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Dutrow has it all figured out
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Big Brown returned to training for the first time since his resounding victory in the 134th Kentucky Derby by doing little more than trotting once around the one-mile main track at Churchill Downs early Wednesday.
With trainer Rick Dutrow watching what he could from the backstretch - infield tote boards and tents obscure much of the view of the frontside - Big Brown, missing his back horseshoes, went through a slow, clockwise jog with Michelle Nevin aboard and alongside a stable pony ridden by Walter Blum Jr.
Afterward, Dutrow spent more time talking to about a dozen media members than the 15 minutes Big Brown spent away from the barn. With his usual candor, Dutrow addressed a variety of issues, including his training schedule for the colt and his outlook for the next leg of the Triple Crown, the 133rd Preakness, to be run May 17 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Big Brown, owned by IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr. and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, won the Derby by 4 3/4 lengths and will be a huge favorite in a Preakness field expected to number perhaps 10 3-year-olds, give or take one or two.
Dutrow said that, starting Thursday, Big Brown would gallop every day at Churchill, including the morning of May 14, when the colt will be flown to Baltimore. A Tex Sutton charter flight has been scheduled for that afternoon.
Dutrow said he is contemplating a "very minor" blowout for Big Brown at Pimlico, either on May 15 or even the morning of the race.
"It won't be that Friday," he said, adding any such move would be less significant than the three-furlong work Big Brown went through on the Thursday before the Derby. "I'm still thinking about what I want to do about that. The main thing is, as long as he's come out of the race okay, we're fine. There's really not a lot of training to do. As long as he stays good, I'm happy. There's not a lot more to think about."
Dutrow, born and raised in Maryland but based for years in New York, is so focused on winning the Preakness that he said he will not get caught up in sentiment or nostalgia when returning to Maryland. He said it took "a couple days" for the notion to sink in that "I've won the Kentucky Derby," but "it's not like I can take off from here and go on a vacation or a cruise or something. We've got this to do. We're here working. I'm going there to win a horse race, that's all."
Dutrow said he was informed Big Brown earned a minus-1 figure on the Ragozin Sheets - the lower the number, the better the performance - with his Derby victory. "He's got to react," he said, meaning he believes the colt will "bounce," and not run as fast in the Preakness. "He's not going to run a minus-1 again. But I'm figuring if he runs like a 5, he can still win the race."
Only one of the other 19 horses that ran in the Derby last Saturday - Recapturetheglory, the fifth-place finisher - will oppose Big Brown in the $1 million Preakness, and Dutrow already is sizing up the prospective opposition for the 1 3/16-mile race. He said "Pletcher's white horse" - Harlem Rocker, the Withers Stakes winner trained by Todd Pletcher - is the only one that concerns him, but otherwise, a horse to upset Big Brown "is going to have to be a really good one."
While Big Brown went to the track at about 6:45 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, Dutrow planned to wait until after the regularly scheduled harrow break, which ends at about 8:30, to train the colt Thursday. He said Big Brown was to have his back feet shod with conventional aluminum racing plates that morning. As for the glued-on, acrylic rubber shoes that Big Brown has worn on his front feet for the last several weeks, including in the Derby, Dutrow said: "We're good there. His feet are fine. Cold, no pulse."
He added that he would probably have farrier Ian McKinlay "redo him after this race, when we get back to New York. But we're good now."
Big Brown was first shod with glue-ons after the colt developed problems with quarter cracks over the winter. Since the new shoes have been used, Dutrow has maintained the colt no longer has foot problems.
Dutrow said Big Brown most likely would train at Belmont Park after the Preakness, as opposed to Aqueduct, where he keeps many of his top horses. He said he probably would ask Bobby Frankel, the Hall of Fame trainer with whom he has a close association, for space in his Belmont barn.
Dutrow talked for a few minutes about the controversy around the death of the Derby runner-up, the filly Eight Belles, calling it "unfair," while saying he thought television coverage of the fatal postrace incident has been overdone.
"I don't like seeing that kind of stuff on TV," he said. "But I'm not one of those smart guys who knows all about what's right. I'm just a horseman. I'm just here to take care of my horses."
In other Preakness news:
* After several days of debating whether or not to go, trainer Louie Roussel confirmed from his home in New Orleans on Wednesday that Recapturetheglory will be sent to the Preakness. Recapturetheglory, with assistant trainer Lara Van Deren aboard, returned to training Wednesday at Churchill by jogging a mile, then galloping a mile.
"I wanted to wait until he went back to the track," said Roussel, who won the 1988 Preakness with Risen Star. "My assistant said he's doing really well." Recapturetheglory will ship by van Saturday afternoon and arrive early Sunday at Pimlico.
* Racecar Rhapsody, fourth in the April 19 Coolmore Lexington Stakes in his last start, has joined the Preakness field, trainer Ken McPeek said Wednesday at Churchill. Robby Albarado, who won the Preakness last year on Curlin, will have the mount.
"Maybe we'll just be running for second, but that's not all bad," said McPeek.
* At Belmont Park, Giant Moon breezed five furlongs Wednesday morning in 1:01.58 over the fast main track. Trainer Rick Schosberg said afterward that he wasn't looking for anything spectacular from the New York-bred colt.
"I just wanted to see him go five-eighths of a mile without being pushed too hard," he said.
Giant Moon, fourth in the April 5 Wood Memorial in his last start, will van to Pimlico on May 15.
* Tres Borrachos, one of four exclusions from the Derby field, breezed five furlongs Wednesday at Churchill under Andy Durnin, going in 59.60 seconds, second-fastest of 30 works at the distance. Trainer Beau Greely, who arrived Tuesday night from California, was on hand.
* Pletcher, who also has Lexington winner Behindatthebar as a Preakness prospect, is scheduled to breeze Harlem Rocker over the weekend at Belmont before making a final decision on the colt's status for the race.
* Kentucky Bear, another Derby exclusion, was scheduled to be the first Preakness horse on the scene by arriving Wednesday at Pimlico. The colt breezed on Derby Day over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland and is scheduled to breeze again Saturday at Pimlico.
* Pimlico linemaker Frank Carulli let out a big laugh when asked what his morning line might be on Big Brown. The biggest favorites in recent years were Fusaichi Pegasus, 30 cents on the dollar in 2000, and Barbaro, 50 cents on the dollar in 2006. Big Brown, said Carulli, will be set at "below even-money, let's put it that way."
* Preakness entries will be taken next Wednesday morning, then drawn that evening at the ESPN Zone in downtown Baltimore.
- additional reporting
by Jay Privman
and David Grening