remarkable couple’s career in thoroughbred horseracing: