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Big Brown’s Farrier Bills Worth The Effort

Although I was duly impressed by Bellamy Road‘s Wood Memorial victory back in 2005, I confess I never got on his bandwagon; I stayed with Afleet Alex, who had been my pick since before the 2004 Juvenile. (For the record, my Derby trifecta that year was Afleet Alex, Flower Alley and Bandini — while I may not have done well on the day, at least I did manage to pick out the best of their year — clearly my prophetic talents were looking a few too many weeks into the future).

Big Brown, by contrast, has so far lived up to his hype, and in some style. I would have been impressed had he just gotten up for third or fourth, given his post position — winning, and by the margin he did, was proof enough that not only is he talented, he can overcome adversity that might flummox a more seasoned horse. In my opinion, the biggest question mark over him now is whether his fragile feet will serve him well enough to get through the Triple Crown grind; we already know he’s versatile enough to win on dirt or turf, and that the normal ‘rules’ about experience don’t seem to apply.

Even the overseas press was impressed by his effort — while acknowledging that such talk was rather premature, the Independent looked forward to the prospect of Big Brown taking on Curlin. They also brought up that touchy little subject of Rick Dutrow, Steve Asmussen and the drugs, noting that it might be somewhat overlooked in the American racing press:

Yet it would be dishonest not to acknowledge the uncomfortable bond [Dutrow] shares with Steve Asmussen, trainer of Curlin – albeit it is safe to assume few observers will be doing so. Both men, in their time, have served suspensions for use of illegal medication. Both have always denied any malpractice, but their blemished history guarantees them a certain notoriety. The American racing culture, after all, continues to wrestle with its conscience over drugs policy, and its militant elements will not rest easy until all trainers are formally confined to a regime of hay, oats and water.

Regardless, there seems little doubt that both Asmussen and Dutrow are unusually talented horsemen. And it would be surprising if petty jealousies had not contributed to suspicions about their methods. Dutrow’s depiction as an unconventional type is often intended in a wholly complimentary sense, while the majority owner of Curlin, Jess Jackson, has become a beacon of the campaign for probity in the bloodstock world.

Read into that what you will, but it’s probably one of the fairer treatments of the situation.

As to the other Florida Derby runners, Smooth Air was businesslike in getting second; he just had no chance against the winner. After a very disappointing effort, Elysium Fields is likely off the Derby trail; Majestic Warrior cemented my impression that he peaked at 2 (so can we please stop breeding for that?) and Face the Cat was never a factor.

I was, however, impressed by Tomcito’s performance (despite the fact you could hardly see him onscreen when Big Brown was busy winning) in getting up for third despite a 4-month layoff and being a bit slow at the break — for his first start against this competition, he demonstrated that he belonged. Whether anyone can beat Big Brown just now (Dutrow says no), is another question, but if anyone is going to come from behind to win the Derby this year, he’d be well-placed to do so. I’m leaning toward Big Brown, Pyro and Tomcito now as my top three Derby contenders.

2 comments to Big Brown’s Farrier Bills Worth The Effort

  • dana

    I’d like to see Majestic Warrior in a sprint before I decide that he peaked at 2 (she says hoping that he’s a sprinter).

  • Superfecta

    Good point – maybe he just doesn’t like distance! I wonder what Coolmore thinks of his efforts this year, after their little investment.

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