Speaking to reporters on the Churchill Downs backside the day after Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was cautiously optimistic regarding his starter’s chances in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
“I really liked him in (the Derby) because everything was perfect,” said Dutrow. “Now things start to change. Maybe there’s gonna be some hotshot speed horse in (the Preakness), maybe it’ll rain and be sloppy, maybe some other horse will really like it. There’s a lot of things that’ll be different now, but I still like our chances because I think we have the best horse.”
Big Brown’s hooves, which have been prone to quarter cracks, were not an issue as of May 4. All four feet looked fine, Dutrow said, and the robust Boundary colt came out of the Derby in good order. The colt cleaned up his evening feed tub after walking the shedrow last night, the trainer added.
“(His hooves) have only been a concern when we couldn’t patch him up,” Dutrow remarked. “After we had patched him up it was no concern. His feet look good.”
In spite of the ease with which the colt scored his 4 3/4-length Derby win for IEAH Stables and partners, his trainer was concerned about the 14-day turnaround to the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The 2008 Kentucky Derby winner has not raced over the Maryland oval – his four wins came at Saratoga, Gulfstream, and Churchill Downs – but Dutrow thinks his colt should like the speedy surface, which he hopes will not be physically damaging.
“He’s supposed to love (Pimlico) because it’s a speed-favoring track, the turns are tight, and he handles the turns well,” the trainer said. “But the surface there has always been too hard for the horses, and the harder the track is, the more unsafe it is for your horses, so that’s why I don’t like it.”
With that in mind, and given the short turnaround between races, Dutrow plans to keep Big Brown on a light training schedule at Churchill.
“I’m not gonna bear down on him,” he said. “He had a big race here, and I won’t have to put a sharpening in him. He doesn’t have to be hammered in the mornings. I always walk my horses three days after they run, then I jog them the next day and then I go on to gallop them for 11 days and then I like breezing them. I’m not going to change much in my theories and ways of thinking; we’re just going to take one day at a time. We’re under no pressure, but it will be a very light training schedule.”
“We all know he’s not a ‘need to lead’ horse, and that makes him so much more dangerous,” Dutrow said. “I mean, everybody’s seen now that he can sit off the pace. If he’d gone straight to the lead yesterday maybe other trainers would be thinking about (running) a ‘rabbit,’ but they won’t be thinking about that now.”