05/13/2008 12:00AM

Dutrow keeping Big Brown happy


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Two weeks. For trainer Rick Dutrow, two weeks after a horse's last race normally means there are still three weeks or more before the next one. But ever since the May 3 Kentucky Derby, two weeks has been the central issue for Big Brown and his trainer as they prepare for the 133rd Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

As training philosophies have changed over the years, so, too, have Dutrow's. In his teenage years, he watched closely as his late father, trainer Dickie Dutrow, won races by the hundreds in Maryland and thought nothing of running back horses on only a few days of rest. Now, the younger Dutrow believes in giving horses plenty of time to recuperate from racing - especially top-class horses and especially after monster efforts.

Big Brown's victory in the Derby by 4 3/4 lengths qualifies on both counts.

"I know he's going to react," said Dutrow, 48, employing commonly used speed-figure terminology for regressing, or bouncing, after peak races. "It just becomes a matter of what we can get by with to win again Saturday."

To Dutrow, the training routines he has been using with Big Brown for the last week or so at rainy Churchill Downs are of little consequence in the big picture. For those keeping score, Big Brown was given three days off after the Derby and the tally from May 7 through Tuesday was: days jogged, 5; days galloped, 2 (this past Saturday and Tuesday). All that has mattered to Dutrow is for Big Brown to keep his appetite and stay sound, healthy, and happy - and if that meant taking the colt out near the dirt mounds near Barn 22 to watch cars go by for an hour each day, that's what he would have done.

"I don't like the two weeks, but there's nothing I can do about it," Dutrow said. "All I want to do is get him to Pimlico in good shape. If he keeps doing good, keeps eating the way he has, we're going to be fine. He's already fit. Everybody can see that."

Asked about training, Dutrow said: "I wasn't going to do much with him anyway. I would've rather galloped him a few days more, but the weather didn't let us, but that's okay. We're still good."

After training Wednesday, Big Brown was scheduled to be flown from Louisville to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, arriving at Pimlico sometime in the early evening. Dutrow, along with assistant Michelle Nevin and groom Herasmo Gonzales, were to accompany Big Brown on the plane.

Dutrow has been unsentimental about returning to Maryland, where he was born and raised and where his father, whose 352 victories led the nation in 1975, was a training legend. Dickie Dutrow, who died in 1999, raised three sons on the racetrack: Tony, 49; Rick; and Chip, 46. The 1970s were a remarkable era in Maryland racing, with Dutrow befriending another top trainer, John Tammaro, while clashing regularly with King Leatherbury and Bud Delp.

"My brothers and me, we hated Delp and Leatherbury," Dutrow recalled. "It's funny, but we'd see them years later and everything was great. Everybody was nice and everything. But back in the day, we were all into Dad. We wanted him to be on top."

When Dickie Dutrow moved to New York in the early 1980s, so did Rick, and he has mostly been there since. "It'll be nice and all" to see old friends from Maryland, said Dutrow, "but I'm only going back for one reason, and it's business."

Dutrow has watched the prospective Preakness field take shape and certainly hasn't minded seeing the defections of Recapturetheglory and Harlem Rocker - especially the latter. Since the Derby, he had referred repeatedly to Harlem Rocker as the chief upset threat to Big Brown, but trainer Todd Pletcher on Monday ruled the gray colt out, saying the Queen's Plate is the primary goal.

Entries for the $1 million Preakness were to be drawn Wednesday evening at the ESPN Sports Zone in downtown Baltimore. As of Tuesday, a field of 13 was expected. The race will be televised by NBC, with post time set for approximately 6:15 p.m. Eastern.

In other Preakness doings:

* Trainer Paulo Lobo said Tuesday at Hollywood Park that Gayego, winner of the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park before finishing 17th in the Kentucky Derby, will run in the Preakness while adding blinkers. Gayego and Big Brown will be the lone holdovers from a field of 20 that ran in the Derby.

Gayego, said Lobo, "never had a chance to run" in the Derby. "He's been cleaning the feed tub since the Sunday after the race."

Lobo said the blinkers to be used are less than half-cup, which do not overly restrict a horse's peripheral vision. Lobo said he is adding blinkers because Gayego "needs to pay attention."

"At Oaklawn, he ran good, but on the backstretch, he played around," Lobo said. "I didn't want to change for the Kentucky Derby, but now I'm going to."

* Giant Moon, winner of the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct in January, worked four furlongs in 47.77 seconds Tuesday morning over a fast Belmont Park main track. Belmont clockers caught Giant Moon's first quarter in 22.66 seconds and mentioned that there was a strong headwind in the stretch.

Giant Moon usually works in company, but on Tuesday went by himself under exercise rider Cesar Correa.

"Working by himself he's a little lazy, so Cesar maybe cracked him to get into the bit, and he took off the first part," trainer Richard Schosberg said. "He went a little faster earlier than I wanted, but we didn't have any company with him. But he came back good, he looks fine. It's never really by design. I guess it's a good thing I don't build bridges."

Giant Moon was expected to van down to Pimlico on Friday.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Brad Free

Preakness contenders

Horse, Trainer, Jockey

Behindatthebar, T. Pletcher, D. Flores

Big Brown, R. Dutrow Jr., K. Desormeaux

Gayego, P. Lobo, Mike Smith

Giant Moon, R. Schosberg, R. Dominguez

Hey Byrn, E. Plesa Jr., C.C. Lopez

Icabad Crane, G. Motion. J. Rose

Kentucky Bear, R. Baker, J. Theriot

Macho Again, D. Stewart, J. Leparoux

Racecar Rhapsody, K. McPeek, R. Albarado

Riley Tucker, W. Mott, E. Prado

Stevil, N. Zito, J. Velazquez

Tres Borrachos, B. Greely, T. Baze

Yankee Bravo, P. Gallagher, A. Solis