05/31/2012 2:04PM

Triple Crown near-misses: Real Quiet, 1998

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Barbara D. Livingston
Real Quiet (inside) is caught by Victory Gallop inside the final yards of the 1998 Belmont, falling a nose short of the Triple Crown.

Real Quiet and Victory Gallop descended upon Belmont Park for the 1998 Belmont Stakes with best act in the business. They’d already run 1-2 in the Derby and the Preakness, and the third leg figured to offer more of the same.

Victory Gallop, though, was more than just a striving second banana. His people had their eyes on top billing, and Real Quiet, let’s face it, was trying to become the most blue-collar Triple Crown winner in history, having once lost a race in New Mexico.

With trainer Bob Baffert back for a second straight shot at the Crown, Real Quiet received the most of the attention. But check out the rider on Victory Gallop – Gary Stevens, last seen at the Belmont mourning the loss of Silver Charm.

“Sure I was rooting for Real Quiet to win the Triple Crown,” Stevens said, both before and after the race. “But if he was going to be beaten, I wanted to make sure I was the one to do it.”

He did it, but not before Kent Desormeaux and Real Quiet had sprung loose by daunting daylight midway through the Belmont stretch. Then they started gasping for air, as the mile and a half took its toll. Inside the final 100 yards Victory Gallop drew abreast and dropped his nose first at the line. No horse ever lost the Triple Crown by less.

After the race Art Preston, who owned Victory Gallop with brothers Jack and J.R., offered a cold-eyed assessment of the events that turned Real Quiet from potential legend into historical footnote.

“If he’d been a champion he’d have beaten us two or three lengths, like he did before,” Preston said. “You’ve got to have a super horse, without a weakness. That’s the way it always works with the Triple Crown.”

Triple Crown near-misses

Spectacular Bid (1979) Pleasant Colony (1981) Alysheba (1987) Sunday Silence (1989)
Silver Charm (1997) Real Quiet (1998) Charismatic (1999) War Emblem (2002)
Funny Cide (2003) Smarty Jones (2004) Big Brown (2008)