Kentucky Derby

Big Brown gets go-ahead

His feet won't fail him now.

That's the word on Big Brown from both his trainer and his hoof specialist on the progress of the Derby and Preakness winner's left front hoof. It might be worth remembering that Sir Barton, the first Triple Crown winner in 1919, had such tender feet that his blacksmith shod him with felt between his hooves and his shoes to serve as a shock absorber.

”Today was probably the best we've seen him as far as what I'm looking for, the hoof,“ said Ian McKinlay, the specialist who has been working with Big Brown after the colt sprouted a small crack on one side of the hoof May 23.

McKinlay said in a national teleconference Thursday that a small abscess associated with the crack drained on its own Wednesday and some accompanying heat in the hoof has also gone away. He said these two signs showed him that Big Brown is set to go on his bid for the Triple Crown June 7 in the Belmont Stakes.

Big Brown will work out over the Belmont Park course Monday or Tuesday, according to his trainer, Rick Dutrow. The plan is to patch the hoof Monday with an acrylic adhesive that McKinlay said ”will be like a plate of armor.“

After that, it's all up to Big Brown. Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown since the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes all began in the nineteenth century. The sport has not seen a Triple Crown winner in 30 years since Affirmed defeated Alydar in 1978.

Is Big Brown ready? Dutrow said Thursday that ”it's a foregone conclusion“ he will win the 11/2-mile Belmont Stakes. Big Brown returned to galloping on the track after missing only three days of exercise. Dutrow said he'll come with his "A' race to the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Dutrow also dismissed Big Brown's competition, as he did before the Derby and Preakness. Casino Drive, the colt that many say could be a threat to Big Brown, ”is just another horse in the race,“ said Dutrow with customary braggadocio.

”He can't beat Big Brown. There's no way he can beat Big Brown,“ Dutrow said.

”I'm saying it again for the Belmont,“ Dutrow also said, reiterating that the field of opponents for the Preakness Stakes was not at all strong. ”These horses cannot run with Big Brown. We're just sitting in an unbelievable spot, and we know we have the best horse in the race.“

Nobutaka Tada, representing the Japanese-owned Casino Drive, also joined the teleconference, saying he has been ”enjoying listening to his (Dutrow's) comments. It sounds like he knows more about our horse than us.“