BALTIMORE -- Real Quiet is a real serious race horse.
So serious that he's giving trainer Bob Baffert a second straight chance to win the Triple Crown, after an impressive victory Saturday in the Preakness at Pimlico.
Until Real Quiet's triumph in the Kentucky Derby, the colt whom Baffert nicknamed "The Fish" because of his narrow frame was just Indian Charlie's stablemate. No more.
"I think we really have to take him seriously now," Baffert said. "The Fish has turned into a shark."
With Indian Charlie back in the barn at Churchill Downs after a third-place finish in the Derby, Real Quiet, a $17,000 yearling, moved to within one step of a $5 million bonus.
"That's two down and one to go," said jockey Kent Desormeaux.
That "one" is the Belmont Stakes on June 6. If Real Quiet gets it, he will become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed did it 20 years ago.
"I won't go unless I know he can win," Baffert said. "If he's not training well, he won't go."
Desormeaux saw no problem.
"I'm most confident about the Belmont -- the distance (1 1-2 miles)," Desormeaux said. "I think it would hit him right between the eyes."
Real Quiet beat Victory Gallop just as he did in the Derby, and the sunny, 96-degree day had owner Mike Pegram in a holiday mood.
"I love hot weather. I love the Preakness. I love Maryland and I love Real Quiet," said the 46-year-old Pegram. "I also found out that Santa Claus came to Maryland in May."
Before a roaring record Preakness crowd of 91,122, Real Quiet and Victory Gallop moved as a tandem just before the half-mile pole and swept around horses. Victory Gallop, ridden by Gary Stevens, got the lead on the turn but Real Quiet was right behind.
"Real Quiet was telling me, 'I got these guys, just tell me when to go,"' Desormeaux said.
Approaching the quarter pole, Desormeaux told the bay colt to go, and he zipped into the lead.
"He gave me another gear and he just drew off," Desormeaux said. "He loves to grind. He loves to grind it out."
Real Quiet and Victory Gallop dueled in the upper stretch but then Real Quiet drew away to win by 2 1-4 lengths in a time of 1:54 3-5 for the 1 3-16 miles.
Victory Gallop got to the wire 3-4 of a length in front of Classic Cat who was 3 3-4 lengths ahead of Hot Wells.
Real Quiet paid $7, $3,60 and $3 and earned $650,000 for his second victory in five starts this year and his third win in 14 lifetime races. His bankroll stands at $1,969,922.
Victory Gallop, the 9-5 favorite with Real Quiet next at 5-2, returned $3 and $2.80. Classic Cat was $4.80 to show.
Completing the order of finish were Black Cash, Spartan Cat, Baquero, Basic Trainee, Cape Town and Silver's Prospect. There was an omen that it might be a long day for Silver's Prospect when the colt fell down while being saddled.
Power was knocked out for a time at Pimlico by a transformer fire, halting betting in the clubhouse and part of the grandstand. None of the day's races was affected, although officials estimated the track lost more than $2 million from reduced wagering.
Indian Charlie was kept in Kentucky because Baffert thought that race took too much out of the lightly raced colt. Halory Hunter, fourth in the Derby, was not entered because he fractured his left front leg Tuesday. Coronado's Quest, who had been the 2-1 early favorite, was scratched Friday when he sustained a bruised right front foot.
Real Quiet clearly has emerged from Indian Charlie's shadow.
"I have made so much fun of the horse, calling him `The Fish' the way he looks. We treated him like a $17,000 horse," Baffert said. "But (1977 Triple Crown winner) Seattle Slew was a $17,000 horse. You just never know where they're going to come from."
Before the Derby, Baffert had said that if Real Quiet ran his race, he very well could win. Since arriving at Pimlico on Wednesday, Baffert had said he thought Real Quiet was doing better than he had before the Derby and was the best horse in the race.
At the end of the Preakness, Baffert said: "Now the whole world believes in my bull."
Baffert, however, had worried about Real Quiet drawing the outside post. He had drawn No. 11 but moved to No. 10, just outside of Victory Gallop upon the scratch of Coronado's Quest, who had drawn No. 4.
There had been only one winner been both No. 10 and No. 11 before Saturday.
"If he had drawn inside, I would have guaranteed you guys a victory," Baffert told reporters on Friday.
Obviously, it made no difference to Real Quiet, of whom Baffert said: "He's a plodder, but he's a runner."
Real Quiet, clearly not bothered by the heat or the outside post, started real easily and rated well off the rail. He moved into perfect position and Desormeaux roused him midway through the final turn, and he responded well.
The colt moved up commandingly, took the lead approaching the quarter pole, dueled briefly with Victory Gallop and then put that rival away.
"We were no match for the winner today," said Gary Stevens, Victory Gallop's rider who also was aboard Indian Charlie in the Derby. "I tried to get control at the half-mile pole and was able to make a move. But he was able to breeze by me when he wanted to."
"I asked him for his life and he gave it to me," Baffert said of racing's new golden boy.
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