06/02/2008 11:00PM

Big Brown already had his bounce

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ELMONT, N.Y. - When taking questions from the media outside Barn 2 after Big Brown breezed Tuesday morning at Belmont Park, trainer Rick Dutrow initially dealt at length with the minutiae of the workout and the colt's ongoing situation with his quarter crack.

Then came some other topics, such as the outlook for Big Brown from the perspective of the Ragozin sheets, the colt's tentative racing schedule beyond the Belmont, and how many new friends Dutrow seems to have made over the last few weeks.

Dutrow seemed nonplussed when a questioner noted that Big Brown "regressed" from a 2 1/4 Ragozin figure in the Florida Derby and a minus-3/4 in the Kentucky Derby by getting a 3 3/4 in the Preakness.

"Well, that's good," said Dutrow. "It's good that he did [regress]. I think we did it really smart in the Preakness."

On both the Ragozin and Thoro-Graph sheets, both widely used throughout the Thoroughbred industry, lower numbers are faster. But when a horse earns a particularly low figure - negative numbers are rare - a horse often will "bounce" to a higher, or slower, figure.

Len Friedman, a partner in the Ragozin sheets, said Tuesday that "Ricky got it right," adding the move to a higher figure in the Preakness probably bodes well for Big Brown's chances Saturday in the Belmont Stakes.

"It's still a neutral pattern," said Friedman. "He's better off that he bounced in the Preakness, and now he's got a better chance of going forward again. I'd say it's about 50-50 on which way he moves Saturday."

On the subject of a post-Belmont itinerary for Big Brown, Dutrow talked matter-of-factly about the colt being pointed to the Aug. 23 Travers, then the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. He went into great detail as to why he will train Big Brown at Aqueduct, and not Saratoga, and when asked later in the conversation about the synthetic surface in place at Santa Anita - Big Brown has neither trained nor raced on a synthetic - Dutrow said without hesitation: "I can't wait to get him on it."

For anyone to assume that Big Brown will go on to race past the Belmont would seem to fly in the face of prevailing circumstances. In fact, one of the proposition bets being offered on the Belmont on one Costa Rican-based website, Bodoglife.com, is listing Big Brown a -165 favorite never to run again (one has to wager $165 to make $100 if the colt does not race past the Belmont). One major mitigating factor is the quarter crack, and how much time it will take following the Belmont to heal to the satisfaction of all his connections to proceed toward the Travers. Another more obvious impediment - especially if Big Brown were to become an undefeated Triple Crown winner by capturing the Belmont - would be that those connections might very well consider the horse too valuable to risk racing him again, reprising the familiar refrain that so often robs the sport of its ontrack stars. Last month, Three Chimneys in Kentucky bought the breeding rights to Big Brown from owner IEAH Stable for an undisclosed sum believed to establish the colt's value at $50 million to $60 million.

During his 20 minutes or so with the media Thursday, Dutrow remained mostly serious while showing patience with the repetitive nature of the questioning. He also drew the occasional chuckle, such as when asked about getting Belmont tickets for friends.

"All my friends are coming," he said, "even the friends I didn't even know I had. There are a lot of those. They call and say this is so-and-so, and I don't even know who it is."

In large part, his Tuesday morning was spent answering questions he had already answered many times. When asked what he had scheduled for Big Brown for the rest of the week, from Wednesday through Saturday, Dutrow replied about as fast as humanly possible: "Walk, jog, gallop, run."