LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Big Brown backed up his trainer's boasts
with an explosive finishing kick and won the Kentucky Derby on
Saturday, a commanding victory turned somber by the fatal breakdown
of the filly Eight Belles on horse racing's biggest day.
The cheers for the winner's 4¾-length victory were cut short
when Eight Belles, the runner-up, collapsed while galloping out
near the second turn. She broke her two front ankles and was
euthanized on the track minutes later.
"When we passed the wire I stood up. She started galloping
funny. I tried to pull her up. That's when she went down," said
her distraught jockey, Gabriel Saez.
Eight Belles was attempting to become the fourth filly to win
The unbeaten Big Brown's start from the outside post did little
to hamper his charge when the 20-horse field turned for home at
Churchill Downs. Under the urging of jockey Kent Desormeaux, the
2-1 favorite cruised to an easy victory to become the seventh
unbeaten Derby winner with his fourth consecutive win. The last one
was Barbaro in 2006.
The breakdown brought back memories of the 2006 Preakness, where Barbaro shattered his right rear leg just after the start. The colt
was euthanized months later, after developing laminitis from the
The tragedy undoubtedly drained some of the joy from Big Brown's
victory, which sends him to the Preakness in two weeks as the only
3-year-old with a chance to become the first Triple Crown champion
since Affirmed in 1978.
"We're ready to roll," Big Brown's confident trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said.
All week, Dutrow told the world he had the best horse in the
field - and the big bay colt justified every accolade tossed his
"I can't describe the feeling that all of us have right now,"
The colt became the first Derby winner since Regret in 1915 to
have raced only three times previously. He is only the third in 60
years to win after racing in just two Derby preps - Sunny's Halo in
1983 and Street Sense last year were the others.
In addition, Big Brown became the second winner to start from
the No. 20 post. The gelding Clyde Van Dusen did it in 1929.
Big Brown covered the 1¼ miles in 2:01.82 in front of the
second-largest crowd in Derby history at 157,770. He paid $6.80, $5
Eight Belles paid $10.60 and $6.40, and Denis of Cork, at odds
of 27-1, returned $11.60.
Dr. Larry Bramlage, the Derby's on-call veterinarian, said the
filly's injuries were too severe to even attempt to move her off
"She didn't have a front leg to stand on to be splinted and
hauled off in the ambulance, so she was euthanized," Bramlage
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)