Big Brown's Hoof Patch on Hold Until Friday

Big Brown's cracked left front hoof is improving with each passing day, so trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. is waiting until Friday to have a patch applied.

Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay suggested putting the patch on Saturday, the morning of the Belmont Stakes, but Dutrow doesn't want to mess with it on what could be a history-making day.

"This is just a slight, slight crack," McKinlay said Monday. "As the clock ticks, it's gotten better and better. We're being extra cautious because he's heading toward the Triple Crown."

Big Brown galloped Monday and Dutrow said, "He's moving as good as he ever has."

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was scheduled to run five-eighths of a mile Tuesday, his last big workout before the 1 1/2-mile race.

McKinlay said any suggestion that the hoof issue could jeopardize Big Brown's life is "absolute nonsense."

"I don't like people accusing Rick or accusing this industry of just taking horses and throwing them to the wolves for money. These guys love these horses," he said. "Yes, there's a lot of money at stake, but they're not going to do it. They'd be an idiot to do it. He's certainly worth a lot more alive than he is dead."

McKinlay had planned to apply the acrylic and fiberglass patch Monday, but decided to wait a few days so the crack could heal naturally.

Before applying the patch, McKinlay will remove the sutures, clean the area, redrill holes and put in new sutures. If necessary, he will insert a drain.

Then he will cover it all with an acrylic adhesive that sets in five minutes.

"The adhesive that we'll rebuild that wall with is stronger than the hoof itself," McKinlay said.

Dutrow said he's comfortable with McKinlay's plan, and dismissed critics who have expressed concern for Big Brown's safety.

"Let them think what they want. I don't care," Dutrow said. "I'm trying to do the best I can for the horse. Always. If they don't agree with it, that's fine with me.

"If he runs terrible and he's got a bleeding foot after the race, I'm sure there will be plenty of questions thrown my way," he said. "If he does what he's already been doing, maybe they'll say, `Well, it looks like they handled it the right way.'"

In addition to the patch, Big Brown will be running on anabolic steroids.

As part of his training, the colt receives a monthly injection of Winstrol, which is known to increase appetite and weight.

The steroid is legal at New York racetracks, although Dutrow has said if it was banned, he would stop using it on Big Brown and all his other horses.

Winstrol happens to be the same steroid that Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when he was stripped of his gold medal. More recently, Roger Clemens' former trainer, Brian McNamee, said he injected the pitcher with Winstrol in 1998.

"He's doing what he thinks is right," said Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, a mentor to Dutrow and whose barn Big Brown is staying in at Belmont Park.

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The Associated Press

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