06/03/2008 3:22PM

Belmont Press Conference

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It ain't bragging if you got the muscle to back it up.  With two-thirds of the Triple Crown tucked safely away in the record books, and Big Brown on the cusp of racing immortality, Richard Dutrow Jr.'s boasts have thus far proven prophetic.  At today's Belmont Stakes Media Luncheon at the ESPN Zone in Times Square, Dutrow remained true to himself. 
When asked about Casino Drive, the probable second choice in the Belmont wagering, Dutrow didn't miss a beat.

"There's no way Casino Drive can beat Big Brown." 

Clad in a red baseball cap, yellow polo shirt, and jeans, Dutrow continued to exude the Muhammad Ali-like confidence that has public opinion of the trainer split right down the middle.  When asked by Master of Ceremonies Randy Moss if the Belmont was still a "foregone conclusion," Dutrow replied instantaneously and with supreme confidence. 

"Absolutely." 

Big Brown, plagued by a quarter-crack since winning the Preakness in effortless fashion, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.03 this morning over the Belmont main track, a move that pleased Dutrow. 

"He's doing good, very good. I couldn't be happier with this horse right now.  I see a perfect horse.  He looks better than when he went to the Derby.  He's on top of his game."

When asked about the quarter crack, Dutrow mentioned that the missed track time the injury caused "might have helped."

"He was able to take a couple of days off," said Dutrow, who also noted that Big Brown burned his heels in the Preakness.  Big Brown, on the other hand, wasn't so happy about the break.

"He was pissed off," said Dutrow.

While Big Brown may not have scared away all comers for the Belmont, only one other horse was represented at the press conference.  Terry Finley, founder and President of West Point Thoroughbreds, made a case for his Macho Again, the Preakness runner-up. 

"We're a little concerned about three races in six weeks.  I think we have a shot.  They don't give the trophy out until after the race.  I'd love to win it, but if I don't, I'd love to run second, and we'll have a Triple Crown winner."

Big Brown's jockey, Kent Desormeaux, has been in this position before.  Ten years ago, Real Quiet and Desormeaux were heading for the Triple Crown only to be denied by the dirtiest of noses.  Throughout the afternoon, the restaurant replayed past runnings of the "Test of the Champion," and Desormeaux looked up from his chicken finger lunch to watch the 1998 renewal.  As Real Quiet opened up a huge lead in upper stretch, Desormeaux looked down at his plate only to raise his eyes back to the screen as Victory Gallop drove alongside Real Quiet in the shadow of the wire.

Turning to Dutrow, Desormeaux exclaimed, "That was the only time he was in front of me."

At the dais, Desormeaux admitted he learned something from Real Quiet's narrow defeat.  "I learned a valuable lesson.  Asking Real Quiet for his speed that soon was unnecessary." 

Getting back to Big Brown, Desormeaux talked about his mount's strongest assets.  "He's so attentive to my needs.  He has a great mind.  He has so many different gears."

Unlike Dutrow, Desormeaux feels that Casino Drive is the horse to beat.

"I know we're going to be together turning for home."

Now, the time for talking is done.  In four days time, we'll find out if Big Brown is the chosen one, the first horse in thirty years, since the great Affirmed in 1978, to win the elusive Triple Crown.  We'll find out if the quarter crack negatively affects his performance, or if the distance is too demanding, or if he is able to sustain his good form throughout the grueling grind of the Triple Crown series, or if he can withstand multiple challenges from different opponents.  In short, we'll find out if he can overcome adversity the way all the great champions of the past shooed away their obstacles.  In four days time, there will either be a coronation or a deflation.

Dutrow doesn't feel his statements will jinx his horse.

"The horse has such good karma around him."

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Swamped for now so will keep today's blog short.  Be back tomorrow with more.

Thanks,

Dan