Will Big Brown Bounce in Baltimore?

Will Big Brown Bounce in Baltimore?
Photo: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer
Big Brown at Churchill Downs May 7
Rick Dutrow, who once ran Golden Man in the Long Branch Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth on a Saturday and the Leonard Richards Stakes (gr. III) at Delaware the following day (finishing third and second, respectively), is not thrilled about having to run Big Brown back in two weeks in the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), but remains confident his colt will run another big race.

With Big Brown earning a huge Ragozin Sheets number in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Dutrow feels a bounce is imminent in the second leg of the Triple Crown.

But, unless there is a brilliant new shooter with a ton of ability waiting for him in Baltimore, Big Brown could bounce to the moon and still win the Preakness. He’s that much faster than anything we’ve seen so far.

“It’s no party running him back in two weeks, but we have to,” Dutrow said. “Two weeks definitely is a question mark, but I don’t see him falling off his game. This is the best he’s come out of a race since we’ve had him. In his first two races he ran down a little up front, so I’m happy to see how good he came out of the Derby.

“The lighter I train him for the Preakness the better. He’s plenty fit and I don’t want to squeeze anything out of him. I want to go as slow and as easy as I can. I’m not looking to put any pressure on him. My feeling is that we have the best and fastest horse in the race. I may blow him out a quarter of a mile the morning of the race, but I definitely won’t breeze him between now and the Preakness.”

Race strategy is not an issue with Big Brown, who has shown he can adapt to anything and beat you on the lead, just off, or from a half-dozen lengths back as he did in the Derby.

“He has plenty of natural speed and I don’t see a horse getting away from him early to where we’d be afraid he could steal the race. If he has to, Brown can be on the lead. There isn’t a lot of speed in there, so the lead is there for us if we want it. Recapturetheglory has speed, and we can let him go and hang off him. I don’t see that we have much to worry about here.”

Dutrow is not afraid of anyone in the Preakness, but he said he does have respect for Frank Stronach’s Harlem Rocker, an undefeated gray flash with star potential who has won all three of his starts in explosive fashion. And his 106 Beyer speed figure in the Withers Stakes (gr. II) is not that far off Big Brown’s 109 in the Derby. But until he works over the weekend, the status of the Todd Pletcher-trained son of Macho Uno   is uncertain.

It doesn’t look like a stellar field,” Dutrow said.”The one horse I have respect for is Todd’s white horse. He’s three for three and has a little buzz about him. But if (Big Brown) can get over the two week thing he’s gonna be tough to beat.”

Dutrow says he’s taking everything one day at a time, trying to get by each day as it comes and then look forward to the next day. But of the two remaining Triple Crown races he fears the Belmont the most.

“He’ll have better, fresher horses looking at that spot, and the third race in five weeks could get to him,” Dutrow said. “They’re not machines. The Preakness looks to be more in our favor.”

If there’s one trainer who believes Big Brown is not as invincible as Dutrow and most everyone else believes it’s Reade Baker, who will saddle the lightly raced Kentucky Bear, third in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) in only his third career start.

“Let’s not put Big Brown in the Hall of Fame too soon,” Baker said. “He was the best of the horses in the Derby, and the filly gave him a heckuva run. He beat those horses, but it certainly doesn’t make him better than anyone else (in the Preakness).”

Baker had been targeting the Kentucky Derby with Kentucky Bear from day one, but didn’t have enough graded earnings to make the race. So, Baker breezed him five furlongs in a bullet :59 3/5 in the mud at Churchill Downs on April 26, then worked him on Derby Day at Keeneland and the son of Mr. Greeley turned in another bullet work, going five furlongs in :59 flat, galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.

Kentucky Bear, who was late getting started due to bucked shins last year, is already at Pimlico and is scheduled to work Saturday at 8:30.

Although the horses from the Blue Grass all came back to run poorly in the Derby, that doesn’t bother Baker in the slightest.

“Polytrack is a weird surface, and many of those horses might just be Poly  horses,” he said. “We’ve proven we can run well on Poly and dirt. I’m not worrying. In his only bad race, the Fountain of Youth (gr. II), he bled and grabbed himself. He’s fresh, while Big Brown might be vulnerable running back in two weeks off a peak effort.”

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