BIG BROWN – Big Brown looked alert in his stall and full of himself during a subsequent walk under the shedrow with assistant trainer Michelle Nevin on the morning after his stirring 5 1/4-length triumph in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 17 at Pimlico Race Course.
The topic of conversation during a media session with trainer Richard Dutrow Sunday morning centered around Big Brown’s chance to pull off a Triple Crown sweep in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 7.
“If he comes out of it good, trains good, I don’t see a problem,” said Dutrow, glancing over to Big Brown’s stall. ”It looks like he’s ready.”
Big Brown, who had captured the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) two weeks earlier in equally impressive fashion, made a show of 11 rivals and his abundant talents while sprinting clear through stretch after making an explosive move coming off the turn into the homestretch under Kent Desormeaux.
“We saw another little new part of him. He was down on the inside with horses in front of him, a horse outside of him. He was down on the inside. The way he just shuts down in his races, it seems like a mile and a half is not going to be a problem with him,” said Dutrow, who reported that he and his friends celebrated Big Brown’s triumph.
“He’s not an aggressive type horse where he wants to run off with the jock early on. He’ll do whatever Kent wants him to do at the time. He just falls into the race. That’s going to help him get a mile and a half.”
Big Brown, who has won all of his five career races by a combined 39 lengths, is only the fourth horse to emerge from the Kentucky Derby and Preakness undefeated, joining Majestic Prince (1969), Seattle Slew (1977) and Smarty Jones (2004). Seattle Slew is the only horse in history to emerge undefeated from the Belmont Stakes and a Triple Crown sweep.
“Everybody wants to see something great. Maybe we’re going to see that. That’d be a lot of fun,” said Dutrow, a Maryland native and son of the late trainer Dick Dutrow. “Everybody’s going to find out where he belongs. If he wins his next race, he’s going to be up there with any good horse that’s ever run….When everybody’s talking about him, he’d be in the same breath as Secretariat, Affirmed, all those good ones.”
Owned by the IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr., Big Brown will be shipped by van to Belmont Park May 19, where he will be stabled in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel in the former stall of 2003 Belmont Stakes victor Empire Maker.
“Both of my brothers (Tony and Chip) have worked for Bobby. My dad and he were friends. I never have worked for Bobby, but I have worked with Bobby, not only with his horses, but with mine. It’s always good to have someone like that to talk to and try to get direction when I’m not sure what I’m doing,” said Dutrow, whose stable is based at nearby Aqueduct.
Dutrow said that Big Brown and Frankel are a good fit.
“I want Bobby to meet the horse. Bobby’s one of the best horsemen who ever lived. He belongs being around a horse like this. This is maybe one of the best horses that has ever lived,” he said. “I see those two getting along good.”
Dutrow said only three horses seem to have the potential to test the heretofore untested Big Brown – Lieutenant Ron, who is currently not in training due to injury; Harlem Rocker, whose connections decided last week to point their undefeated Ontario-bred colt to the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine (June 22) instead of the Preakness; and Casino Drive, the Japanese shipper who captured the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park last week in only his second career start and who is scheduled to return to action in the Belmont Stakes.
Casino Drive, who is a half-brother to the past two Belmont Stakes winners; Jazil and Rags to Riches, won his debut in Japan before shipping to the U.S. to run in the Peter Pan. Desormeaux rode Casino Drive in the Peter Pan, but will seek history aboard Big Brown in the Belmont.
“(Casino Drive) has got only two starts. He just ran a big race, a big number. He’s going to have to come back in a month off that race, which isn’t going to be easy for him,” Dutrow said. “Most of the time when horses come in from other countries and they’re in quarantine for so long, they run good off the plane but then they’ve got to sit a long time and their next race might not be so strong. I don’t know why, but that’s usually how it goes.
“I’d like to have the horse, but I don’t see him beating Big Brown. What I saw of him, he doesn’t have that quick turn (of foot), where he just turns it on. At the quarter-pole, Kent was asking that horse to go up in there. The horse was on his belly, so I can’t say that he’s going to beat Big Brown. I don’t see that.”
Dutrow, who said he’d probably breeze Big Brown once between the Preakness and Belmont, but he’d likely give him a quarter-mile blowout at the end of his gallop on race day, just as he did on Saturday.
GAYEGO – Trainer Paulo Lobo said May 18 that the second favorite in the Preakness wagering was headed for a rest after this 11th-place finish.
“He came back OK. He did not have a fever this morning,” Lobo said after his flight to California landed. “I scoped him after the race and he had a lot of mucous. It could be allergies. It could be a throat infection or even a lung infection. But the colt seems to be OK today.”
Like the other trainers in the race, Lobo saluted the Preakness winner, unbeaten Big Brown.
“He’s a super horse,” Lobo said. “He did it very easily. He tracked a fast pace for six furlongs, 1:10, and he was galloping. Very impressive.”
GIANT MOON – Trainer Richard Schosberg reported that his New York-bred colt came out of his eighth-place finish in the Preakness in good order.
“He just ran a little spotty. He got parked wide, just kept getting parked wider and wider. I don’t know that a better trip would have put us in an exciting finish, but certainly it didn’t help us being as wide as we were,” the New York-based trainer said while preparing to put Giant Moon on a Belmont Park-bound van Sunday morning. “But no one was beating the winner. The second and third horses ran great. We’ll just regroup and see where we’re going.”
HEY BYRN – Bea Oxenberg’s colt was shipped from Pimlico Race Course to his summer home at Monmouth Park May 18.
“He came out of the race 100 percent,” said trainer Eddie Plesa, who has no short-term plans for the Holy Bull (gr. III) winner, who finished seventh in the Preakness.
“We might try him on the turf and see what happens there,” he said. “We’re not planning on any big races, like the Belmont. We’ll just kind of regroup; see how he comes out of this race, physically and mentally. Physically, he looks great. We’ll just play it by ear for a little while.”
Plesa said he was impressed with the performance Big Brown turned in Saturday.
“It was an awesome race, no question about it,” Plesa said. “It looks like he’s going to do what hasn’t been done in 30 years. And I wish him all the luck in the world. They deserve it.”
ICABAD CRANE – Trainer Graham Motion said that he would consider taking the third-place finisher in the Preakness to the Belmont Stakes next month.
”I think it’s definitely a possibility,” Motion said. “Obviously, we want to see how he is, but I think Jeremy (Rose) feels that the distance is not an issue with him. I think with a cleaner trip yesterday, there was a good shot that we would have been a good second. With that in mind, we might pursue it.
“It’s not through lack of respect for Big Brown, because obviously he’s the horse we all thought he was. But he’s still got to go out there and win the race. It’s three weeks from now and a lot can happen between now and then.”
Motion said that New York-bred Icabad Crane came out of the race in good shape.
“He seems absolutely fine. No problems,” Motion said. “His eyes are a little swollen just from getting a lot of dirt in his face, but he seems well and quite perky, really.
“Because he’s so laid-back about everything, it doesn’t seem to knock him out quite like it might another horse. He just takes it in his stride. He obviously ran hard and he’s tired, but he seems fine.”
KENTUCKY BEAR – Assistant trainer Sherri Wickett walked the sixth-place finisher in the shedrow shortly after 8 a.m. May 18 during his penultimate morning on the grounds. The colt and stablemate Bear Now will be heading back to Canada on Monday.
“He came out of it pretty good,’’ said Wickett, who will remain in Baltimore while trainer Reade Baker was scheduled to head home to Toronto Sunday afternoon. “He’s feeling pretty good today.’’
Baker said Saturday that the lightly raced colt would not be considered for the Belmont Stakes, but instead might be headed for the turf the rest of the summer. He’s had only four career starts, but his solid third on the Polytrack at Keeneland in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) and his pedigree have Baker leaning that way.
“I’m looking at a couple of those races at Colonial (Downs),’’ Baker said. “He’s by Mr. Greeley, so he should like the grass. He’s a nice horse. He had some traffic in the race (Preakness) and I don’t think he got to show what he can do.’’
MACHO AGAIN – West Point Thoroughbreds’ second-place Preakness finisher came out of the race in good order and was shipped back to trainer Dallas Stewart’s barn at Churchill Downs on May 18.
“He looked to be fine,” Stewart said. “He ate well (Saturday) night. Of course, we didn’t do much with him.”
Stewart was very happy with the way his Derby Trial winner ran in the 133rd Preakness.
“I thought it was excellent,” he said. “He proved a lot to everybody, me included, that he can go two turns. He’s got a good feel for racing. He’s going to win some nice races, we hope. He ran well.”
Stewart said it is too early to know whether Macho Again will face Big Brown again in Belmont Stakes on June 7.
“We really haven’t given it a hard thought yet,” Stewart said. “We’ve got three weeks to think about it.”
Immediately after the Preakness, Stewart was enthusiastic about going to the Belmont. On May 18, though, Stewart was a bit more cautious about making plans.
“You’ve got to make sure everything is right with the horse and the horse is doing good,” he said. “And our horse ran back in three weeks. We’ll get him back on the track and see how he does.”
Stewart said he would not skip the Belmont to avoid Big Brown because he does not believe in ducking one horse. However, he was impressed by Big Brown’s Preakness.
”It was just a super performance, just awesome,” Stewart said. “He really threw it down. It was unbelievable.”
RACECAR RHAPSODY – Trainer Kenny McPeek said his colt ate well after the race and looked good early May 18 when he was shipped back to Louisville. McPeek said he might consider running Racecar Rhapsody in the Belmont Stakes June 7.
“We’re not going to rule it out right now, but it depends on who’s going,” McPeek said. “Right now, I’d say we’re doubtful.”
Racecar Rhapsody turned in his fourth consecutive fourth-place finish and McPeek gave it a good review.
“We were proud of his effort,” McPeek said. “We were really hoping to get at least second, but that didn’t happen. I don’t know how much he got beat for second, but it wasn’t much. Other than not getting up for second, he ran well.”
McPeek saluted Big Brown, who will try to complete the Triple Crown sweep in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
“He’s one of the most impressive horses we’ve seen in a long, long time,” McPeek said. “Maybe it’s a weaker 3-year-old crop, but who’s to know that? He’s a really special horse. If he wins the next one, which I do think he’ll win and I think he’ll win it for fun, you put him in the category of Secretariat and Seattle Slew.”
RILEY TUCKER – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and his colt were back in New York Sunday morning. The 12th-place finisher was none the worse for wear, his trainer said.
“So far, so good,’’ Mott said of the Harlan's Holiday colt, who paid the price for a pace duel with Gayego for most of the first mile in the Preakness. “I’d love to find an easier spot (for his next race).”
Mott, who trained the great Cigar to 16 consecutive victories in the mid-1990s, said he believes Big Brown has a legitimate chance to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner.
“Why not, right?” he said. “It looks like it. Big Brown’s a monster.’’
STEVIL – Trainer Nick Zito handled the walking duties in the quiet Preakness Stakes Barn shedrow May 18 as the vast majority of runners in the middle jewel had already packed up and departed. Zito then walked the fifth-place finisher onto a van heading back to New York at about 8:20 a.m.
“He came out of the race good,’’ said Zito, who indicated that the son of Maria's Mon would get some time off before a summer schedule is put in place. “I have nothing planned for him right now. He ran a good race; he tried hard. The other horse (Big Brown) looks like the real deal. It should be a great Belmont.’’
Zito was the man who stopped the last Triple Crown bid when his long shot Birdstone upset Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes.
Zito’s top 3-year-old, War Pass, missed the Triple Crown series after incurring a hairline fracture in his left front ankle in the Wood Memorial and will be out until fall. Zito is planning to try Big Brown again in the Belmont Stakes with Anak Nakal, who was a wide seventh behind him in the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s by a Belmont winner (Victory Gallop),’’ Zito said. Victory Gallop nipped Real Quiet by a nose in the Belmont Stakes, preventing the Bob Baffert-trained colt from winning the Triple Crown in 1998.