Uneasy lie arguments that mock legitimacy of a 'Quiet' Crown

June 05, 1998|By John Eisenberg

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Is Real Quiet a worthy Triple Crown winner?

That's the big question surrounding tomorrow's Belmont Stakes, as some handicappers and rival trainers and owners take shots at Real Quiet as a horse ill-suited for such high history. One even said the colt would diminish the Triple Crown if he wins.

Quick, someone toss life jackets to the naysayers. They're drowning in details.

And they're wrong.

At the risk of sounding like Yogi Berra, Real Quiet is worthy of the Triple Crown if he wins the Triple Crown. Period.

It isn't a subjective matter. It's horse racing. There is no Russian judge swaying the outcome. No Associated Press pollsters playing masters of the universe. A horse has to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont to win the Triple Crown. That's it. That's all. And if you do it, you do it. You get your place in history.

Only 11 horses have done it out of the thousands that have tried, so it's a tough thing to do, a fantastic achievement regardless of the circumstances.

If Real Quiet can become the 12th horse to do it tomorrow, that's all that's going to matter. That's real and rare history. Everything else becomes just a footnote.

It won't matter that several top contenders didn't run during the Triple Crown season, or that Real Quiet's overall record is mediocre, or that his Dosage Index is high, or that he sold for $17,000 as a yearling, or that his conformation is less than perfect.

Details, details. What do they matter if Real Quiet wins?

Since when did the Triple Crown come with a quality-control apparatus?

When North Carolina State won the Final Four in a huge upset in 1983, no one suggested that the title was diminished because the Wolfpack lost 10 games during the season. What did that matter? They won when it counted.

If Mike Bordick up and hit 62 homers to break Roger Maris' record, would the record mean less because Bordick wasn't a power hitter? No. A record is a record. A hard number. A finite accomplishment. Not subject to debate.

Not all champions are the best, the greatest, the peerless, the wonderful. Some are just in the right place at the right time. Some can't be explained. But they're still champions.

No one is suggesting Real Quiet merits comparisons to Secretariat, Seattle Slew or Affirmed, the most recent Triple Crown winners. Real Quiet had won just twice in 12 starts before the Derby. He isn't a super horse. But neither were several other Triple Crown winners.

Sir Barton was winless before the Kentucky Derby, for crying out loud. Omaha was 2-for-11, almost the same as Real Quiet. Assault was 4-for-12.

There is no minimum standard for joining the Triple Crown club. There is just one requirement. You have to win the races. All three.

It's a brutally tough task, no matter who is running against you.

Just staying healthy and energized for three races on three tracks over five weeks is a tough task for a 3-year-old, let alone staying healthy and energized enough not to throw in a clunker performance somewhere.

"I obviously have my own doubts [about Real Quiet], or I wouldn't have a horse in the race," said H. James Bond, trainer of Raffie's Majesty. "But give him all the credit in the world for getting to this point. You can't coast your way here. It's so hard to keep going."

True, the list of horses that won't run tomorrow is impressive: Event of the Year, Lil's Lad, Coronado's Quest, Halory Hunter and Indian Charlie, all winners of major Derby preps.

But to dismiss Real Quiet's achievement because of that is to diminish the importance of durability, possibly the most important quality of all for a Triple Crown horse.

"A lot of [winning a Triple Crown] is just outlasting the competition," trainer Nick Zito said.

A lot of it also is talent, which is where the criticism of Real Quiet grows particularly harsh. As David Cross, trainer of Classic Cat, told The Sun's Tom Keyser earlier his week, "Even if he wins [the Belmont], he'll still have something to prove."

Fair enough. But while there's no doubt Real Quiet had trouble winning earlier in his career, he isn't quite as talentless as some want you to believe.

He won the Hollywood Futurity, a Grade I stakes, as a 2-year-old. So he didn't come out of nowhere. And his winning performance in the Preakness was the stuff of greatness. He went wide around the far turn and still blew the field away.

If he wins tomorrow, he will have beaten 35 opponents in the three races, the most of any Triple Crown winner.

What more can he do?

It's just not any horse that wins the Derby and Preakness and goes 1 1/2 miles to beat 12 challengers in the Belmont.

"To get a mile and a half [without fading] takes a great horse," Bond said. "That's why we're all here. To see if [Real Quiet] has what it takes."

If he does, the case is closed. Real Quiet is a Triple Crown winner, a horse suited for history. There's no argument. He did it. Period.

"No one will remember anything else except that he won," Bond said. "And that's how it should be."

Pub Date: 6/05/98

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