10/13/2008 11:38AM

Brownout Fallout


The career-ending injury sustained by Big Brown at Aqueduct this morning, one day before Breeders' Cup pre-entries were due, raises two immediate questions: Does this make Curlin more or less likely likely to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic? And does it open the door for Colonel John to snatch away the 3-year-old title with a Classic triumph?

They're interesting questions because the first impulsive answers may not be the right ones.

Curlin obviously immediately becomes a heavier favorite with less to beat but...Big Brown's defection may actually give him less reason to run in a race his handlers were already leery about trying. If he'd skipped the race and Big Brown had won it, many would have argued that Big Brown deserved the Horse of the Year title. Now, Curlin could probably make what will probably be his final start somewhere else on dirt rather than synthetic footing-- the Clark or the Japan Cup Dirt are possibilities -- and clinch the title with a victory. On the other hand, his connections may now face tremendous pressure from Cup officials to run in their race to salvage half of its marquee value.

As for Colonel John, Big Brown's defection might at first seem to create an opportunity, but I still can't see him upending Big Brown for 3-year-old honors even if he adds the Classic to his Santa Anita Derby and Travers victories. Big Brown would still have a 4-3 edge in Grade 1 triumphs (Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Haskell,) a 2-0 edge in Triple Crown races, and a victory in what is now their only head-to-head meeting:

Big Brown retires with seven victories in eight career starts, by a combined 41 lengths, and earnings of $3,614,500:

Download BigBrown.pdf

--Elusive Heat, the 2-year-old ELusive Quality-Xtra Heat filly who made a spectacular debut at Belmont Sunday (see previous post), was awarded a Beyer Speed Figure of 103, the only triple-digit BSF by a 2-year-old filly this year.