Haskin's Derby Report: Brown's Breeze
by Steve Haskin
Date Posted: 5/1/2008 3:54:18 PM
Last Updated: 5/4/2008 11:48:01 AM

Big Brown worked a swift 3/8's of a mile Thursday at Churchill Downs.
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Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
It was only appropriate that the final Kentucky Derby work belong to Big Brown, who showed why he just may be as special as his connections believe he is.

Trainer Rick Dutrow was looking for an easy three-furlong breeze in about :37, but got more than he bargained for. Visually, it looked as if exercise rider Michelle Nevin had hit it pretty close, as Big Brown cruised around there with his ears forward and Nevin high in the saddle, her hands perfectly still. Although Big Brown seemed to be going as easily as if he were in a high gallop, he still managed to cover the three furlongs in :35 2/5, with his final eighth in :11 3/5.

It wasn't what Dutrow was looking for, but he seemed to be more and more impressed as the day went on. As Big Brown schooled in the paddock before the third race, Dutrow looked admiringly at the colt and said, "How did I ever deserve this?"

Big Brown never turned a hair in the paddock, and it became obvious watching him that this colt just seems to do everything right.

Now, all he has to do win the Kentucky derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in his fourth career start and from post 20. Although on the surface it seemed like an odd and brazen move to choose post 20 with posts 1,2,18, and 19 available, IEAH Stable's Mike Iavarone explained that, if the colt broke slowly from post 20 he at least wouldn't get dirt kicked in his face, and there wasn't much difference between 18, 19, and 20.

But having three speed horses directly inside him, and another in post 13, Big Brown could be in danger of getting hung wide on the first turn. Of course, no one knows how a race is going play out, and Big Brown could come away unscathed and get a good trip and do something that hasn't been done since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929, and that is win the Derby from the 20-post.

Speaking of post positions, it came as a bit of a surprise when the connections of Bob Black Jack selected post 13 instead of post 2. Everyone nowadays seems petrified getting an inside post, when in reality, by breaking from post 13, Bob Black Jack will have to angle in to get to the inside to be where he would have been already had he broke from post 2. He also would have been all by himself on the inside, while Big Brown, Gayego, Recapturetheglory, and Cowboy Cal would have to use themselves by breaking sharply and angling some 15 paths in before they even saw Bob Black Jack.

But, as mentioned, no one wants to get stuck down on the inside, even though that's the shortest way home.
Breaking poorly is bad regardless whether it's from post 2, 13, or 19.

The post position decision that seemed a little surprising was Smooth Air going in post 12 instead of the first stall in the auxiliary gate, where there is room to the inside, By breaking from post 12, Smooth Air will have load second, meaning he'll be in the gate for a long time. If Smooth Air is is an excellent gate horse and doesn't mind being in there for that long, then post 12 is fine.

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Trainer Bennie Stutts let the colt blow out three furlongs after two-minute licking him from the five-eighths pole to the three-furlong pole. Stutts was looking for about :36, with a final quarter in :24, but Smooth Air went a bit slower, in :38 1/5. But Stutts liked what he saw, especially since exercise rider Susie Milne is not the colt's regular work rider. With Smooth Air coming off that low grade infection last week, this move was good enough, just to let him open his lungs a little. He's much more enthusiastic now, and at this point, slower is better than faster, and a three-furlong blowout is not going to make that much difference one way or the other.

One more day before our final comments and observations. That means one more day of raving about Denis of Cork, who is still loaded for bear and looking to bang heads with someone. After schooling in the paddock, the son of Harlan's Holiday literally dragged his two handlers back to the barn. The sweat pouring from both handlers was a good enough indication that this colt is a powerhouse right now and ready for a big effort.

Looking in excellent health was Tale of Ekati, who schooled the same time as Denis of Cork. He and Visionaire, who schooled the race after, are two of the most easy-going horses you'll ever see. Visionaire was like an old cow walking and standing in his stall, his coat still as resplendent as it was the day he shipped in from Keeneland.

Graham Motion was thrilled with the way Adriano schooled. This was the colt's fourth schooling session and he was much better than he was last week. He wasn't as nervous and anxious, and only once did he act up slightly, kicking back while walking when the crowd began cheering during the third race.

As for the other horses on the track this morning, Colonel John is looking better every day. His coat is blooming and he galloped strongly this morning, He made a handsome appearance standing near the chute for several minutes.

Monba and Cowboy Cal, one-two in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), were on the track for the first time this morning, both going out i the dark in the first and second set, respectively.
Get valuable insight into the pedigrees of this year's Kentucky Derby contenders with the new FREE report from BloodHorse.com, Kentucky Derby 134 Contenders: Pedigree Profiles.


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