Big Brown Returns to Track

Big Brown was back on the track a day earlier than expected, and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said he looks as good as ever--maybe even better.

The Triple Crown hopeful went out for a 1 1/2-mile jog around Belmont Park on a rainy Tuesday morning, the first time since Friday the unbeaten colt was out exercising since a quarter crack was discovered on the inside of his left front hoof.

"I was very happy with this move," Dutrow said outside barn 2, where Big Brown was being walked around by exercise rider Michelle Nevin.

Asked if he looked as good as he did before winning the Preakness on May 17, Dutrow said, "He might look better."

Big Brown will attempt to become the first Triple Crown champion in 30 years, since Affirmed in 1978, in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.

On Monday, hoof specialist Ian McKinlay treated the three-quarter inch crack, stitching it up with stainless steel wire. By Monday afternoon, Dutrow and McKinlay spoke and decided if the hoof looked good Wednesday morning, the trainer would make the call on how to proceed with his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.

"I felt him going to the track was not only good for his conditioning, but also good for his mind," Dutrow said of his decision to get to the track earlier rather than wait a day. "He's been kind of aggravated. He don't know why he's not going to the track. He just doesn't understand why he's not doing it. And we can't explain it to him. So we let him go out there today and take the edge off of him. He's just getting too rough around the barn."

After Big Brown returned from the track, he was given a sponge bath and led around the inside of the barn by Nevin. At one point, he pulled Nevin to a stop at the end of the barn to pose for photographs until Dutrow shooed Big Brown away.

Asked if the wet weather was a concern, Dutrow said, "Not at all."

Dutrow said his training plans are not yet finalized but hopes Big Brown will have his final workout before the Belmont as early as Monday.

McKinlay was not at Belmont on Tuesday, but will examine Big Brown as planned Wednesday to make sure the healing process is on schedule.

"Ian's excited about this," Dutrow said. "He's not going to let anything get away from us. He'll be around."

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The Associated Press

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