Each day brings new entries in the "Brown Shoe Diaries." The latest photos from the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) reveal Big Brown was stepped on by Guadalcanal leaving the gate, and that the shoe did not re-set itself during the race as previously thought; the colt ran the entire way with the shoe dislodged and the nail protruding from it.
Even trainer Rick Dutrow, who had a hard time accepting the possibility that the incident hampered the colt, now believes after seeing the photos that it could have been an issue.
In a photo taken by Eliot Schechter (shown below) that originally appeared as part of the Belmont race sequence in The Blood-Horse issue dated June 14, you can clearly see Guadalcanal stepping on the back of Big Brown’s right hind foot as the colt was bearing out into him. A slow motion look at the video of the start shows Big Brown’s head jerk sharply to the left just as he is struck from behind.
Another photo (above left), taken by free-lance photographer Bob Mayberger, shows Big Brown turning into the stretch while being eased by jockey Kent Desormeaux. The shoe is still dislodged just as it was in the original photo taken shortly after the break. So, the colt ran the entire race with a dislodged shoe (that had a bend or turn-down) and the nail still in it.
Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay at first thought the shoe had re-set itself upon impact with the ground during the race, because it was securely attached to the colt’s foot, although slightly spread, when it was removed by blacksmith Alex Leaf after the race. Knowing now that the shoe had not re-set during the race, McKinlay has a different take on it.
“For him to run the entire race with the shoe dislodged and the nail still in, it had to cause some havoc,” McKinlay said. “My wife had the best analogy. She said it’s like losing the heel on one of your shoes. You’ve now basically got two totally different shoes, and yes you can get along, but you have to change the way you walk. It’s just another thing to confuse him that day. You’d figure that nail would have fallen off early. Probably, when he was walking back on that hard going is when it re-set.”
Mike Iavarone, co-president of IEAH Stables, firmly believes Mayberger’s photo is conclusive proof that the dislodged shoe was the main cause of Big Brown’s performance.
“This is unbelievable,” he said after seeing the photo. “Now it’s a different game. I spoke to Ian and he thinks now that the horse had the shoe pulled off coming out of the starting gate. He stepped back down on it, bent the nail, so it remained lodged in the shoe, but didn’t go back into the same hole. He ran around on it, then got onto the pavement and re-set the shoe. Ian originally thought the nail would have broken off, and if anything, he would have just run on a loose, wobbly cleat, which was a problem in his eyes anyway. I just talked to Rick about it and after seeing the photos for the first time he’s now starting to change his outlook on it, too.”
“I saw the pictures and there's no way I can rule out the possibility that it hampered the horse," Dutrow said. "It's extremely possible that it bothered this horse. Two things I don't get. Right after the race I was all over the horse, and the only thing I saw was that back shoe had spread a little bit. As I walked back I called the blacksmith and said I need to take this back shoe off. He walked sound on it in the test barn and after we took the shoe off. The blacksmith even had to use his tools to pry the shoe off. And the jock said he didn't feel anything, so this is too much for me to handle. But now that I've seen the pictures I have to keep an open mind to it. The pictures don't lie. The bottom line is, tomorrow is another day."
Click here for a slideshow of Big Brown's Belmont shoe problems.