In a performance that was more like a coronation than a Thoroughbred horse race, Big Brown crushed his 11 rivals in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Pimlico Race Course Saturday afternoon by 5 1/4 lengths. The son of Boundary, who two weeks ago won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) by 4 3/4 lengths, will now head to Belmont Park for the June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) with a chance to become racing’s 12th winner of the Triple Crown.
The historic victory makes him one of four unbeaten horses to win both the Derby and Preakness, joining Majestic Prince (1969), Seattle Slew (1977), and Smarty Jones (2004). Only Seattle Slew was able to land the Triple Crown.
Before a crowd of more than 112,000 fans, Big Brown went off the 1-5 favorite and returned $2.40 to win as the lowest-priced winner since Spectacular Bid paid $2.10 in 1979. The final time for the 1 3/16 miles was 1:54.80.
Big Brown is owned by IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr. Just prior to the Preakness, it was announced that upon his retirement, Big Brown will stand at stud at Robert Clay’s Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky.
Ridden more than confidently by Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown was tucked inside the first time by the winning post after breaking from the six-hole in the classic as Hey Byrn, Gayego, and Riley Tucker were out on the lead. The early fractions were :23.57 and :46.81. On the backstretch, Desormeaux was able to get Big Brown off the rail and to a clear spot just off the leaders. Traveling clear and wide around the final bend after six furlongs in 1:10.48, Big Brown easily caught up to the leaders.
Macho Again, who broke from the rail, inched up from eighth position down the backstretch and came with the widest move of all around the bend.
As they straightened away in the lane, Big Brown unleashed a tremendous turn of foot and put several lengths between him and his rivals in a mere 100 yards. After the devastating display of acceleration, Desormeaux eased up on the colt before they hit the sixteenth pole as he peeked behind for competition and won “under wraps.”
“He’s a freak of a horse; it was just the easiest win ever,” said Desormeaux.
Winning trainer Rick Dutrow said, “Going down the backside when Kent got him out and he was laying third on the outside, I knew it was over. I only saw him ask for run once just to separate himself, then he guided him to the wire. It was beautiful.”
Macho Again, winner of the Derby Trial, rallied to finish second at 39-1, finishing a half-length ahead of 22-1 shot Icabad Crane in third.
“He really ran great,” said trainer Dallas Stewart of Macho Again. “He hooked a superstar, you know.”
Big Brown paid $2.60 to place and $2.40 to show. Macho Again returned $17.20 and $10.40. Icabad Crane paid $5.60 to show. The 7-1 exacta returned $36.60 and the 7-1-3 trifecta paid $336.80. The $1 superfecta with Racecar Rhapsody returned $1,192.30.
“He just keeps on getting better and keeps on getting stronger,” said Dutrow right after the race. “He is special.”
“When asked about the run for the Triple Crown in three weeks, Dutrow said, “It doesn’t look like he got down on his belly today. I know we have horse left. I’m going to be under the impression that he’s going to be tough to beat in the Belmont.”
“To bring him back for the Triple Crown will be a dream come true,” said Michael Iavarone, the major principal with IEAH Stables along with Richard Schiavo. “It’s going to be a fun, fun three weeks.
One of the horses that will take on Big Brown in the Belmont will be Casino Drive. Casino Drive won the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) in just his second career start. The son of Mineshaft is a half-brother to the last two winners of the Belmont Stakes: Jaziland Rags to Riches. All three are out of the grade I-winning mare Better Than Honour. A $950,000 sale yearling, Casino Drive was shipped to Japan where he broke his maiden.
“The Japanese people are going to come here and think that Godzilla is dead. Well, Godzilla’s not dead,” Dutrow said at the post-race press conference.
Big Brown is a 3-year-old colt by the pensioned stallion Boundary, out of the Nureyev mare Mien. He was bred in Kentucky by Monticule. He was purchased by Paul Pompa for $190,000 out of the Keeneland April 2-year-old sale from the Eddie Woods consignment.
“I’m very proud,” said Paul Pompa Jr. after the race. Pompa had Big Brown with trainer Patrick Reynonds as a 2-year-old. After majority interest was sold to IEAH Stables, the colt was turned over to Rick Dutrow. “I have a lot of respect for Rick Dutrow. I had a lot of respect for Rick Dutrow before he had this horse. Mike and IEAH made me a very fair deal. These guys arent’ afraid. They made me a great deal. It was a win-win situation for everybody. Patrick Reynolds, did a great job breaking this horse.”
Big Brown broke his maiden at first asking at Saratoga last year on Sept. 3 going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. It was then IEAH made the deal with Pompa. Big Brown would not return to the races until March 5. He defeated an allowance field by 12 3/4 lengths. He came right back March 29 and won the Florida Derby (gr. I) by five lengths as the 3-2 favorite. He then won the Kentucky Derby as the 2-1 favorite against 19 rivals. Only Gayego returned from the Derby to take him on in Baltimore.
In the past 11 years six horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and gone on the Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet(’98), Charismatic (’99), War Emblem (’02), Funny Cide (’03), and Smarty Jones ('04).
The last winner of the Triple Crown was Affirmed, who defeated Alydar in all three legs in 1978. He joined Secretariat (’73) and Seattle Slew as Triple Crown winners in the 1970s. Other winners are: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (’30), Omaha (’35), War Admiral (’38), Whirlaway (’41), and Citation (’48).