05/27/2008 12:00AM

Big Brown good enough to jog

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. examines the quarter crack on Big Brown's left foreleg at Belmont Tuesday. Near the heel, a steel washer and wire stitches secure the crack.

In an apparent indication that a quarter crack injury to his left front hoof is responding well to treatment so far, Big Brown, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, went back to the track for a jog at Belmont Park on Tuesday, at least one day earlier than expected.

Big Brown, who has won all five of his starts, on June 7 in the Belmont Stakes will attempt to become Thoroughbred racing's 12th Triple Crown winner, and the first in 30 years. But Big Brown's path to the Belmont had an unexpected detour put in his way last weekend, when he developed the quarter crack. Big Brown did not train on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

On Tuesday morning, Big Brown jogged once around Belmont Park's 1 1/2-mile main track - which was rated fast despite rain the previous night - under exercise rider Michelle Nevin. A jog is less demanding than a routine gallop.

"His foot was good enough to go jog," Richard Dutrow Jr., the trainer of Big Brown, said Tuesday afternoon. "I thought we'd try that and see. I didn't see that as a bad move. If the foot looks as good [Wednesday], I would look to gallop him."

Dutrow said Big Brown's left front foot was not carrying any heat after he was walked around the shed row at a Belmont Park barn on Monday afternoon. Dutrow then called Ian McKinlay, the hoof specialist who is repairing the quarter crack, and asked if he could jog the horse on Tuesday. McKinlay, who worked on Big Brown on Monday morning and had appointments at Monmouth Park on Tuesday, gave Dutrow the okay over the phone. McKinlay was expected to see Big Brown again on Wednesday.

"I felt the horse going to the track was not only good for his conditioning but also good for his mind," Dutrow said. "He's been kind of aggravated. He doesn't know why he's not going to the track. He just doesn't understand why he's not doing it. We can't explain it to him and we just let him go out there today and take the edge off him. He's getting too rough around the barn."

The quarter crack was officially announced on Sunday, after Big Brown missed a second day of training. For three days, he was limited to walking around the shed row twice a day. Big Brown's left front hoof, meanwhile, was treated with alcohol and iodine to make sure the crack stayed clean and does not get infected. On Monday, McKinlay used a set of steel sutures to bring the quarter crack together, a precursor to putting an acrylic patch over the crack later this week.

"Ian will do it [Wednesday] or Thursday or Friday, depending on what he sees when he's underneath Big Brown," Dutrow said.

Dutrow said the time off should not impact Big Brown's performance in the Belmont. He had originally scheduled a workout for Big Brown this weekend, but the delay to repair the quarter crack may push back that timetable.

"I don't know - it could be Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday depending on the weather," Dutrow said. "If I had everything I would want, I would like it Monday."

Michael Iavarone, the co-president of the IEAH Stables partnership that owns Big Brown, on Tuesday said, "We were concerned on Friday when the quarter crack was first discovered. But Ian McKinlay had told us then that this was a straightforward quarter crack. He has been on top of it ever since.

"Rick said he could breeze anytime up to Tuesday. We weren't concerned about the track today, even with the rain last night. The track wasn't that bad, and quite frankly, as aggressive as he's been, it was safer for him to be on the track than in the barn."

Expected to challenge Big Brown in the Belmont are Anak Nakal, Casino Drive, Denis of Cork, Icabad Crane, Macho Again, Tale of Ekati, and Tomcito, and possibly Ready's Echo and Spark Candle.

Casino Drive, the winner of the Peter Pan Stakes and the likely second choice to Big Brown in the Belmont, was scheduled to have a workout on Wednesday at Belmont Park, but possible wet weather might force a postponement by a day, according to Nobutaka Tada, the spokesman for the connections of Casino Drive.

"It will all depend on the weather and the track," Tada said. "If it is good, we will go out. If not, we'll wait another day or so."

No rider has yet been announced for Casino Drive. Kent Desormeaux rode Casino Drive in the Peter Pan, but he is the regular rider for Big Brown. Edgar Prado and Japanese jockey Yutaka Take are considered the leading contenders to ride Casino Drive, though Desormeaux would become a viable option if Big Brown were to suffer a setback and miss the Belmont.

- additional reporting

by David Grening