Real Quiet poised to make loud noise Belmont victory would assure place in racing history

June 06, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ELMONT, N.Y. -- On the same storied racetrack at the same pivotal point in his career as Citation, Secretariat and Affirmed, a crooked, bargain-basement colt today will attempt to join racing's immortals.

Possessing the tamest name of any horse perched at the Triple Crown's doorstep, Real Quiet will seek to accomplish what his stablemate, the charismatic Silver Charm, could not last year: win the Belmont Stakes after conquering the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

"We won't disappoint the fans this time," said trainer Bob Baffert, who seems to believe that last year's loss by Silver Charm in the final strides was somehow his fault.

Before that race Gary Stevens, who rode Silver Charm, guaranteed victory. The gutsy gray colt looked like a winner until Touch Gold stormed past in front of 70,682 screaming fans, joining Coastal, Summing, Bet Twice and Easy Goer as Triple Crown spoilers in the past 20 years.

This week Kent Desormeaux, the former Maryland star who rides Real Quiet, stopped short of guaranteeing a Triple Crown.

"I won't guarantee it," Desormeaux said. "But I'm 98 percent sure. I'm very confident; very, very confident."

If Real Quiet does become the 12th Triple Crown winner -- and first since Affirmed in 1978 -- his timing would be impeccable.

This is not only the 20th anniversary of Affirmed's thrilling victories over Alydar, but it also marks the 25th anniversary of Secretariat's unforgettable Belmont run, completing the most dominant Triple Crown sweep in history, and the 50th anniversary of Citation's Triple Crown score.

A Real Quiet victory would also result in horse racing's richest pay day: $600,000 of the $1 million Belmont purse plus the $5 million Triple Crown bonus from Visa, sponsor of the three-race series.

That $5.6 million jackpot would catapult Real Quiet into third place among all-time money-winning thoroughbreds, a mere $736,437 behind Skip Away's $8.3 million. Skip Away trails only Cigar, who earned $9,999,815.

It would be only the fifth victory for Real Quiet, a colt purchased for $17,000 as a yearling after surgery that partially corrected two front feet alarmingly turned out like a duck's.

At the same time, it would conclude one of sport's greatest rags-to-riches stories. A horse so disfigured that his breeder feared he would never sell at auction is not supposed to apply for admission into the exclusive club of War Admirals, Seattle Slews and Count Fleets.

Because of that humble beginning that lasted well into his racing career, Real Quiet is deemed by some not worthy of Triple Crown status.

He did not win until his seventh race -- after a pair of humiliating defeats at the now-defunct Santa Fe Downs. Although he did win the Grade I Hollywood Futurity in December -- one of the premier late-season races for 2-year-olds -- and he did finish a game second to stablemate Indian Charlie in the prestigious Santa Anita Derby, Real Quiet entered the Kentucky Derby at 8-1, the bettors' fifth choice.

There he ran down Indian Charlie, the undefeated favorite, and then held off the charging Victory Gallop to win by a half-length. So what? the cynics said. Who did he beat?

Two weeks later in the Preakness, he devoured a field further weakened by injuries to win by 2 1/4 lengths. That turned a few heads, but no one called him the second coming of Secretariat -- or even Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit, Touch Gold or Free House, the leading players in last year's Triple Crown drama.

So here in the Belmont, three weeks after the Preakness, a dozen horses have congregated in a show of apparent disdain for their fellow 3-year-old. The 13-horse field equals the largest assembled for a Triple Crown bid -- Canonero II's failed effort in 1971.

Among the would-be spoilers are Victory Gallop, the Derby and Preakness runner-up, trying to bounce back from a skin rash; Hot Wells, owned by Baltimore resident Mike Warren Lasky; the last-minute entrant and speed merchant Chilito, trained by Laurel Park-based H. Graham Motion, and Limit Out and Thomas Jo, trained by Allen and James Jerkens, believed to be the first father and son to saddle competing horses in a Triple Crown race.

But the main opposition to Real Quiet's historic bid may be the grind of the Triple Crown itself -- three races in five weeks at three tracks and three different distances. The grueling 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont, at the end of the intense grind, demands of a young horse more stamina and courage than all but the greatest horses can muster.

That is why the roll to which Real Quiet hopes to add his name -- whether he succeeds or not -- is short, illustrious and bound to stay that way.

Two out of three ain't bad

Fifteen horses failed to win Belmont Stakes after winning Kentucky Derby and Preakness:

.. .. .Kentucky Derby,

Year ..Preakness winner ....Belmont finish .. .. .. .Belmont winner

1932 ..Burgoo King .. .. . .Did not run .. . .. .. ..Faireno

1936 ..Bold Venture .. .. ..Did not run .. .. .. .. .Granville

1944 ..Pensive .. .. .. ....2nd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Bounding Home

1958 ..Tim Tam .. .. .. ....2nd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Cavan

1961 ..Carry Back .. .. ....7th .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Sherluck

1964 ..Northern Dancer .. ..3rd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Quadrangle

1966 ..Kauai King .. .. ....4th .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Amberoid

1968 ..x-Forward Pass .. . .2nd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Stage Door Johnny

1969 ..Majestic Prince .. ..2nd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Arts and Letters

1971 ..Canonero II .. .. ...4th .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Pass Catcher

1979 ..Spectacular Bid .. ..3rd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Coastal

1981 ..Pleasant Colony .. ..3rd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Summing

1987 ..Alysheba .. .. .. ...4th .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Bet Twice

1989 ..Sunday Silence .. ...2nd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Easy Goer

1997 ..Silver Charm .. .. ..2nd .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Touch Gold

1998 ..Real Quiet .. .. .. .-- .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .--

x-won Derby on disqualification of Dancer's Image, who tested positive for illegal medication

Pub Date: 6/06/98

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