Big Brown Delivers
Sunday, May 18, 2008
BALTIMORE, May 17 -- The move bordered on outrageous, a sustained display of speed, power and authority that left the stunned field of horses in the stretch drive of the Preakness Stakes looking as if they were in a different race.
Big Brown dominated the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, but his victory Saturday before 112,222 at Pimlico appeared even more effortless. With the jockeys on Racecar Rhapsody, Stevil, Hey Byrn and the others pushing mightily to keep up, Kent Desormeaux shook his reins at Big Brown and got a response rarely seen in horse racing.
In an instant, the undefeated colt lengthened his powerful stride and separated from the pack. Desormeaux did little more than look back twice over his left shoulder and attempt to slow down as they crossed the finish line 5 1/4 lengths in front of 40-1 long-shot Macho Again to complete the 1 3/16 -mile race in 1 minute 54.80 seconds.
With another tour de force added to his growing legend, Big Brown will head to the Belmont Stakes in three weeks and attempt to become the first horse since Affirmed 30 years ago to win racing's Triple Crown. Ten 3-year-olds have attempted the feat and failed in the interim, but in five starts Big Brown never has had an opponent finish anywhere close to him.
"Unlike the Kentucky Derby, when I had to start knuckling on him to go get the leaders, I was slowing down to not pass the leaders too soon," Desormeaux said. "Who said this horse doesn't have turn of foot? I just let him go -- bye, bye! Whoo!"
With Gayego, who finished 11th, the only horse from the Kentucky Derby even bothering to challenge Big Brown again, the Preakness appeared to offer little intrigue.
Several handicapping experts suggested Big Brown's effort in the Derby was so pronounced that he could regress after having only two weeks of rest. Trainer Richard Dutrow, who was born in Hagerstown, Md., and grew up in Howard County, appeared wary they might be right and did little more than jog and lightly gallop Big Brown in the days before the Preakness.
On the morning of the race, however, Dutrow sent his horse to the Pimlico track for a two-furlong workout -- an uncommon training practice -- and Big Brown clearly relished the wakeup call.
"I wanted to just let him know he was running later on," Dutrow said. "It helps horses sometimes."
When the gate opened to start the race, Big Brown pushed off fast, while Kentucky Bear, considered one of his principal rivals, stumbled from the post position directly to his outside.
Desormeaux steered Big Brown down to the second path off the rail, while a headstrong Gayego ran out to a 1 1/2 -length lead, stalked by long-shot Riley Tucker.
After the race, Desormeaux said the first trip down the homestretch was one of the first times Big Brown had had a significant amount of dirt kicked in his face. When the leaders moved out of the first turn and onto the backstretch, Desormeaux positioned Big Brown into a perfect stalking spot, in the clear on the outside.