Sun 8 Jun, 2008 07:21 am
What happened to Big Brown to make him come in last place at Belmont?
Needing full power, Big Brown had a big brownout
June 7, 2008
Maybe it was the heat, or perhaps the quarter crack. Or perhaps he just ran out of gas.
But when jockey Kent Desormeaux asked Big Brown to deliver as they entered Belmont's sweeping turn for home on Saturday, the horse came up empty. Looking at a fifth-place finish, Desormeaux decided to ease up on Big Brown, allowing the pace-setting Da' Tara to go gate-to-wire in a 5 1/4-length upset victory at 38-1.
It was clear early in the race that something was wrong with Big Brown, the Derby and Preakness winner. He was steadied after bumping Anak Nakal going into the first turn and, much like his race in the Preakness, was uncomfortable running on the inside.
Once settled, though, Desormeaux had Big Brown in perfect position, running third on the outside, to challenge Da' Tara and Tale of Ekati. But when it came time for the Triple Crown contender to fire, all that came out was a blank.
"A couple of times, he thought it was time to go and jumped into the bridle," Desormeaux said, "But I had no horse, and when I realized something was wrong, I knew he wouldn't be fifth. He's the best horse I've ever been on, so I took care of him."
It marked the first time a Belmont favorite and Triple Crown contender didn't officially finish. Desormeaux pulled him up near the quarter pole and kept to the outside, eventually trotting Big Brown past the finish line.
Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian handling the Triple Crown races, thought nothing appeared wrong with Big Brown.
"He looked fine during the race. All I saw was when Desormeaux slowed him down," Bramlage said later. "The veterinarian inspection team did not find anything wrong with him, and he was not lame."
At a post-race press conference, Bramlage was asked if the heat or the quarter crack was a factor.
"I would have thought if the quarter crack played any role, he would have shown some tenderness, although I guess it could be minor enough," Bramlage said. "He's a smart horse; might have decided it wasn't his day, and he was not going to try.
"And you can say the same thing about the heat, but we have to wait for the veterinary examination."
Big Brown's trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr., is almost never at a loss for words, but he had very little to say immediately after the race, when he headed back to the barn to be with his defeated hero.
Afterwards, he reflected on what happened, saying, "It certainly seems that Kent did the right thing in pulling him up. When they turned for home, something wasn't right. ... He's in good shape. He's OK. We're very, very proud of him. Something has to not be right for him to be pulled up in a race, so I have to try to find out what it is."
Denis of Cork chased Da' Tara home from the top of the stretch and finished second. Denis of Cork was made the second choice at 7-1 after the early morning scratch of Casino Drive with a stone bruise to his left rear foot.
In something of a Belmont rarity, Anak Nakal (34-1) and Ready's Echo (28-1) finished 2 3/4-lengths back in a dead heat for third.
It was the slowest Belmont -- 2:29.65 -- since Sarava pulled the biggest upset in Belmont history ($142.50) defeating War Emblem in 2002.
Da' Tara pulled the second consecutive Belmont surprise for trainer Nick Zito, who upset Smarty Jones four years ago with Birdstone at 36-1.
Zito, who picked up his second winner in 20 attempts at the Belmont, also has six seconds and three thirds.
Zito said earlier in the week that Da' Tara was in the race to keep the pace honest and was more likely to be used as a rabbit for the other Zito-trained entry, Anak Nakal, who liked to come from behind.
After the race, Zito had kind words for the fallen Triple Crown contender, who became the seventh horse in the last 11 years to miss the crown in the Belmont.
"The champ, Big Brown, didn't run his race today," he said. "He wasn't himself. Da' Tara was himself."
Big Brown was sent off as the 3-10 favorite, the lowest odds since Spectacular Bid's failed Triple Crown attempt in 1979.
Winning jockey Alan Garcia was victorious in his first attempt at the Belmont.
The fourth largest crowd in Belmont history -- 94,476 -- withstood 90-degree heat and humidity with the hope of witnessing the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. Instead, they went home having seen the 11th failed attempt since 1978 at what has become, once again, an elusive crown.
In spite of the frenzied P.R., Big Brown was a mortal horse.
...so quick, bright things come to confusion.
I suspect that steroids may have played a role. But...who knows?
The jock had enough sense to pull him up when he saw that BB just "ran out of gas".
Winning the triple crown is very hard on a horse, and that shows that sports writers and racing pundits dont know **** all about any livestock. I knew that BB was gonna not pull it off when the foot cdracks started to appear . Also the Belmont is the longest of the 3 tracks. Its an "Iron road" for a young horse.
What really pisses me off is the pressure to win the triple crown for the money made by breeding the winner. The horse is worth more as a stud than a racer.