Big Brown's Rivals Are Singing 3-Year-Old's Praises

Heavily-favored Big Brown pulls away down the stretch to easily win the Preakness Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths, setting the stage for a possible Triple Crown victory at the Belmont Stakes.
By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 18, 2008

BALTIMORE, May 17 -- Jamie Theriot got his glance at the very start, when his mount, Kentucky Bear, stumbled directly next to a similarly unsteady Big Brown.

"He recovered quicker than mine; I mean, he's that horse," Theriot said. "He's a horse that can do anything."

Robby Albarado saw Big Brown throughout the 133rd Preakness Stakes; atop Racecar Rhapsody, Albarado was behind the eventual winner down the stretch.

"I got a good view of him; he looked phenomenal," Albarado said. "Very impressive. He looked at ease doing it."

And Julien Leparoux, who rode Macho Again to second place, had his view as he crossed the finish line, more than five lengths behind Big Brown.

"We just got beat by a monster," Leparoux said. "I don't like to be second, but it's not bad to be second to this horse."

These losing jockeys and their trainers spoke in almost reverential tones about Big Brown on Saturday evening, after the 3-year-old had trounced a second group of his peers this month to remain unbeaten and on track for the Triple Crown.

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux again called the horse "the best horse I've ever ridden," and Macho Again trainer Dallas Stewart called him "a superstar."

Such superlatives have been heard before on this day at this track, and recently. After Smarty Jones won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2004, second-place jockey Gary Stevens said the winner was "as good as any horse I've ever seen, and I've seen some good ones," going on to compare Smarty Jones to Secretariat.

Funny Cide won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2003, leading jockey Jose Santos to say, "I've been riding for 27 years, and this is the best horse I've ever rode in my life."

And War Emblem won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness the previous year; "this horse just keeps getting better and better; it's scary," his trainer, Bob Baffert, said at the time.

None of those horses, though, completed the Triple Crown with a win at the Belmont.

Perhaps for that reason, Albarado scoffed at the notion that competitors would be scared off heading into the 1 1/2 -mile conclusion to the Triple Crown at next month's Belmont.

"Intimidated? No, no," Albarado said. "You try to beat him, you're driven to try to beat him. You're not intimidated. No horse intimidates me, not with me there."

Other jockeys agreed, and yet the praise was heaped upon Big Brown by the bucket Saturday. Graham Motion, who trained third-place Icabad Crane, called the winner "the real deal." Racecar Rhapsody's trainer, Ken McPeek, called him "very, very special." Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito used "tremendous."

"One helluva racehorse," gushed Giant Moon trainer Rich Schosberg.

And the men who had the closest looks at Big Brown's romp agreed. Albarado mentioned Big Brown in the same breath as his mount Curlin, regarded as the best racehorse in the world, saying such animals "stand alone, aside from the rest of them." And Alex Solis, who rode Yankee Bravo, pondered how such a dominant winner could be topped at the final leg of the Triple Crown.

"Try to get a faster horse," he said with a smile. "And at this point, it looks impossible."

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