September 28, 2010

SSSSHHHHH… A moment of silence for 1998 Kentucky Derby champ Real Quiet

The Bob Baffert trainee know as “The Fish” was killed in a freak stall accident on September 27th at age 15. While Baffert was already on the racing map in 1998 with his previous year’s Derby victor – Silver Charm, repeating the task the very next season with long-time pal Mike Pegram put a new, brash style of ownership squarely in the forefront of American thoroughbred racing. In the winner’s circle of hallowed Churchill Downs holding The Derby trophy, Pegram tipsily exclaimed, “We’re gonna be drinkin’ some beer tonight… Budweiser beer!” Mike was referring to the Anheuser-Busch distributorship owned by Robert Lewis, fellow owner to Bob Baffert with Silver Charm. After all, Pegram was the same owner who had recently named a top-priced filly sales purchase and future Eclipse Champion “Silverbulletday” after his preferred lager of choice – Coors Light.

The tragic death of Real Quiet brings the parallels of emotion in thoroughbred racing into the spotlight. Mike Pegram and his co-owners have been giddy with joy over their likely 3YO champion Lookin at Lucky, as he prepares for a Breeders’ Cup berth. Now Pegram has to say farewell to his first Champion – the colt who has come closer to a Triple Crown than any other three year-old since Affirmed swept the series way back in 1978. And while Real Quiet wasn’t considered a major success at stud (he was shuffled from KY to PA and fee reduced to $6,000), Pegram believed in his gutsy horse enough to buy several of his offspring and was rewarded in his faith by Eclipse Champion sprinter Midnight Lute and Grade I winner Pussycat Doll, two of the sire’s top three offspring by career earnings.

During the 1998 Kentucky Derby trail Real Quiet took a backseat to another Baffert juggernaut, Indian Charlie, who was on a tear of California race tracks. In addition to the precocious Indian Charlie, Real Quiet proved the best of a talented 3YO crop, such as reigning Horse of the Year and 2YO Champion Favorite Trick, speedsters Artax and Old Trieste, and Oaklawn Park’s fresh shooter, Victory Gallop. Speaking of which, to prove that the racing Gods control the fate of horse racing, it was Victory Gallop (second cousin by way of Fappiano’s sons; Quiet American begot Real Quiet, Cryptoclearance begot Victory Gallop) that cost him that elusive Triple Crown. Throw in 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled (Oh Mrs. Genter, I love you...) as yet another successful sire and son of Fappiano (who was himself a son of the legendary Mr. Prospector) and you have a slew of the best classic bloodlines in the world.

Most importantly, Real Quiet renewed the hope of bright-eyed horse owners and dreamers everywhere that a Derby winner could be affordable. When the hammer price stopped at just $17,000 at the 1996 Keeneland yearling sale ($500 less than Seattle Slew went for 21 years earlier), Bob Baffert had to explain his “defect” purchase to new owner Mike Pegram. Baffert told the groom to walk the horse to the men who were standing near a fence. When Mike got a look at the horse walking directly towards him, he looked at Bob open-jawed and proclaimed, “That horse looks like a fu*#ing fish!” While the legend of “The Fish” began that day in September of 1996, it will be immortalized with the caption on the burial marker… Here lies Real Quiet, winner of Kentucky Derby 124.

Brief bio follows from ;
Purchased at auction for $17,000 by owner Mike Pegram, Real Quiet engaged in a contentious battle with Victory Gallop in all three Triple Crown races. Ridden by Kent Desormeaux in all three events, Real Quiet defeated Victory Gallop by a half-length in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and by 2 1/4 lengths in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). In the Belmont Stakes, Real Quiet led by four lengths at the eighth pole but succumbed to Victory Gallop’s relentless drive and was beaten a nose. Despite not racing again that year, Real Quiet was voted champion 3-year-old male.
Trained throughout his career by Bob Baffert, Real Quiet also was a grade I winner in his two other years of racing. At 2, he won the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) while still eligible for non-winners other than. As a 4-year-old, he captured the Pimlico Special Handicap (gr. I) and the Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap (gr. I). Shortly after the Gold Cup in June, Real Quiet suffered a fractured sprint bone in his right front leg and never raced again. He had won or placed in 17 of 20 starts and earned $3,271,802.