NEW YORK (AP) - A feisty Big Brown was back in his barn after a
final workout Tuesday for the Belmont Stakes, and Rick Dutrow Jr.
wasted no time zeroing in on the crack in the colt's left front
"I didn't see any," the trainer said, promptly relaying the
good news to hoof specialist Ian McKinlay by phone. "I said that
he went good and I don't see any issue at all. I told him that
everything was beautiful."
Big Brown ran five furlongs in 1:00.03 with Dutrow and co-owner
Michael Iavarone looking on near the finish line, where they expect
Big Brown to be proclaimed a Triple Crown champion on Saturday.
No such celebration has taken place at this track since 1978,
when Affirmed dueled with Alydar and captured thoroughbred racing's
"We're as happy as we can be," Dutrow said. "There's not any
issues with our horse. He does whatever you would want him to do."
Like Dutrow, Iavarone was all smiles, and already looking beyond
the Belmont. If the colt comes out of the race in good shape, he
said Big Brown would run in the Travers at Saratoga in August and
the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita in October.
"We'll turn him over at the end of the year" to Three Chimneys
farm, he said.
That's where Big Brown will begin his breeding career as part of
a $50 million deal Iavarone and the other owners agreed to before
Tuesday's workout was important in two ways: Big Brown did it
without a patch on his hoof, and it was his first so-called breeze
since two days before he won the Kentucky Derby on May 3.
The quarter crack that was discovered May 30 is being held
together by stainless steel sutures until McKinlay patches it
Friday. Dutrow originally planned to have him do it Monday, but
decided to wait so Big Brown could work out without it and let any
seepage in the area drain.
"We jumped over a big hurdle today," he said. "He's right on
target, couldn't be any better."
Exercise rider Michelle Nevin detected a certain feistiness in
"He's been acting a little rough, wanting to do more, so I knew
he was going to be ready for this," she said. "He was pretty
strong, just because he was ready to go and do something. He's been
kind of bored the last couple days with just a basic gallop."
He entered the 1½-mile oval near the clubhouse turn and began
jogging, then galloping. Nevin kept a strong hold on Big Brown as
he made his way around the track with all eyes on him.
Even Funny Cide, whose 2003 Triple Crown bid was derailed on a
sloppy Belmont track, stood near the rail watching Big Brown in
between his stable pony duties.
Nevin said she was a "nervous wreck" until Big Brown came
safely off the track. Back at the barn, she high-fived another
"You don't want him to go too fast and leave our race on the
track," she said. "Today was a little bit more pressure because
we want him to do everything right and in the right way and that's
exactly what he did. He's eager and happy to do it."
Dutrow became slightly annoyed under persistent questioning
about the hoof.
"You keep going over this. I don't understand it," he told
reporters. "The horse is fine, the quarter crack has not been an
issue for some time now. He breezed great, he's cooling out good,
there's no blood, what else is there?"
With the workout over, Iavarone focused on the race. He said 800
friends and relatives will be on hand, with 500 in a tent and 300
scattered around the clubhouse, grandstand and owner's box.
He's been advised there's a 50-person limit in the winner's
"We'll have to draw a lottery," he said.
Post positions will be drawn Wednesday, but Dutrow dismissed
that as a mere technicality.
"I would like to draw outside, but the post position is not
going to get him beat," he said. "He'll adapt to anything, pace
is not an issue for him."
If the other horses don't go to the lead, Big Brown will, he
said. "If they go, he'll sit."
Big Brown has a light schedule the rest of the week. With rain
in Wednesday's forecast, he will walk around the barn. He'll jog
Thursday and gallop Friday, when McKinlay is supposed to glue the
acrylic patch on the hoof.
It appears that eight rivals will take on Big Brown, with
Japanese-bred Casino Drive the only one besides the Derby/Preakness
winner likely to have single-digit odds.
Casino Drive is scheduled to work out Wednesday, the same day
Anak Nakal, Da'Tara, Denis of Cork and Macho Again are expected at
Belmont. Icabad Crane, Tale of Ekati and Ready's Echo are already
on the grounds.
The way Dutrow talks, Big Brown might as well be running solo.
"This horse has got good karma," he said. "No matter what you
throw at him, he's going to be ready."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)