Big Brown crushes Preakness field

BALTIMORE (AP) - Big Brown charged to the lead turning for home
and then cruised down the stretch to win the Preakness on Saturday,
still perfect and squarely pointed toward thoroughbred racing's
first Triple Crown in 30 years.
Just as he did two weeks ago in a Kentucky Derby marred by the
breakdown of Eight Belles, the colt named for UPS delivered another
stunning win, this time by 5¼ lengths. Macho Again was second and
Icabad Crane was third.
Big Brown broke from the middle of an undistinguished pack and
jockey Kent Desormeaux took him off the pace. They ran third down
the backstretch before roaring around the final turn and pulled
away from the field.
"It was almost like the Kentucky Derby. He just set sail,"
Desormeaux said.
In the Derby, Big Brown started on the far outside of 19 horses
and used an explosive finishing kick to win by 4¾ lengths, the
tightest margin in his 5-0 career.
The bay colt joined Majestic Prince (1969), Triple Crown winner
Seattle Slew (1977) and Smarty Jones (2004) as undefeated Derby and
Preakness winners.
"He just keeps on getting better," trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.
Big Brown is the first 3-year-old since Smarty Jones to head for
the Belmont Stakes with a triple try in play. The final leg of the
Triple Crown will be raced Saturday, June 7. It's been 30 years
since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to give
racing its 11th Triple Crown winner.
Desormeaux didn't even need the whip in the stretch; he simply
crossed the reins to let Big Brown know it was time to take off. At
various points, Desormeaux ducked his head under his right arm to
check on the fading competition. There was no need. Big Brown was
in total control.
"I looked between my legs, under my arms, they were eight
back," he said. "I just stopped riding, reeled him in and just
made sure he didn't pull up. He just kept kicking his legs up and
striding for the wire."
Big Brown covered 1 3-16 miles in 1:54.80. Sent off at 1-5 odds,
he paid $2.40, $2.60 and $2.40.
Macho Again returned $17.20 and $10.40, while Icabad Crane paid
The victory put the sport's focus back on racing after two weeks
of frenzied debate about safety and breeding following Eight
Belles' catastrophic breakdown. His dominating performance came in
front of a crowd that surely breathed easier after all 12 runners
returned safely. On the same track just two years ago, Kentucky
Derby winner Barbaro broke down early in the race.
The Preakness win also means Big Brown's connections - Dutrow,
Desormeaux and principal owners Michael Iavarone and Richard
Schiavo who once worked on Wall Street - are headed back to their
New York base with a horse that could make history.
Big Brown again backed up Dutrow's boast that the Preakness was
his race to lose and if the colt broke out of the starting gate
cleanly, he would win.
Dutrow got his hands on the silver Woodlawn Vase at Pimlico,
where his late father Richard Sr. was a leading trainer in the
1970s and his brother Anthony saddled horses Saturday.
It was an especially meaningful trip to the winner's circle,
since Dutrow had accompanied his father on past Preakness days
before the two fell out over the younger Dutrow's drug use and
blown chances. In the past, his training license was revoked for
personal drug use and he was suspended for doping horses.
The Preakness was also a homecoming for Desormeaux, the Cajun
jockey who launched his career in Maryland in 1987. Cheering him on
were his wife and two sons, including 9-year-old Jacob. The boy was
born with Usher syndrome, a genetic disorder that stole his hearing
at birth and is slowly robbing him of his sight.
In 1998, Desormeaux rode Real Quiet to wins in the Derby and
Preakness only to be denied Triple Crown immortality when Victory
Gallop stuck his nose in front at the wire in the Belmont.
Big Brown earned $600,000 for the win and boosted his earnings
to $2,714,500 for Iavarone and Schiavo, co-owners of IEAH Stables,
and Paul Pompa Jr. Pompa named Big Brown in honor of UPS, a major
client of his Brooklyn trucking business.
The festive mood at Pimlico after the race was in sharp contrast
to the scene at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. Eight Belles, the
filly who took on 19 colts and finished second, broke both front
ankles while galloping out and had to be euthanized on the track,
the first time that has happened in the Derby.
It was the second time a horse had broken down in the past five
Triple Crown races. Barbaro shattered his right rear leg shortly
after the start of the 2006 Preakness, stunning more than 100,000
fans, many of whom cried at the sight of the Derby winner taken
away in an ambulance. Barbaro was euthanized eight months later
because of laminitis, an often fatal hoof disease.
There was no sadness Saturday, only giddy anticipation that
racing might see another first Triple Crown winner at long last.

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