Big Brown, who arrived in New York May 19, will be the favorite to win the 1 1/2-mile Belmont in his quest to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, and the first horse to accomplish the feat in 30 years.
Big Brown’s trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., addressed the media for about 35 minutes, shortly before 11 a.m. May 21.
With his usual candor, and patience for the neophyte and seasoned reporters alike, Dutrow remains confident that Big Brown will exit the Belmont a Triple Crown winner.
“So far he has been (a great horse), I think anybody can say that,” Dutrow said. “He has a big final step to cover here. There are a lot of days (between now and the Belmont), a lot of things can happen, so if he gets there to race the right way, I have a feeling after the (Belmont) we will be able to use that word (great) as much as we want. I wish (the race) was now, because our horse is good. I just expect things to get better from here with the horse. Time is on your side now. I can’t see an issue with our horse.”
Dutrow addressed questions about a potential match-up with last year’s Horse of the Year Curlin, and said he would be eager for such a meeting to take place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park Oct. 25. IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr., Big Brown’s owners, sold the breeding rights to the colt to Three Chimneys Farm the day of the Preakness. Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables said Big Brown would not race as a 4-year-old.
“Our plan is the Belmont, Travers, and Breeders’ Cup,” Dutrow said. “We are going to show up if our horse is good and ready. I don’t know what they (Curlin’s connections) are going to do. I would like to see them run together, it would be good for racing and good for us; it won’t be so good for them.”
Casino Drive, who many perceive to be Big Brown’s strongest opponent in the Belmont, won the Peter Pan (gr. II) by open lengths May 10. He was ridden by Big Brown’s regular rider, Kent Desormeaux. The connections of Casino Drive are expected to announce a new rider for their colt in a few days.
“We are just looking at (Casino Drive) like he is just another horse in the race,” Dutrow said. “I would like to see him come out of the race, without a doubt. (But) we are certainly not afraid of running against him. I would think (Casino Drive) would have to have more thoughts about running against Big Brown than we do about him.
“I asked Kent how (Casino Drive) matches up with us, and he said, ‘he doesn’t',” Dutrow said. “That’s fine by me.”
Dutrow commented on the ride by Edgar Prado aboard Riley Tucker in the Preakness. Prado, who often rides for Dutrow, rode Riley Tucker aggressively to keep Big Brown down on the rail as the field entered the backstretch. After a half-mile was run, Desormeaux was able to ease back and come outside of Riley Tucker and the pacesetting Gayego. Riley Tucker finished last.
“It looked like (Prado) was just trying to keep our horse in a box, and not out to get the best finish out of his horse,” said Dutrow, who remarked he received a phone call from Riley Tucker’s owner, Ahmed Zayat, who told him he was upset by Prado’s ride. “It looked like he just did something to keep our horse in behind his horse, and he had to go out of his way to do it.”
Dutrow also addressed a hot-button topic, concerning steroids. On the NBC telecast of the Preakness, in a pre-race interview, Dutrow acknowledged that all of his horses, on a monthly basis, receive Winstrol, a steroid. In the interview, Dutrow commented he didn’t know what Winstrol was used for. He clarified those comments May 21.
“If a horse’s coat is a little bit dull, (Winstrol) seems to help,” Dutrow said. “It seems to help them get in their feed tub a little bit more. It seems to brighten them up. They asked me what it is used for. I have no idea what it is used for. They can ask the veterinarians. Why should we be questioned about it? They should ask New York racing why they allow it. If they took it away, it wouldn’t make any difference to us.”
Big Brown was scheduled to return to the track May 22 for a gallop.
Dutrow said Big Brown would have “a basic maintenance breeze,” probably one week before the Belmont Stakes, and he would perhaps blow out the colt a quarter-mile the morning of the race, which he did the day of the Preakness.