United Parcel Service has never made a delivery like Big Brown delivered May 3 at Churchill Downs, romping home by nearly five lengths to remain unbeaten in four starts with a scintillating win in the $2,211,800 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) (VIDEO) .
The filly Eight Belles finished second, but broke down while galloping out after the race and had to be euthanized on the track.
The worry that Big Brown had to make the lead from the outside post position proved a non-factor. Kent Desormeaux had him in sixth down the stretch for the first time, and was sitting in fourth when they went around the first turn.
Big Brown was wide but clear, and Desormeaux always had him in a good striking position behind leaders Bob Black Jack, Cowboy Cal, and Recapturetheglory.
They ran the half-mile in :47.04, six furlongs in 1:11.14, and a mile in 1:36.56.
As the leaders headed into the turn for home, Desormeaux pushed the button and Big Brown, after taking a few strides to get in gear, simply ran away from the field.
Eight Belles was clear of the third horse, Denis of Cork, by 3 1/2 lengths, while Tale of Ekati finished fourth.
While both Big Brown and Eight Belles were galloping out after the race, Eight Belles broke both front ankles and collapsed. She was immediately euthanized on the track.
Dr. Larry Bramlage, the American Association of Equine Practitioner's on call veterinarian on site, said there was no alternative to the decision to end the life of the Unbridled’s Song filly owned by Rick Porter, trained by Larry Jones, and ridden by Gabe Saez.
"That is an injury that is painful. There was no way to save her," Bramlage said.
"These things (the horses) are our family," a distraught Jones told the media shortly after returning to Barn 43. "They put their lives on the line and she was glad to do it."
Jones said the filly "ran the race of her life. She was easily second best. I was seeing flashbacks of last year and expecting the same result as last year."
Jones-trained Hard Spun finished second in the Derby before going on to finish third in the Preakness and second in the Breeders' Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
The trainer said it appeared that the filly suffered a condylar fracture when trying to pull up. In attempting to keep herself up, she broke the other ankle, he said.
Jones said an autopsy will be performed and Porter had directed that the filly be cremated.
"She went out in glory; she went out as a champion to us," said the trainer, his voice breaking, in a press conference about two hours after the Derby. 'We're heartbroken; we'll miss her every day."
Jones and Saez were experiencing the highs and lows of racing, having won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) the preceding day with Brereton Jones’ Proud Spell.
Eight Belles was at the seven-eighths pole when she injured herself.
According to Bramlage, the filly suffered condylar fractures in both forelegs. The left was dislocated and opened the skin, contaminating the injury. She fractured "at least one sesamoid' in her right leg, Bramlage said.
"It was a catastrophic injury," Bramlage added. "It happened on the same stride right in front of the outrider."
Big Brown, by Boundary, is owned by IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr. and trained by Rick Dutrow. He had captured all three of his previous starts, including a five-length win in the March 29 Florida Derby (gr. I).
The Derby winner was bred in Kentucky by Dr. Gary Knapp’s Monticule from the Nureyev mare Mien.
Big Brown went off the favorite and paid $6.80, $5, and $4.80. Eight Belles returned $10.60 and $6.40, and Denis of Cork returned $11.60.
The final time was 2:01.92 for the race run before 157,770, the second-highest attendance in Derby history. The record of 163,628 was set in 1974.
"I can’t describe the feeling," Dutrow said. "It is an unbelievable feeling. What you saw today is what made me so confident.
"It was just the way we envisioned things happening. We took the 20 post because we figured let’s give our horse a chance. In case he doesn’t break sharp, with the outside post we were guaranteed a good trip. He puts himself wherever he needs to be in the race. Every inch of the race was to our liking today."
Big Brown was the first horse to win the Derby from the 20 post since 1929.
Dutrow did say he was worried at one point during the running of the race.
"Going down the backside, he was lying fifth or sixth, and horses going on the inside of him," the trainer said. "I got a little bit nervous at that point. But Kent knew he had plenty of horse underneath him."
It was the first starter for Dutrow in the Derby and the third victory for Desormeaux, who also won with Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 and Real Quiet in 1998. Desormeaux said Big Brown was the best horse he has ever ridden.
"It was a beautiful, uneventful trip," Desormeaux said. "We were dreaming of this happening--an uneventful cruise down the front side the first time, with no alterations in course. He just slid over; he did it so within himself. He added power to the stride when I needed it."
Big Brown became the seventh horse to win the Derby and remain undefeated, joining Barbaro (2006), Smarty Jones (2004), Seattle Slew (1977), Majestic Prince (1969), Morvich (1922), and Regret (1915).
He was the second winner of the race, from 13 who tried, to win the Run for the Roses with only three prior starts. The last to try was Curlin just last year. He went on to be Horse of the Year. The other winner was the filly Regret in 1915.
Big Brown was sold as a yearling by Monticule at the Fasig-Tipton October sale, where Eddie Woods purchased him for $60,000. He was bought by Paul Pompa for $190,000 at the 2007 Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training from Woods.
After Big Brown broke his maiden at Saratoga on the turf by 11 1/4 lengths when trained by Pat Reynolds, IEAH bought into the horse and he was transferred to Dutrow’s barn. Big Brown made his second start March 5 at Gulfstream Park in a race that came off the turf. He won that day by 12 3/4 lengths.
The second Derby choice, Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Colonel John, was farther back than usual and closed ground to finish sixth. Only one other horse was single digits in the wagering, Pyro, who wound up eighth.
The complete order of finish was: Big Brown, Eight Belles, Denis of Cork, Tale of Ekati, Recapturetheglory, Colonel John, Anak Nakal, Pyro, Cowboy Cal, Z Fortune, Smooth Air, Visionaire, Court Vision, Z Humor, Cool Coal Man, Bob Black Jack, Gayego, Big Truck, Adriano, and Monba.