I hope you’re not sick of hearing about Big Brown. Because with the way Mr. Big keeps running his races, the chatter isn’t going to stop about him for a long time.
The Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, was called “one of the most easily won races you’ll see in a Triple Crown race.” The Preakness yet again proved the talent of the big bay colt. Coming from seventh position, Big Brown started out along the rail and resisted early pressure to run early, seeming happy to let Gayego and Riley Tucker wear themselves out. As it appeared the Kentucky Derby winner would be boxed in by Riley Tucker, he allowed jockey Kent Desormeaux to ease him up and drop behind them. There are not a lot of horses who can manage, or are agreeable with, being turned off and on like a rocket booster in reserve.
But it seems Big Brown is more like a Porsche than a race horse. The 1–5 favorite quietly dropped behind the two front-runners and then swung wide before the final turn. The race was pretty much over at this point. With nothing blocking his way, Brownie decided to show his hapless competitors what it means to pour on the honey.
Smoothly jogging past the two speedballs, Mr. Big seemed to be yawning to himself. “Is this the best you can do? Really?”
And entering the empty stretch for home, Big Brown was finally given a little leverage in the reins. The resulting blast-off was the stuff of legend. Not only were Big Brown’s final closing fractions some of the fastest in the history of the Preakness, he did it all on his own. In this middle race for the test of champions, Brownie never once felt the whip urging him on.
He soared effortlessly down the homestretch, seemingly giddy with the give in the reins. But before they’d even hit the wire, Desormeaux wisely began pulling up the powerhouse; the Belmont Stakes was already in their sights. Gotta conserve that rocket fuel, after all. The final margin of victory was 5 ¼ lengths, and had he been asked, Brownie could have conceivably won by more and even graced the track record. Big Brown isn’t just an unbeaten horse. He’s a super-horse.
Yet, some still say he hasn’t been fully tested. He’s won by 15 lengths on the turf at Saratoga, won from the outside post position in both the Florida and the Kentucky Derby, won from an inside post and a mid-field post, and has won every race by at least 4 ® lengths. Is his competition sub-par? Well, that proved to be the case in the Preakness Stakes, as suspected. Gayego ran himself into a disappearing act by the race’s end. The questionable Kentucky Bear turned out to be the big disappointer, and longshot Macho Again finished second.
But then there’s the Belmont. The barns are a-buzz about the winner of the Peter Pan Stakes, Casino Drive. Not only was the Peter Pan over Belmont’s track, but Casino Drive is slated to be Mr. Big’s most imposing challenger yet. Pedigree is the name of the hype here. The last two winners of the Belmont Stakes share the same dam as Casino Drive, the Deputy Minister mare Better Than Honour. Honour also foaled A.P. Indy, who became the 1992 Horse of the Year.
Casino Drive has won both of his two career starts. He won his maiden in Japan by an impressive 11 ½ lengths, and sizzled in the Peter Pan to win by 5 ®. If he’s got as much talent as his half-sis, Rags to Riches, who nosed Curlin out of a Belmont win last year, Mr. Big is definitely in for his toughest race yet.
And speaking of races to raise your blood pressure… There’s good news about Big Brown’s future as a race horse. On Preakness day, it was announced Brownie had been syndicated to Three Chimneys Stud Farm for an undisclosed amount (rumored to be somewhere around $60 mil), putting the Triple Crown hopeful’s career in question. Thankfully, trainer Rick Dutrow announced, the Belmont Stakes will not be Mr. Big’s last race. “Our plan is the Belmont, Travers, and Breeder’s Cup.” Apparently, Big Brown’s connections would like him to face the 2007 Horse of the Year and world champion, Curlin, in the Breeder’s Cup.
There’s a problem in this mouth-watering match-up, however. When last asked about Curlin’s prospects of attempting to claim a second win in the Breeder’s Cup, owner Jess Jackson said they were thinking of “showcasing” the stunning chestnut in other countries like France or Japan, where the competition might be more fertile. This was all said before Big Brown became Mr. Big. There was literally nobody to face after Rags to Riches retired from an injury and several other good horses were shipped to stud. Will Curlin’s connections put the current champ’s world tour on hold to defend his title? If Big Brown does win the Triple Crown and faces Curlin, all questions about how good he is would be answered once and for all in the race of the decade.