Special isn't short of lore

Real Quiet, `House' may add to it today

May 08, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Its past has been dotted with walkovers by Whirlaway and Citation, a historic match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, a 30-year hiatus between races, a revival 11 years ago, a track record by Farma Way in 1991 and purses ranging all the way up to $1 million.

The likes of Cigar and Skip Away have prevailed this decade in the Pimlico Special, a Grade I event for older horses at the classic Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles.

Today's 34th renewal brings together for the first time the 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Real Quiet, and the hard-luck horse of the 1997 Triple Crown series, Free House, who was third in the Derby, second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont. Free House is expected to break as the favorite.

Free House, the handsome roan colt, is "going to be tough to beat," according to Real Quiet's trainer, Bob Baffert. "He's really good when he's on his game. I was hoping he wouldn't show up."

Should the top two falter, lurking in the wings is third-choice Precocity, a solid handicap runner who will receive a break in the weights. Local runner Fred Bear Claw -- expected to press Free House on the pace -- and New York shipper Brushing Up -- a stone-cold closer -- round out the compact field.

An impressive victor over Silver Charm in the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap two months ago, Free House jogged backward around the Pimlico Race Course track yesterday and was "feeling good," said trainer Paco Gonzalez.

"I hope the track is fast for everybody," Gonzalez said as the sky drizzled. Later in the day, the weather cleared.

Baffert was counting on Free House's record away from California, which is laced with seconds, thirds and fourths. He was second in the Preakness to Baffert-trained Silver Charm by a head.

And Free House had the toughest trip to arrive here, flying from California on Wednesday and then vanning to Maryland from Newark, N.J.

"He's never won on the road," Baffert said. "Every time he's away [from California], something seems to happen."

Free House, who has earned more than $3 million for owners John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery, will carry top weight of 124 pounds.

That total is four more than Real Quiet, whose record after the Triple Crown series includes narrow losses to Precocity in the New Orleans Handicap and to Littlebitlively in the Texas Mile last month.

Trained by Bobby Barnett, Precocity drew 118 pounds and has Pat Day in the saddle. He was a game second to Horse of the Year Skip Away in the 1998 Special.

Baffert said he will not change race strategy with Real Quiet, with Gary Stevens up. Lately, that strategy has been to stalk the pace and strike in the stretch.

NOTES: The Special undercard is highlighted by the $75,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes, which figures to be a hotly contested sprint for 3-year-olds. A slight overnight favorite, Texas Glitter won a Grade III stakes at Gulfstream in January and was beaten by a head in two others. Buddy Delp-trained Perfect Score took the Grade III Bay Shore at Aqueduct in his last go. Goodtobeking is on a two-race winning surge, and Jovial Brush is a tough local campaigner. The race is named in honor of Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs, who saddled 3,596 winners.

Pimlico Special

What: $500,000 Pimlico Special, Grade I race for older horses

Where: Pimlico Race Course

When: Today Post time: 3: 43 p.m.

Distance: 1 3/16 miles

TV: Chs. 2, 7

Pub Date: 5/08/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.