by Karen M. Johnson
Big Brown arrived in style at Belmont Park May 19. With a police escort in front and a UPS truck behind, a Brook Ledge van delivered the winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown to a loading ramp near Barn 2 at 2:25 p.m.
Big Brown will try to make history June 7 in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) after winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 3 and the Preakness (gr. I) two weeks later. Should he win the Belmont, he will become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, and the first since Affirmed in 1978.
Big Brown left Maryland at 10 a.m. and encountered some traffic at the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey, where his van was met by the police escort. Outside of that, it was smooth sailing for Big Brown, who was accompanied on the van by his groom, Herasmo Gonzalez.
Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. and Big Brown’s exercise rider, Michelle Nevin, rode in a car that followed the van throughout the journey.
Upon arriving at Belmont, Big Brown, calm and poised as usual, was greeted by several horses trained by Bobby Frankel, who were nickering as he was led into stall 8 of Barn 2, the same stall that 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker occupied.
Waiting for Big Brown was a gaggle of reporters, photographers, and television crews, about 75 people in all. The colt’s rider, Kent Desormeaux, and co-owner Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables, were the first to greet Big Brown as he looked around with interest at his new surroundings. Iavarone, who was besieged by reporters, said, “He is a rock star, and he knows it.”
A relaxed Dutrow, dressed in a sport coat and ESPN hat, was next to address the media outside of the barn.
“We are under the impression we have a fresh horse for the (Belmont),” Dutrow said. “He has come out of it good. He ate up everything. He was bouncing around the barn the last couple of days. It certainly was not an issue to run back that quickly. In his training, he doesn’t get on his belly. Maybe that had something to do with it. I’m not worried about anything right now. He looks like he maybe lost a pound. He puts his weight back quickly. I keep a close look on him.”
Dutrow said that the Boundary colt did run down on the back of both his hind heels in the Preakness. When a horse runs down, his heels make contact with the racing surface, and abrasions and burning of the skin can occur. It can either be mild or very pronounced.
“He burned a little bit (behind),” Dutrow said. “It’s not an issue. He will be fine. He didn’t run down up front; he may have scraped it (behind), but I don’t see no open sores. He just touched it very lightly back there because of the track. It won’t happen next time because I will put patches and bandages on him.”
Dutrow said Big Brown’s heels were treated with a topical ointment.
Big Brown is scheduled to return to the track Wednesday for the first time since the Preakness. Dutrow said the horse will jog and would “have a maintenance breeze” one week before the Belmont.