For the second year in a row, Pimlico did its part. It provided the sporting world a horse with a chance to win the Triple Crown.
Now it's up to Real Quiet.
After winning the Preakness on Saturday with a powerful surge around the far turn -- two weeks after winning the Kentucky Derby -- Real Quiet leaves Pimlico today on course to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in history. Last year, Silver Charm followed the same route. But in the Belmont, he lost by less than a length.
Silver Charm and Real Quiet are trained by Bob Baffert, the first trainer to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in consecutive years.
"If he stays good and if I don't screw it up, he'll win the Belmont," Baffert said yesterday of Real Quiet.
Baffert sat on a bench outside the Pimlico stakes barn, recounting the Preakness and looking forward to the Belmont. He said Real Quiet will return today to Churchill Downs. The Belmont is June 6. Real Quiet will probably arrive there three days before the race, Baffert said.
"I'll take anyone on right now," Baffert said. "Did you see that move yesterday? That was unbelievable."
Real Quiet won the Preakness after a wide trip that would have compromised a lesser horse. His sweeping surge six-wide around the far turn was as impressive as any move this year by a 3-year-old.
"He's getting stronger and stronger," Baffert said. "He's a big, long-striding horse who just inhales these horses."
Who can beat Real Quiet? Most of the better 3-year-olds are injured or resting: Coronado's Quest, Halory Hunter, Indian Charlie, Event of the Year, Lil's Lad.
Shug McGaughey, trainer of Coronado's Quest, said yesterday that the foot bruise that kept Coronado's Quest out of the Preakness is "getting better. But it's not as far along as I'd like."
He said the horse would have to return to the track tomorrow and breeze by Thursday to be ready next Monday for the Metropolitan Handicap. He could then possibly run in the Belmont, McGaughey said.
Asked what he thought of the Preakness, McGaughey said: "I thought the winner ran a good race and none of the others did."
Can a healthy Coronado's Quest stop Real Quiet in the 1 1/2 -mile Belmont?
"Yeah, we can stop him," McGaughey said. "He'd have to catch us.
"But I'm not going to be like Bob Baffert and say he's going to win. I do think he'd be very competitive."
Elliott Walden, trainer of Victory Gallop -- second to Real Quiet in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness -- said his horse will probably try again in the Belmont.
As for Saturday, he said of Victory Gallop: "He had a good trip. The winner was outside him. I think he just got beat."
Does he think he can turn the tables in the Belmont? He said he didn't know.
"We're changing surfaces, and we're changing distances," Walden said. "And Gary did say to me he couldn't pull him up after the race."
Gary Stevens is Victory Gallop's jockey. He meant that the horse wanted to keep running after completing the 1 3/16 miles of the Preakness.
Classic Cat, third in the Preakness, is also probably Belmont-bound. His trainer, David Cross, said the colt's protective shoe over a cracked hoof was not a hindrance.
As for Real Quiet, Cross said: "He's the man right now. I think he was pretty awesome yesterday -- even better here than in the Derby."
The only significant casualty among Preakness horses was Cape Town, who finished ninth. He lost a piece of his right hind hoof when he threw a shoe around the three-eighths-mile pole, and his left front ankle was swollen. D. Wayne Lukas, his trainer, said he didn't think the injuries were serious.
And the only casualty among Preakness trainers was Lukas. He sported a cut on the left side of his head where Cape Town butted him after the race.
"He got me pretty good," Lukas said. "That was the only star I saw yesterday."
Lukas, the all-time winning Preakness trainer, said Real Quiet would probably be a heavy favorite in the Belmont.
"He's beating everybody who shows up," Lukas said. "He doesn't have as much charisma as Silver Charm. But by pure achievement on the racetrack, he's done everything he's supposed to do."
So it's on to the Belmont, the final jewel of the Triple Crown, where Baffert said he would do everything the same with Real Quiet as with Silver Charm -- "except we're going to win it this time," he said.
Headed for New York?
A look at Preakness finishers and other possible Belmont Stakes horses:
Preakness finish ..... Last race .............. Belmont status
Real Quiet ........... 1st Preakness .......... probable
Victory Gallop ....... 2nd Preakness .......... probable
Classic Cat .......... 3rd Preakness .......... probable
Hot Wells ............ 4th Preakness .......... possible
Black Cash ........... 5th Preakness .......... undecided
Spartan Cat .......... 6th Preakness .......... undecided
Baquero .............. 7th Preakness .......... no
Basic Trainee ........ 8th Preakness .......... undecided
Cape Town ............ 9th Preakness .......... no; time off
Silver's Prospect .... 10th Preakness ......... undecided
Nationalore .......... 9th Kentucky Derby ..... probable
Raffie's Majesty ..... 4th Illinois Derby ..... probable
Thomas Jo ............ 1st Sir Barton Stakes .. probable
Yarrow Brae .......... 1st Illinois Derby ..... probable
Dice Dancer .......... 1st Withers Stakes ..... possible
Hanuman Highway ...... 7th Kentucky Derby ..... possible
Limit Out ............ 3rd Withers Stakes ..... possible
Rubiyat .............. 2nd Withers Stakes ..... possible
Pub Date: 5/18/98