06/07/2008 12:00AM

Dutrow puzzled over performance


ELMONT, N.Y - For five weeks, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. had all the answers. On a steamy Saturday afternoon after Big Brown was pulled up with a quarter mile left to run in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, Dutrow had none.

Dutrow didn't speak to reporters for nearly 50 minutes after the race, and when he did, he couldn't explain what went wrong with his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, who failed to finish the Belmont, ending his quest to become Thoroughbred racing's 12th Triple Crown winner.

“I got no idea,” Dutrow said outside the test barn where Big Brown cooled out and provided a urine sample. “I was looking for a problem. So far I can't say that I see a problem.”

Dutrow didn't blame the quarter crack in Big Brown's left front foot for the bad result.

“He doesn't seem to be off in any kind of way,” Dutrow said.

Big Brown was eased to the finish line by jockey Kent Desormeaux, who jumped off the colt immediately afterward. After veterinarians took a quick look at Big Brown, the colt was immediately led through the tunnel and to the backstretch with Dutrow, his head down and his blue shirt drenched in sweat, close by. Initially, he brushed off reporters with a terse “don't even think about it.”

Dutrow leaned on the wooden railing at the test barn as Big Brown took several turns around the barn. At one point, he kicked the ground with his left foot. His 13-year-old daughter, Molly, came up to her dad and put her arm around him.

At 7:20 p.m., about 45 minutes after the race, Big Brown left the test barn and went back to Bobby Frankel's barn where he was to be scoped. That's when Dutrow agreed to answer some questions.

“I'm resorting to scoping him and he didn't even cough, so if there was something that was obviously wrong I wouldn't bother scoping him,” Dutrow said. “I just don't see anything.”

Big Brown was steadied in the first eighth of a mile and was caught on the rail entering the first turn. He bumped with Anak Nakal entering the turn, as Desormeaux attempted to get Big Brown to the outside and into the clear. Big Brown was six or seven wide down the backside and in hand until the five-furlong marker.

At that point, Desormeaux went to scrubbing on the horse, but there was no response.

“Around the five-eighths pole you could see our horse was not coming to the leaders,” Dutrow said. “I didn't know that anything was wrong then. It looked like he was not firing his race. When they turned for home and he started going out and Kent started pulling him up I was under the impression that something was wrong. I still can't see it.”

Dutrow said he didn't know how to describe his disappointment.

“We did really good with him; this is a very disappointing race,” Dutrow said. “The horse looks like he's fine right now. I can say it looks like he'll live a good life if he never races again. It's not where it's all that disappointing. We didn't get the Triple Crown but we won the Derby and the Preakness; that was great. Now we're just trying to figure out what happened in the race.

“We're going out to check him out and see if he's okay. If we feel he's 100 percent as we're getting him back into training, I'm sure we'll go forward with him. If not I'm sure the next thing will be to retire him. Right now I can't see anything; maybe something will come up.”

Asked if he regretted being so boastful in the last weeks, saying on more than one occasion that a Big Brown victory was a foregone conclusion, Dutrow said, “I just went by what I was feeling. I'm sure that that didn't get him beat or have him pull up.”

That was the only thing Dutrow was sure about.