Ten years ago Rick Dutrow was living in a tack room at Aqueduct, determined to make it on his own in the racing industry. On the morning of April 28, he faced a room full of media members intent on covering the progress of his contender for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Dutrow appeared as many have seen him since Big Brown won the March 29 Florida Derby (gr. I) – strikingly confident in his colt’s chances at winning the May 3 Kentucky Derby – but the New York trainer made it perfectly clear that his horse is the one who has carried their team thus far. And what many in the industry have translated into cocky bravado came off as a steady belief that the unbeaten runner really is the best of a 3-year-old crop that has many scratching their heads.
“I just haven’t seen any other horse with my eyes that I think can beat him,” Dutrow said. “I’m very confident in Big Brown only because he’s given me this confidence. I’m not waking up in the morning saying ‘I’m confident;’ he’s given me all the right signs.”
The son of Boundary has just three starts for IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr. under his girth, but the first two were won by a combined 24 lengths and the last, the Florida Derby, by five.
“His talent and ability are gonna get us there, not my training techniques,” Dutrow said, “Just him, he’s the one that got us here. Any good enough horseman can do what I’ve done with his horse. Any jockey can do what Kent has done with his horse. It’s the horse that’s making us go.”
The only concern with Big Brown’s condition has been his propensity toward quarter cracks, an injury affecting the hoof wall of a horse’s feet. The colt was sidelined 45 days early on in his career with a quarter crack, and came out of an allowance race March 5 with the same.
“I know it’s there, there’s always a chance (quarter cracks could reoccur),” Dutrow said. “Say he walks to the track and he steps on a rock, he’s gonna be sore and maybe that’s gonna ruffle some feathers in (his foot). Anything is possible. The chances are definitely there.”
Still, Dutrow said, as long as he can keep the colt in solid physical condition, he expects to see Big Brown’s best effort May 3.
“I feel very confident that if Big Brown breaks with the field I think he’s gonna run a big race,” the trainer reported. “The horse is good in every kind of way that I can see. We’ve had enough training. We’re ready.”
Big Brown is scheduled to gallop April 30 at Churchill Downs and will go an easy three furlongs May 1 in preparation for the Derby.