05/03/2007 11:00PM

Real Quiet really coming into his own

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Real Quiet has proved one thing over and over again in his career - never count him out.

The 1998 Kentucky Derby winner, now standing at William J. Solomon's Pin Oak Lane Farm in New Freedom, Pa., Real Quiet ranks among the top 50 sires in the nation in 2007 by progeny earnings, with two graded stakes winners. This comes hot on the heels of his best year ever, when his runners earned nearly $3 million in 2006.

And after a scare early in this year's breeding season, when abscesses in both hind feet landed him at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center and kept him out of the breeding shed for approximately three weeks, Real Quiet is sound and well on his way to covering the more than 80 mares booked to him this spring.

Real Quiet arrived in Pennsylvania in August 2005 amid great fanfare. He was welcomed at Regal Heir Farms in Grantville with a reception attended by a large gathering, including Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, Catherine Baker Knoll. Regal Heir's former proprietor, Tom Reigle, was instrumental in bringing the Derby winner to the state.

Real Quiet had stood at Vinery Kentucky, and later Taylor Made Farm, before moving to the Keystone State. At the time of the move he had three crops at the track, and he counted among his runners stakes winners No Place Like It and Quiet Cash and the filly Pussycat Doll, who at the time was a graded-stakes-placed 3-year-old. But it is his third crop, the 2-year-olds of 2005, who have elevated their sire on the leading sire ranks.

"He got hot when he left Kentucky," said Solomon, an equine veterinarian and past president of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association. Of Real Quiet's 13 stakes winners, 5 are graded winners, 4 from his third crop. The most recent is his leading earner of 2007, Silent Pleasure.

Out of the Vice Regent mare Wholelotapleasure, Silent Pleasure was a $2,700 sales yearling who has gone on to earn $396,555 and has four-race winning streak, all in stakes. After winning Delta Downs's Delta Mile and Gulf Coast Classic in March, Silent Pleasure was shipped by trainer Howard Scarberry to Oaklawn Park, were he captured the Fifth Season Stakes on April 12. A little more than two weeks later, Silent Pleasure proved tough in the Grade 3 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park, setting the pace, losing the lead briefly to odds-on favorite Bob and John in upper stretch, then coming back to win by a neck. The final time of 1:35.39 was less than a second off the track record.

Real Quiet's recently retired daughter Wonder Lady Anne L is also a member of his third crop, and one of two Grade 1 winners for the stallion last year. A two-time graded-stakes-winning filly who captured the 2006 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park, Wonder Lady Anne L was retired this spring with career earnings of $459,488 and scheduled for breeding to Giant's Causeway.

Trainer Bob Baffert purchased Real Quiet for $17,000 at the 1996 Keeneland September yearling sale for owner Mike Pegram, and then sent him out to win or place in 17 of 20 starts and earn $3,271,802. Real Quiet came excruciatingly close to becoming racing's 12th Triple Crown winner, taking the Derby (at more than 8-1) and Preakness and missing by a nose in the final strides of the Belmont Stakes. All five of his stakes wins came in Grade 1 company, including the Hollywood Futurity at 2 and the Pimlico Special and Hollywood Gold Cup at 4.

Baffert and Pegram have also teamed up to campaign two of Real Quiet's most exciting runners. Leading the way is Pussycat Doll, who is set to defend her title on Derby Day in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff Handicap, a race she won last year by a length. Pussycat Doll, now 5, has won 6 of her 11 starts, including the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes and Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita, for earnings of $657,831.

Another Baffert-Pegram runner (owned in partnership with Watson and Weitman Performances LLC) is 4-year-old Midnight Lute, who has won or placed in 6 of his 8 starts. He won Keeneland's Grade 3 Perryville Stakes last fall and was Grade 1 placed in the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

Real Quiet was nicknamed "the Fish" as a yearling because of his narrow frame when seen from head-on. But Baffert jokingly referred to him as "the Whale" later in his career as Real Quiet began to fill out.

Solomon describes Real Quiet, the stallion, as "a very tall, lanky, stylish horse. He has an attractive head and stamps his foals with his look." Real Quiet bred 68 mares in his first season in Pennsylvania, and Solomon has had nearly a dozen Real Quiet foals born at Pin Oak Lane this spring. And interest in the Derby winner keeps growing with every graded stakes winner. He stands for $5,000 live foal.