Friday, May 30, 2008

Despite an injury that sidelined his colt for three days earlier this week, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., expects Big Brown to become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.

“I feel it’s actually a foregone conclusion,” Dutrow said during a teleconference yesterday. “This horse looks better now than he did going into the [Kentucky] Derby. He looks as good as he can possibly look. I can’t find any flaws whatsoever in Big Brown. I see the prettiest picture. I’m so confident, it’s unbelievable.”

Big Brown’s only hiccup came last week when a quarter crack (stress fracture) was discovered in his left front foot. The colt was sidelined for three days after hoof specialist Ian McKinlay inserted stainless steel sutures to help put the crack back together.

“When I saw that crack, I felt uneasy, but after talking to Ian, he said not to worry,” Dutrow said.

Said McKinlay: “I’m very delighted with the way everything is going.”

Big Brown returned to the track Wednesday, galloping 1 1/8 miles. Dutrow expects to breeze him on Monday or Tuesday.

“He only missed three days of galloping, so I can’t see [a short layoff] being an issue,” he said. “It might even work to our advantage. No matter what has come up with this horse, it’s been to his advantage.”

Horse racing has not had a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. During his three wins, Affirmed had to outrun the talented Alydar. Big Brown has encountered no such competition.

The newest face getting attention is Casino Drive, but his slow five-furlong work Wednesday raised concerns about his readiness.

“The clockers didn’t understand what [Casino Drive’s handlers] were trying to do with the horse,” Dutrow said. “I saw him coming off the track when somebody pointed him out to me. There’s no way in the world he can beat Big Brown. He’s just another horse in the race. Big Brown will have to school him just like he’s done to every other horse.”

Dutrow has tried to sound confident without boasting, but he can’t help himself.

“I have been trying to be humble and modest,” he said. “If people think I’m talking too big, all they have to do is see what I see from the horse and there’s no way of me downplaying it. I don’t feel I have talked really big. I feel I have talked the facts. I’m right back to talking big at the Belmont because I feel we have the best horse.”

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