- The Washington Times - Monday, May 5, 2008

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If Big Brown is going to capture the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes on May 17 in Baltimore, he might have to do it against a field of horses running on four weeks of rest.

A day after Big Brown rolled to a 43/4-length win in the Kentucky Derby, his trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., was the only conditioner to commit his horse to the Preakness.

Louie Roussel, trainer of fifth-place Recapturetheglory, is leaning against running in the race but will wait until today to make a final decision. Roussel won the Preakness 20 years ago with Risen Star.

Dutrow said yesterday morning he doesn’t intend to ship Big Brown to Pimlico Race Course until May 14, three days before the Preakness.

“I like our chances because we have the best horse,” he said.

Big Brown may be the only Derby horse to take the Triple Crown’s second leg. Roussel will decide today whether to ship Recapturetheglory to Baltimore or back to the colt’s home track in New Orleans.

Eight newcomers are possible for the Preakness: Behindatthebar, El Gato Malo, Giant Moon, Harlem Rocker, Kentucky Bear, Stevil, Tres Borrachos and Yankee Bravo.

The best of those new horses appear to be Behindatthebar and El Gato Malo. Behindatthebar won the Lexington Stakes two weeks ago, and El Gato Malo was excluded from the Derby because of a lack of graded stakes earnings. One wild card is the undefeated Harlem Rocker, who won the Withers Stakes. Harlem Rocker is owned and bred by Frank Stronach, whose company owns Pimlico Race Course.

Denis of Cork, who closed from last to third at the Derby, and fourth-place Tale of Ekati will be prepared for the Belmont Stakes, according to trainers David Carroll and Barclay Tagg.

No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed 30 years ago. Six of the last 11 Derby winners captured the Preakness only to lose the Belmont, the last being Smarty Jones in 2004.

In recent years, injuries to top horses, not sensational performances, have dominated the news cycle. Barbaro broke down at Pimlico two years ago and eventually was euthanized; in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, George Washington was put down on-track; and Saturday, Derby runner-up Eight Belles fractured both front ankles while galloping around the first turn after the race and was euthanized on the track.

Big Brown’s connections hope to turn that around. As the class of a mediocre 3-year-old division, Big Brown holds marginally better chances than those of last year’s Derby winner, Street Sense, who fell to 2007 horse of the year Curlin in the Preakness and also had to battle the talented Hard Spun several times.

The Preakness marks a homecoming of sorts for both Dutrow and Big Brown jockey Kent Desormeaux. Dutrow was born in Hagerstown, Md., and attended high school in Howard County, and Desormeaux won five riding titles at Pimlico from 1987 to 1989. He won the Preakness with Real Quiet in 1998.

Dutrow undoubtedly will have the home-area support, but the quick comeback for Big Brown already concerns him. Big Brown had layoffs of 155 days, 24 days and 34 days between races.

“The timing is not good for me,” he said. “The next race coming up is out of my hands because it’s coming back in two weeks. I’m not going to have a chance to train him. I’m just going to play around with him. I know he looks like the best horse of his crop, but still he’s got to go over there in two weeks and has to show up there the right away again. I don’t think I’m going to feel as confident. My hands are tied.”

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