It probably wasn't the shoe.
A photo of Big Brown at the start of his Belmont flub showing his horseshoe separated from his right hind hoof looks startling. Mike Iavarone, co-owner of Big Brown, apparently thought so when somebody showed it to him.
But a horseshoe expert says that probably wasn't what cost the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner his Triple Crown.
“It's ‘sprung,' ” said Eric Nygaard, vice president of the American Farriers Association.
Another horse might have stepped slightly on Brown's foot, or maybe Brown caught it on the starting gate. Either way, it was just enough to bend the pliable, probably aluminum, shoe.
Big Brown probably never felt it. “It's not like the whole shoe is pulled off and hanging loose,” Nygaard said. A shoe that light would have bent back in just a few strides, he said.
“In that kind of footing, it wouldn't have been a problem for him. It happens every day,” said Nygaard, a farrier in Sarasota, Fla., who works primarily with hunters, jumpers and dressage horses. He does not treat Big Brown.
Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay does, and McKinlay and Big Brown trainer Rick Dutrow told The Blood-Horse they didn't think the shoe was a factor. They still aren't sure what was wrong, but the consensus seems to be that it wasn't the shoe.
Nygaard doesn't work with racehorses, but he did watch the Belmont.
He isn't sure what went wrong either, but “this wouldn't have caused him to lose the race,” Nygaard said.