Baffert tries luck, finds the shoe fits Superstitious handler first to win first 2 jewels in back-to-back years

Trainer

123rd Preakness

May 17, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

President Clinton can expect to receive a souvenir horseshoe in the mail any day now, courtesy of trainer Bob Baffert and his Triple Crown threat Real Quiet, who came away with the second jewel at Pimlico Race Course yesterday by winning the Preakness in convincing style.

On Thursday, Baffert made an unofficial tour of the White House and Oval Office with ABC staffers and noted a number of racing prints hanging on the wall.

Said Baffert: "Clinton was real nice to us, just an All-American kind of guy. The least I can do is send him a 'shoe' to add to his collection, and maybe next time I'll make an official visit."

Talking to the media outside his barn, Baffert spotted a reporter from Sports Illustrated and needled, "Maybe now you'll put my horse on your cover."

The good-natured Baffert, who first earned his reputation training quarter horses in his native Arizona and California, yesterday became a part of racing history by becoming the first trainer to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown in consecutive years, having performed the feat last May with Silver Charm.

But Baffert was quick to share the glory.

"I tell everybody that experience pays, and I'm getting to be a better trainer with a better team every year," he said.

"That makes my job a lot easier knowing what I need to do. But you can't do it without a great horse and a great ride from Kenny [Desormeaux]. He's just riding real confident now. If that had been me on his back, I'd have probably fallen off on the first turn."

Baffert even made a formal apology to Real Quiet, who failed to get the respect of the racing fraternity despite his gutty Derby victory.

"Real Quiet was a little green last year, and I had to put blinkers on him. I called him 'Fish!' But now it looks like the fish has turned into a shark.

"I guess I treated him like a $17,000 horse, but, hey, so was Seattle Slew. You don't know where they'll come from. Real Quiet is a lot like Silver Charm. He can run on any surface.

"And it takes a great horse to do what he did today [breaking from the far post]. Right now, I don't think there's a 3-year-old that can beat him. He's just getting better."

Nothing was going to stop Real Quiet yesterday, not the fire in the jockeys' room or the power failure that shut down betting in the grandstand. Not even Baffert's superstitions.

"One superstition I've got is about finding a hat on a bed," Baffert said. "And, this morning, one of my kids had his hat on the bed. But that's how good Real Quiet is."

Baffert vowed that Real Quiet will take the final step three weeks from now at Belmont.

"I'm not letting you guys down," he said. "We will get the third leg."

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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