Rick Dutrow and Big Brown

Rick Dutrow and Big Brown

Rick Samuels

Dutrow Back in the Flow

Dutrow speaks. Following a brief hiatus, in which he remained pretty much cloistered within the walls of his Aqueduct domain, Rick Dutrow finally has ended his vow of virtual silence and made his voice once again heard via an NTRA teleconference Tuesday.

With Big Brown the marquee attraction of the Monmouth Park meeting, Sunday’s $1-million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) takes on major significance, not only as a boost to racing at the Jersey Shore, but a crucial first step in determining Big Brown’s future.

Will we see the old Big Brown that crushed his rivals in the grade I Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness or was the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), in which he was abruptly pulled up and eased to the wire, a portent of things to come? Judging from Big Brown’s recent works, one would think his rivals will be chasing shadows on Sunday.

But there is still that lingering doubt that will only be erased by a big performance in the Haskell.

“Everything the rest of the year will depend on what happens at Monmouth,” Dutrow said. “I’m still kind of concerned about what’s going to happen Sunday, because I know the horse went into the Belmont in very good condition, and what happened in that race I have no idea. If it happens again, then I’m going to know something is wrong with him and he’s just not going to run anymore; stuff like that.”

But from what he’s seen so far, Dutrow is not anticipating getting to that point. “He looks like he’s ready to run,” he said. “I don’t see any issue with him. It’s all good with him right now. Because of what happened in his last start it’s hard for me to feel as confident as I did in his earlier races. But I can’t see him doing anything but running his race; I don’t know why he wouldn’t. I think he’ll handle the track just fine; it seems tailor-made for him. Except for his last start he’s done everything you’d want a horse to do.”

Dutrow would love to run Big Brown in the Travers (gr. I), but he doesn’t like the idea of having to come back in only three weeks.

“Mike Iavarone (co-president of IEAH Stables) made the decision to run in the Haskell and it’s fine with me,” Dutrow said. “He made it a couple of weeks after the Belmont and that’s kinda where it all is. The Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) is the ultimate goal, but this race is more important for him right now. So, we’ll have to see what happens in the Haskell and how he comes out of the race.”

Although Dutrow has had the most successful year of his career, with Big Brown, Kip Deville, Benny the Bull, Frost Giant, Diamond Stripes among his top horses, it has not come without its share of strife. There was a drug positive for clenbuterol immediately after IEAH announced a drug-free policy for their horses (with the exception of Lasix) and numerous outlandish comments that offended a great many people.

“I never thought it would be like this,” Dutrow said with a chuckle. “I was under the impression we were doing really, really good. We won the Derby and the Preakness, but since the Belmont there have been a whole lot of things. But it’s OK. I feel like I’m OK with the press. They have a lot of things they want to know from me, and some of the questions I’ve answered good and some of them I haven’t.”

As for his seemingly strained relationship with Iavarone, Dutrow said, “Mike told me there were some clients who were very upset and they were thinking about taking the horses,” Dutrow said. “But Mike never told me he was taking the horses. Jeannine Edwards asked me on TV, ‘Did Mike ever tell you he was taking the horses?’ Well, Mike’s never told me that. I think if Mike was going to take them he would just take them instead of just telling me he was going to take them. He’s not a threatening type of guy. It looks to me like whatever the problem was with the clients he was able to smooth it out.

“My job is to go out there and take care of the horses, not the people. I’m a horseman, and I feel like I’ve done a very good job with the horses under our care. That’s why people hire me. For me to lose the Kentucky Derby winner over a clenbuterol overage just doesn’t seem to add up the right way. I can understand the clients getting upset, especially when they had just come out with an announcement about no more drugs for their horses, but this didn’t involve their horse.”

Dutrow said he probably should have told Iavarone about the impending positive, but things like that simply never enter his mind.

“It just didn’t come to me,” he said. “I’m not one of the smartest guys out there to know what’s coming ahead. I’m just not on top of those kinds of things like I should be. It’s just so unimportant to me; I don’t get it. I guess I should have said something to Mike.”

As for Big Brown, Dutrow said, “He’s in amazing condition. He’s shining and he’s happy. If he wasn’t going into this race as good as he could go into a race we would wait for the next spot. It’s not like an emergency that we have to run him in this race. But he’s on top of his game and he’s look great, so I’d have to say everything is all good.

“Right now it’s about this race. I have no problem running him here. I believe Big Brown is the type of horse who should run in the Travers, because it’s such a prestigious race and he’s the best 3-year-old. Then again, it’s running him back awful quick. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is more important than the Travers, and we would want to do everything for him to come up to that race the right way. So, running back in the Travers would be a stretch. Anything is possible at this point, and I want to see how he runs and how he comes out of the race, but as of now it doesn’t look good.”

Dutrow, who said Big Brown has not had any Winstrol since the Belmont, plans to breeze the son of Boundary three-eighths on Friday and then ship to Monmouth on Saturday.