Belmont on tap for 'infielder' Pegram Regular guy drinks up lightly respected horse's run at Triple Crown

Owner

123rd Preakness

May 17, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Mike Pegram climbed onto the fence behind the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course and cracked open a can of beer.

No champagne. No Black-eyed Susan. Not your typical millionaire horseman. The Triple Crown is still alive, and the guy whose horse just might win it would have been right at home on the infield. He's a Bud man.

"I had to sit with [trainer] Bob Baffert so he wouldn't choke," Pegram said with a laugh. "They promised me two cold Budweisers if I sat where ABC told me to. They actually offered me six, but I ended up getting two."

He ended up getting a lot more than that. Real Quiet swung outside on the final turn and breezed home with the second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown. Three weeks from now, Pegram can hold out for a better deal from the television network for the Belmont Stakes, but he wasn't ready to look past the Preakness just yet.

"I just feel so good for 'The Fish' [Real Quiet's nickname]," he said. "I think he went off as the third [second] choice. They thought the Derby was a fluke, but that's what makes this a great sport."

The Derby was a dream come true. Real Quiet was considered TC Baffert's second-tier entry at Churchill Downs, but he overtook Indian Charlie down the stretch and still hasn't broken stride.

"He had his game face on today," Pegram said. "This horse is a professional horse and always has been. Ever since he has gone two turns, he hasn't run a bad race. He has gotten beat, but he has run a good race every time. This horse just keeps getting better."

The only thing that Real Quiet hasn't gotten is the full respect of the betting public. He went off long at Churchill Downs and looked as if he were going to go off at 3-1 until a late burst of interest dropped the odds to 5-2.

"I hope he never gets any respect," said Pegram, who apparently took advantage of the favorable odds to add to the winner's purse. "Just give him the money and I'll give him all the love he needs.

"I've got the hottest trainer in the country, the hottest jockey in the country and a horse that's peaking. What more could you ask?"

Pegram is content to enjoy the party and let Real Quiet, jockey Kent Desormeaux and the affable Baffert soak up the media spotlight -- which will be even brighter three weeks from now at Belmont Park, when Real Quiet bids to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

"I would love to see this horse win the Triple Crown, because of Bob Baffert, Kent Desormeaux and this horse," Pegram said. "He [Real Quiet] didn't show me anything I didn't already know, but he showed the public what it didn't know. I hope we are on cloud nine forever, but if the bubble bursts, they can't take away the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness."

Now, it's time to take his Midwestern charm to Belmont Park, where horse racing history awaits.

"I'm looking forward to going to New York," he said. "Do they have Motel 6s there?"

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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