By Nick Costa and MaryDixon Reynolds
When Bob Baffert purchased Real Quiet by Quiet American at Keeneland’s yearling sale for Mike Pegram, he described the yearling to Pegram as being really nice but when one looked at the horse from the front, he had a very narrow chest which made him look like a fish. The nickname stuck. When Baffert told Pegram he paid $17,000 for the horse, the owner asked if his new yearling had cancer.
It took the colt seven attempts before he broke his maiden, then two races later, won the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity in the final race of his 2-year-old season. After a lackluster showing in the Golden Gate Derby, he came in second behind Artax in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, followed by a second behind his much-heralded stablemate, Indian Charlie, in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
On the first Saturday in May of 1998, the much lauded Baffert trainee,with Gary Stevens on board, Indian Charlie, was the favorite at 3-1. He initially was purchased by Hal and Patti Earnhardt and John Gaines became part owner. Indian Charlie was the big horse in Baffert’s stable.
Real Quiet’s odds were 8-1. He was the “other” Baffert trainee. Kent Desormeaux was in the irons. And as the gate sprang open, both Baffert horses were in good position. Real Quiet, bounded out of gate 2 and went to the rail while Indian Charlie, named for a tip sheet, got a good start coming out of gate 7. Coming around the first turn, Indian Charlie was in 4th and Real Quiet was in 5th position. For awhile, the stablemates moved in tandem, then coming into the second turn, Indian Charlie moved quickly into 2nd as Real Quiet found another gear and passed his stablemate until he had the lead. It looked like the stablemates would finish 1-2 until, Victory Gallop soared up from the back of the field and moved into second, getting up to Real Quiet by half a length.
It was Kent Desomeaux’s first Kentucky Derby win and he made Calvin Borel’s future post-race celebrations seem subdued. “The Fish” gave Baffert his second Kentucky Derby win in a row. He had won the previous year with Silver Charm. Real Quiet had come out of the shadows and went on to win the Preakness and lost the Belmont by a nose to Victory Gallop. The closest any horse would come to winning the Triple Crown without doing so.
On a beautiful Louisville day, 143,000 people witnessed the spectacle of Real Quiet showing what he could do with a little more distance and an unwavering jockey in the irons. His connections still called him “The Fish” but now he was the big horse in the Baffert barn.
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