1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet when he stood stud at The Vinery horse farm in Lexington, April 20, 2000. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
Champion Real Quiet, winner of the 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, passed away in his paddock at Penn Ridge Farms in Pennsylvania on Monday at the age of 15 after fracturing his cervical vertebrae in his neck.
Michael Jester, owner of Penn Ridge – which had stood Real Quiet since 2006 – said the son of Quiet American had been turned out briefly in his paddock while he stall was being cleaned when farm employees noticed he was laying down and not moving.
Jester said a necropsy determined Real Quiet had fractured his C5 through C9 vertebrae.
“He was always so calm, we’ve never had a problem with him, he was such a class act,” Jester said. “One of the farm employees said he was laying down in his paddock, which he never does, and we ran up to him and he never moved from the time we found him.
“He must have reared up and fallen on his left shoulder and driven it with enough force to fracture those five vertebrae,” Jester continued. “There was not a mark, not a slide, nothing. Just a completely freak accident. We’re devastated.”
Bred by Little Hill Farm and campaigned by Mike Pegram, Real Quiet was a quintessential rags to riches story having been purchased for just $17,000 as a yearling.
Though Real Quiet lost his first six career starts, he blossomed toward the end of his juvenile season, capturing the Grade I Hollywood Futurity.
“He always worked well in the mornings and I always thought highly of him, but in the afternoons he didn’t run well,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who conditioned Real Quiet. “Once we stretched him out, he was a completely different horse. When he broke his maiden at Santa Anita (in October 1997) that’s when the light came on and from then on he became a really good horse.”
Jockey Kent Desormeaux blew a kiss after crossing the finish line riding Real Quiet to win the 124th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 1998, at Churchill Downs. Photo by Frank Anderson | Herald-Leader file photo
The hard-trying Real Quiet lost his first three starts of his sophomore campaign but delivered when it counted as he won the Kentucky Derby by half a length over Victory Gallop. Real Quiet bested his rival once again by a solid 2 1/4 lengths in the Preakness Stakes only to suffer a heartbreaking loss in the Belmont when Victory Gallop edged him by a nose to deny racing its first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
“That horse, he has given us so much,” Baffert said. “He left his mark. He took Mike Pegram and us right to the top. He let people know you can get lucky and buy a good horse and don’t have to give a lot of money for him and almost win the Triple Crown, just like Seattle Slew.”
Real Quiet retired with six wins in 20 starts on the track, including a win in his final career start, the 1999 Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, and $3,271,802 in earnings.
Just as he carried a workman-like attitude on the track, Real Quiet developed an equally solid reputation in the breeding shed. The bay horse entered stud at Vinery in 2000 and later moved to Taylor Made Farm before being relocated to Pennsylvania.
Among Real Quiet’s top runners are champion sprinter Midnight Lute, winner of the 2007 and 2008 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and Grade I winners Pussycat Doll and Wonder Lady Anne L. From eight crops of racing age, Real Quiet has had 15 stakes winners with progeny earnings of more than $18.1 million to date.
“He really kind of launched the breeding program both at our farm and in the state,” Jester said. “He put us on the map as a farm and he put Pennsylvania on the map absolutely. His offspring are doing great and he’ll probably be the leading sire again in Pennsylvania next year.”
Jester said plans call for Real Quiet to be buried on the farm.
“He had personality. He knew he was special but he wasn’t cocky about it,” Jester said. “He was just a pleasure to be around. He is a huge loss.”