- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 7, 2008

ELMONT, N.Y. | For 2 1/2 minutes Saturday afternoon, Big Brown can shift the focus of the horse racing world completely to him and not issues like equine safety, steroid use and his camp’s past troubles.

Dominating performances in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes have put Big Brown, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. and the colt’s hedge fund-like ownership group on the cusp of history.

A win in the Belmont Stakes and Big Brown becomes the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner and first in 30 years. He is the 11th horse since 1979 to win the series’ first two legs,but the previous 10 colts came up short in the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion.”

A loss, which would be a huge upset considering the ordinary credentials of his nine competitors, and many racing traditionalists will pan Dutrow’s outward confidence throughout the spring.

Dutrow doesn’t plan on being laughed at.

“These horses cannot run with Big Brown,” he said. “We’re sitting in an unbelievable spot.”

Post time for the Belmont is 6:25 p.m. Big Brown is the 2-5 morning line favorite and will start from the No. 1 post position.

“Big Brown has answered the first two questions beautifully,” said trainer David Carroll, who will send out third favorite Denis of Cork. “It’s his race to lose.”

His pursuit of the Triple Crown might have gotten easier Friday when second favorite Casino Drive skipped his workout because of a bruised hoof.

“We are not 100 percent happy with the movement of the hind leg,” said Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for Casino Drive’s Japanese ownership group. “We haven’t withdrawn him. Just giving him an easy day.”

Tada said Casino Drive’s ailment is a “stone bruise,” which can occur by walking on hard or rocky ground. The colt has been walked around the Belmont Park barn areas for weeks, a common training technique in Asia.

Big Brown, meanwhile, had an acrylic patch applied to the inside of his left front hoof, location of a healing quarter crack. The procedure, which came after the colt galloped 1 1/2 miles, took 30 minutes.

Big Brown is patched up, but Dutrow said he will not be shot up. The trainer has caught fire for injecting Big Brown with the anabolic steroid Winstrol on April 15. The practice is legal in the states in which Big Brown has competed. But citing his colt’s effectiveness, Dutrow has not given him the steroid since.

The quarter crack has been the only bump for Big Brown this spring. But the final leg of the Triple Crown is the most difficult to win.

Just ask Bob Baffert. He has been in Dutrow’s position three times. Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) each won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Each time, Baffert was denied history. Silver Charm and Real Quiet finished second and War Emblem eighth after stumbling at the start.

“I think he wins,” Baffert said. “This horse is just a different kind of horse. He’s just a freak. All the great ones are genetic freaks. He’s just an amazing horse. He’s fun to watch.”

Big Brown’s explosive closing move in the Preakness bordered on amazing, but don’t expect jockey Kent Desormeaux to implement that strategy in the Belmont.

Starting from the rail, Desormeaux wants a quick start into the first turn to remove the possibility of traffic. Desormeaux, who rode Real Quiet 10 years ago, favors the No. 1 post.

“Absolutely because it’s an easier trip,” he said. “I [will] be able to just guide and glide. … He’s so fast away from the gate, though. The race might be over in 40 yards.”

Desormeaux has hung around Dutrow, who last week called Big Brown winning a “foregone conclusion.”

Although Dutrow acknowledges he has detractors who balk at his background and personality, he believes the majority of the crowd - which is expected to exceed 100,000 - will join Team Big Brown.

“I can’t imagine what I’m going to feel like when they turn for home,” he said. “I know it’s going to be a beautiful picture. Our horse is in a zone, and when I see his competition, I just know something is going to come over the crowd.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide