Santa Anita Derby
Real Quiet is an apt name for a colt that may be a sleeper pick next month at Churchill Downs. Trained by Bob Baffert, who guided Silver Charm to victories in last spring's Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Real Quiet won the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 14. Then, on Jan. 18, as the favorite in the Golden Gate Derby, he finished last. However, a second-place finish in the March 14 San Felipe Stakes suggests that Real Quiet is ready to make some noise today. Absent will be 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick, who will prep for Churchill Downs in next week's Arkansas Derby. This is Fox's first equine endeavor, but host Joe Buck is track-wise: His family once owned a thoroughbred named O Mighty Buck.
?FOX, 5 PM
Red Sox at Mariners
Six years for $75 million! As an-other precocious Boston twenty-something, Will Hunting, said, "How do you like them apples?" The Red Sox lured 1997 National League Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez, 26, from Montreal with the richest contract in the game's history, hoping he'd make fans forget Roger Clemens, who forsook the Red Sox for the Blue Jays and became the '97 American League Cy Young winner with Toronto. However, Boston's best young talent plays shortstop. Last season's Rookie of the Year, Nomar Garciaparra (left) led the league's batters in hits (209) and shortstops in double plays (113). In rating the A.L.'s best players, no less an authority than Ted Williams says, "Griffey's the best, but I'm not sure the shortstop in Boston isn't the second best." The Splendid Splinter might get an argument from fans of Seattle's shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who hit .300 in '97.
?FX, 9 PM
What's another name for a 500-mile auto race through the vast expanses of the Lone Tar State? Commuting. Though a fan's delight, the oddly banked turns and tight corners at the 15-mile Texas Motor Speedway (a.k.a. Tex-Mess) introduce drivers to a new definition of bum steer. Said Rusty Wallace (opposite) after crashing midway through last April's inaugural race here, "I really believe they're going to have to do a total reconstruction [of the track] to get it right." Slight adjustments have been made, such as an attempt to ease the transition from the fourth turn to the front stretch, and Wallace, at week's end the leader in the Winston Cup points standings, is confident that his Ford Taurus will be intact when the checkered flag is waved.
? CBS, 2 PM
No two golfers have received as much ink this year as former Stanford teammates Casey Martin and Tiger Woods (right). Martin, whose name is an anagram of yes, I cart man, plays the Nike tour and won't have the opportunity to turn Augusta's verdant links into a driving range. Woods's long tee shots enabled him to turn the course into his personal par-3 last April. However, Tiger hasn't won a PGA Tour event since last July and is fielding an absurd number of sophomore-slump questions for a guy who at week's end was No. 6 on the money list. Two who could keep this year's Masters interesting through Saturday and Sunday's coverage on CBS are Ernie Els, who outdueled Woods at Bay Hill, and 1992 champ Fred Couples, frisky again after an injury-plagued '97.
?THURSDAY AND FRIDAY, USA, 4 PM; CBS, 11:35 PM (HIGHLIGHTS)
Hawks at Hornets
Let me tell ya 'bout the birds and the bees. Atlanta and Charlotte are on a collision course (Interstate 85) toward a first-round Eastern Conference showdown. At week's end the Hornets (fourth in the Eastern Conference at 45-26) led the Hawks (fifth at 42-28) in the battle for home court advantage. Unfortunately, the winner of their series will most likely have a supporting role in the Bulls' next championship video. Charlotte was buzzing about center Matt Geiger, who was averaging 15.2 points and 9.1 rebounds since stepping into the starting lineup on Jan. 15. Geiger's improved play casts him, along with Phoenix's Rex Chapman, as a co-favorite to win the Bald White Player of the Year award.
?TNT, 8 PM
ALL TIMES EASTERN. SCHEDULES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.