A fast time wasn’t what trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was looking for with Big Brown when the colt breezed on the grass at Aqueduct Sept. 9. It was all about a basic work, following a more demanding six-furlong move over the turf in 1:15.68, six days earlier on a firm course.
Following his third consecutive breeze on the turf since Aug. 28, Big Brown will run next in the $500,000 Monmouth Stakes on the grass Sept. 13, his final prep for the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr.I) at Santa Anita Oct. 25.
At 9 a.m., Big Brown briskly stepped onto the Aqueduct turf for a five-furlong work in 1:05.35. The dogs were stacked about 15 out and the course was labeled good, after 2 ½ inches of rain fell at nearby Kennedy Airport over the weekend.
Big Brown’s trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., told exercise rider Michelle Nevin, “Just a basic work; five (furlongs) and out six (furlongs).”
Dutrow got what he wanted, and was lucky the severe storms that hit the area didn’t arrive until later in the morning. Although the time wasn’t brilliant, the manner in which Big Brown glided over the turf was impressive. His fractions were 12.58; 25.00; 40.14; 52.55; with a gallop-out time of 1:22.58 for six furlongs.
With his ears pricked and a fluid stride, Big Brown more than satisfied Dutrow, co-owner Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables, and jockey Kent Desormeaux, who watched the work from the inside rail of Aqueduct’s inner track.
Before the work commenced, Desormeaux watched Big Brown gallop by him on the backstretch, and said, “Poetry. This horse is a happy horse.”
Dutrow, let out a whoop of joy as he watched the colt move sweetly, and yelled, “Go, Brown.”
Following the work, Dutrow said, “This is beautiful; just what we wanted. He got in a good breeze last week that was electrifying. That was the important breeze. I’m sure he likes (turf) better. He has tender feet and runs down (burns his heels) on the dirt.”
Big Brown, a son of Boundary, hasn’t raced on the turf since his scintillating career debut at Saratoga Sept. 3, 2007. He won the 1 1/16-mile race by 11 1/4 lengths. Shortly after the much talked-about performance, owner Paul Pompa Jr. sold 75% interest in the colt to IEAH Stables.
Big Brown’s final destination this year will not come on the turf, but over Santa Anita’s newly installed Pro-Ride synthetic surface. Dutrow and his owners wanted a turf prep for the Classic because they know the colt can handle the turf, and that it is generally believed good turf form translates on synthetic tracks.
When Dutrow was asked if he ever considered running Big Brown in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) instead of the Classic, he responded: “It’s the Classic, Babe. That’s where you have to go to win a championship.”
Big Brown enters the nine-furlong Monmouth Stakes, a newly created race to lure the 3-year-old to the Jersey Shore track, following wins this year in the Florida Derby (gr. I) Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and Haskell Invitational (gr. I). He was eased by Desormeaux in the stretch of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) when it was obvious he wasn’t the same horse who had won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Dutrow said he never found a physical reason for the shocking performance.
Dutrow has not decided what day he would ship Big Brown to Monmouth. For the Aug. 3 Haskell, he shipped in the day before the race. Following his work Sept. 9, Big Brown will walk and jog, the next two days, and then gallop into the race.
Entries for the Monmouth Stakes will be taken Thursday. Among those likely to face Big Brown, according to Monmouth Park’s press office Sept. 6, are Get Serious, Hotstufanthensome, Kiss the Kid, Proudinsky, and Silver Tree. There were several other horses possible to start, including Shakis, a two-time winner of the Bernard Baruch (gr. IIT) at Saratoga.