Saturday, June 7, 2008

ELMONT, N.Y. | Maryland native Rick Dutrow Jr. has called Big Brown winning today’s Belmont Stakes “a forgone conclusion.”

Evidently Dutrow hasn’t been paying much attention to the Belmont in general and Triple Crown near-misses in general the last three decades.

Dutrow says he has the best horse. He says post position doesn’t matter.

Those statements are true.

He says his horse is a lock.

That statement is not.

In a sport that produced the infamous saying, “It makes millionaires out of billionaires,” anything can happen.

Question: You mentioned Dutrow’s comments about Big Brown’s win being a given. Your take?

Answer: Nope and the reason is that there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner in 30 years. Just recently, Real Quiet was probably moved a little too soon by jockey Kent Desormeaux, War Emblem stumbled out of the gate and Smarty Jones ran out of steam.

Q: Dutrow has been a polarizing figure during the last six weeks. What’s your take on giving horses steroids and big-time boasting?

A: On giving steroids to his runners - no problem with it because it’s perfectly legal. Dutrow already has said when it’s made illegal, he will stop.

It seems like some in the media are in nitpick mode (again), looking to examine Dutrow’s personal drug use and saying this group is shady. Granted, co-owner Mike Iavarone has had to correct his resume a little this week. As for Dutrow’s quotes, his flamboyance is good, but it can sometimes come off as disrespectful to his opponents.

Q: Is it true that there will be fans there specifically to root against Big Brown?

A: Probably - and that’s pathetic. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals folks will set up shop somewhere, there will be the group of people who think Dutrow still cheats and there will be the folks who think Big Brown hasn’t faced enough good horses to be mentioned in the same class as the other Triple Crown winners.

Q: How does the race set up for Big Brown in terms of early speed, good closers and the pace?

A: It sets up well for him. The No. 1 post isn’t ideal, but the horse to his right (Guadalcanal) has never won a race, so he’s not a threat. Da’ Tara is the only early speed but is 1-for-7 lifetime. If the race falls apart because of hot early fractions, Denis of Cork could have a chance. Ultimately, though, Big Brown has shown enough versatility that he can run at any pace.

The only thing we see hurting Big Brown is potential traffic. Of the 11 Triple Crown winners, none faced more than seven opponents. Saturday’s field is 10.

Q: Is it true Big Brown’s handlers intend to run him in the Breeders’ Cup this October?

A: As of now, that’s the case, and they’re crazy. If he wins today, he should be done racing. A fatal injury during the summer and fall means the owners are out an estimated $50 million. If they run in the Breeders’ Cup, look for Big Brown to run in the Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Q: Prediction time - who wins?

A: It’s the easy pick, but …

1. Big Brown. If this was a better field, there would be concerns.

2. Denis of Cork. Closed from last to third in the Derby and he should like the added distance.

3. Macho Again. Was a surprising second in the Preakness and he will outlast Casino Drive.

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