Derby Winner Big Brown in Good Shape the Day After

Speaking to reporters on the Churchill Downs backside the day after Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was cautiously optimistic regarding his starter's chances in the Preakness Stakes.

"I really liked him in (the Derby) because everything was perfect," said Dutrow. "Now things start to change. Maybe there's gonna be some hotshot speed horse in (the Preakness), maybe it'll rain and be sloppy, maybe some other horse will really like it. There's a lot of things that'll be different now, but I still like our chances because I think we have the best horse."

Big Brown's hooves, which have been prone to quarter cracks, were not an issue as of May 4. All four feet looked fine, Dutrow said, and the Boundary colt came out of the Derby in good order and cleaned up his evening feed tub after walking the shedrow last night.

"(His hooves) have only been a concern when we couldn't patch him up," the trainer remarked. "After we had patched him up it was no concern. His feet look good."

In spite of the ease with which the colt scored his 4 ¾-length Derby win for IEAH Stables and partners, his trainer was concerned about the 14-day turnaround to the second leg of the Triple Crown.

"I can't stand wheeling back in two weeks, but it doesn't matter because we've gotta do it," he said. "When this horse goes into the race the right way, with good timing and all, I don’t see anyone beating him--but now that's not happening. He's gotta come right back off a huge, huge race. I know he looks like he's the best horse, but Pimlico's a different game."

The 2008 Kentucky Derby winner has not raced over the Maryland oval--his four wins came at Saratoga, Gulfstream, and Churchill Downs--but Dutrow thinks his colt figures to like the speedy surface, which he hopes will not be physically damaging.

"He's supposed to love (Pimlico) because it's a speed-favoring track, the turns are tight, and he handles the turns well," the trainer said. "But the surface there has always been too hard for the horses, and the harder the track is, the more unsafe it is for your horses, so that's why I don’t like it."

With that in mind, and given the short turnaround between races, Dutrow plans to keep Big Brown on a light training schedule at Churchill.

"I'm not gonna bear down on him," he said. "He had a big race here, and I won't have to put a sharpening in him. He doesn't have to be hammered in the mornings. I always walk my horses three days after they run, then I jog them the next day and then I go on to gallop them for 11 days and then I like breezing them. I'm not going to change much in my theories and ways of thinking; we're just going to take one day at a time. We're under no pressure, but it will be a very light training schedule."

Runners expected to face Big Brown in the Preakness include Behindatthebar, El Gato Mallo, Giant Moon, Harlem Rocker, Kentucky Bear, Stevil, Tres Borrachos, and Yankee Bravo. As of May 4, none of the other Derby contenders had committed to the May 17 event.

Big Brown will remain at Churchill Downs for most of the two weeks leading up to the Preakness, and will ship directly to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. accompanied by his trainer.

"I'm going there with the big horse, but he's going to have to show that he's great because of the timing of these races. It's not going to be a party," Dutrow said.

Big Brown was bred in Kentucky by Monticule out of the Nureyv mare Mien. Two of his four wins are grade I victories--the Derby and the Florida Derby, the latter of which he won by five lengths.

(Originally published at  

About the Author

Claire Novak

Winner of the 2011 Eclipse Award for Feature/Commentary and the 2008 Louisville Metro Journalism Award for Sports Writing, Claire Novak has melded her love for human-interest journalism and the equine breed into a successful Turf writing career. Since her first freelance article on racing was published at in 2005, her byline has appeared in the New York Times, ESPN The Magazine, and on, among others. She lives near Lexington and, when not writing about racing, can often be found jumping her Thoroughbred, Bob.

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