Big Brown breezed Sept. 30 for the first time since winning the Monmouth Stakes on the grass Sept. 13. The work was in preparation for the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park Oct. 25.
In the first of what will probably number four works before the Classic, Big Brown breezed over Aqueduct’s main track shortly before 9 a.m., following the harrowing break. With regular exercise rider Michelle Nevin aboard, the 3-year-old son of Boundary out of the Nureyev mare Mien, completed five furlongs in 1:04.21. The move ranked 24th from 32 works at the distance. The track was listed as “fast.”
Big Brown’s splits were :12.52, :25.46, :38.27, :51:09, with a gallop-out time for six furlongs in 1:19.66.
Big Brown, owned by IEAH Stables, Paul Pompa Jr., and Pegasus Holdings Group, was wearing run-down bandages on all four legs. The colt has a propensity to burn his heels when running on the dirt. When he works on the grass, Big Brown does not wear run-down bandages. Big Brown’s last several works have come on the turf, and Dutrow had planned on a grass work Sept. 30.
“They wouldn’t let me breeze on the grass,” Dutrow said in reference to the New York Racing Association. “I asked on (Sept. 28); they never called me back.”
About 15 minutes after Big Brown’s work, Dutrow said, “It looks like they are opening (the turf) up now.”
Then Dutrow called an audible with Salute the Count, who was getting ready to breeze on the dirt, and sent him to the turf instead. Salute the Count is a possible candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. According to NYRA’s clocker at Aqueduct, the turf was “good to soft,” and still boggy from three days of heavy rain (Sept. 26-28). Salute the Count was timed in 1:07 for five furlongs. The cones were positioned about 15-feet wide off the inside rail.
“I thought it was fine,” Dutrow said in reference to Big Brown’s work. “I don’t know what kind of condition (the turf) would have been in.”
When Dutrow was asked if he wished he had waited to see if the turf would be opened for Big Brown and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Kip Deville, he said: “Kip and Big Brown went good. They’re good.”
Kip Deville worked five furlongs in 1:00.45, the third-fastest of 32 works on the main track. He will run next in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.
Dutrow said he would like to keep Big Brown on a work schedule of every “six to seven days” leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. He said if the turf is available, that is the surface the colt would work over. Dutrow is planning on shipping Big Brown to Southern California on either Oct. 20 or Oct. 21. Big Brown would likely have his last work for the Classic at Aqueduct before shipping.
Regarding the possible match-up between reigning Horse of the Year Curlin and Big Brown in the Classic, Dutrow said, “Well, I would hope that we could beat (Curlin).”
Asked if he thought Big Brown was up for the challenge, he said: “Well, I’m not going to scratch. Our horse is good. I was happy that (Curlin) won the (Sept. 27 Jockey Club Gold Cup, gr. I) because it makes things a whole lot more interesting; it keeps it going. If Curlin got beat it wouldn’t be as exciting coming up to the next race.”
Curlin shipped to Santa Anita Sept. 28, the day after winning the Gold Cup at Belmont Park, and setting the all-time earnings record for a North American-based horse. Curlin has earnings of $10,246,800.
Big Brown has won seven of eight career starts and has earned $3.6 million while winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, Preakness, Haskell Invitiational Stakes, and Florida Derby (all gr. I).
Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables, the owner of Curlin, has not committed the 4-year-old son of Smart Strike to the Classic, a race he won last year in the slop at Monmouth Park. Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen wishes to evaluate the newly installed Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita, and see how Curlin trains over the synthetic track.
Dutrow’s train of thought is to keep Big Brown, who is also untested over an artificial surface, at his home base for as long as possible before shipping to California.
“I have the opportunity to send Big Brown out there right now, and I don’t want to do it,” Dutrow said. “I want to do what we are doing. We can rent a plane anytime we want. But we are doing what we want to do. I want to stay right (at Aqueduct) because I will be able to know if our horses are on top of their game or not. If I take them out there (early), I’m not going to know. I can know what is happening right here.
“I’ve just been under the impression it’s not good to go out to California two or three weeks ahead of time. It’s not what most top horsemen have done throughout the years—just go right on top of the race.”
Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stable was at Aqueduct to watch Big Brown work. Iavarone said he hopes Curlin runs in the Classic.
“Curlin ran big; very impressive,” Iavarone said of the Gold Cup. “I hope he (runs); he should. There is no reason why he shouldn’t. We want him to go. It adds to the excitement of the race.
“You have to put your best foot forward when it counts, and good horses have to get over all types of surfaces. We certainly aren’t going to make an excuse if we get beat; that’s the way the game is.”