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Fans Cheer On Big Brown, Remember Affirmed

NEW YORK (AP) - Big Brown is No. 1 again before he even stampedes out of the gate at the Belmont Stakes.
Big Brown will take his shot at Triple Crown history from the inside, drawing the No. 1 post for Saturday's race. The post could be a lucky one for an undefeated colt that really doesn't need any extra edge: It's produced the most Belmont winners (23) since 1905.
Big Brown was installed as the early 2-5 favorite against nine
rivals Wednesday for the grueling 1½-mile race.
Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby from the outside and he dominated the Preakness starting in the middle of the pack. Now, the colt has a shot at winning from the rail. Jockey Kent Desormeaux, whose flawless handling of the horse has Big Brown in position for the first Triple Crown in 30 years, said the inside was a better spot.
"Absolutely, because it's an easier trip," he said. "I would be able to just guide and glide. Now, I'm going to have to jockey for position. He's so fast away from the gate, though, the race might be over in 40 yards."
Surprise, surprise. Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said Big Brown would win no matter the post position. Not even the quarter crack in his left front hoof, set to be patched on Friday, can shake the trainer's confidence.
"I just can't see a post position getting him beat," he said. "As long as we break good, I can see us getting a good trip. There is not a lot of speed in the race. If we need our horse early on, he'll be there for us."
Casino Drive owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto dismissed all of Dutrow's
boasts, saying through a translator: "No one wins with chatter. No one wins with a big mouth."
In 2006, Casino Drive's half brother, Jazil, won the Belmont Stakes, and a year later his three-quarter sister Rags to Riches became the first filly to win the race in 102 years.
Casino Drive racing manager Nobutaka Tada said he was amused
with Dutrow's comments about how Big Brown can't be defeated.
Big Brown is 5-0, winning by a combined 39 lengths. A Belmont
victory would make him the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed
completed the sweep 30 years ago.
His main challenger, Japanese-bred Casino Drive, will start from the No. 5 post. He is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. He and Big Brown are the only horses with single-digit odds.
Denis of Cork was listed as the 12-1 third choice. He rallied from 20th to finish third in the Derby.
Nick Zito will saddle a pair of 30-1 shots - Da'Tara and Anak Nakal, who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Da'Tara was ninth in the Florida Derby, beaten by 23½ lengths by Big Brown.
Guadalcanal was a surprise late entry. The colt is winless in five starts for owner-trainer Fred Seitz, but was second by a nose while going the Belmont distance of 1½ miles in his last start on turf at Churchill Downs.
Big Brown walked around his barn Wednesday, staying out of the
morning rain.
"The horse is doing great. Everybody has seen him run. He's beaten mostly every horse in the race with ease," Dutrow said. "We've got a couple of newcomers. I don't think they add too
much."
One of these horses could be the big, bad spoiler to derail yet
another Triple Crown hopeful. Smarty Jones was the last horse to try for racing's biggest prize in 2004. His owners believed there were jockeys in the field that purposely tried to hinder Smarty Jones' attempt rather than try to win the race.
Desormeaux can't imagine that kind of sabotage playing out on
Saturday.
"I don't know that my peers this year would act that way," he said. "It's a different (jockeys') colony. It's happened before, but I don't think I ride with those kinds of guys."
Wood Memorial winner Tale of Ekati was fourth in the Derby for
trainer Barclay Tagg.
Two Preakness runners are taking on Big Brown again. Macho Again was second in the Preakness and Icabad Crane was third.
Ready's Echo was third in the Peter Pan at Belmont, won by
Casino Drive in his only U.S. start.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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