05/25/2008 11:00PM

Big Brown battling quarter crack

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown suffered a slight quarter crack on the inside part of his left front foot, but his connections are confident it will not affect his ability to run in the June 7 Belmont Stakes where he will attempt to become Thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner.

The quarter crack is a split in the hoof wall, traveling down from the hairline, and it is not related to the previous foot injuries that troubled Big Brown late in his 2-year-old year and again at the beginning if this year, said noted equine hoof specialist Ian McKinlay, who has cared for Big Brown’s feet since last fall. McKinlay said this quarter crack is five-eighths of an inch long.

``What he has now is a slight quarter crack coming out of his inside heel, front left,’’ McKinlay said Sunday morning at a press conference at Belmont Park. ``What he had last fall and reoccurred [in Janaury] was a wall separation, which is an abscess that starts in the sole, travels up the wall, and then it erupts out by the hairline - very painful.’’

Big Brown missed as much as a month of training in both of those instances.

After jogging last Wednesday and galloping Thursday and Friday, Big Brown did not train Saturday or Sunday and was not expected to back to the track before Thursday, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. However, Dutrow said he doesn’t think that missing five days of training is a big deal.

``It scares us when something like this happens, but I got Ian assuring me and it’s going to go down like clockwork and it’s going to be good and he’s still going to run the same race,’’ Dutrow said. ``This has nothing to do with his ability to finish what he started. If something else happens, then we’re going to be in trouble. But the way it is now, I’m not worried about it only because Ian has me not worrying about it.’’

Dutrow said he first noticed something wrong Friday afternoon and that’s when he contacted McKinlay. The diagnosis of a quarter crack was not made until Saturday. Big Brown is being treated with a solution of iodine and alcohol, which acts as antiseptic to make sure the area stays clean and does not get infected.

McKinlay said that by Wednesday he would patch the quarter rack using wires and mesh. After the patch is applied, Big Brown would likely resume training on Thursday. Big Brown was scheduled to breeze next Saturday, but Dutrow said he has several days to play with.

``If he fixes him by Wednesday [or] Thursday, I can breeze him Saturday and blow him out the day of [the Belmont],’’ Dutrow said. ``But if he doesn’t, it’s not a big deal. Tuesday would be perfect, Monday would be great. We got time as long as Ian can get it done the right way, and he is guaranteeing me that he can.’’

Said McKinlay: ``Unless I make some boneheaded move this will be a walk in the park.’’