05/31/2008 12:00AM

Rose knows Big Brown - and the Belmont


As the only jockey to have ridden Big Brown, attempted to beat him, and won the Belmont Stakes, Jeremy Rose is in a unique position heading into the 140th Belmont Stakes next Saturday at Belmont Park. Big Brown is going for the Triple Crown, but Rose will be a triple threat.

Rose picked up the mount on Big Brown when he made his debut Sept. 3 at Saratoga after Edgar Prado, who was scheduled to ride Big Brown, was injured two days earlier. Big Brown won by 11 1/4 lengths, though Rose knew he was just pinch-hitting that day.

"The competition is so good at Saratoga," Rose, who is based at Delaware Park, said Saturday morning en route to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where he was to catch a flight to Cleveland to ride in the Ohio Derby on Saturday afternoon. "They said to stay with the field before you start to widen. At Saratoga, that's usually not an issue, because there's so many good horses around you. But we found out why they said that to me. He's very, very talented."

Since then, Big Brown has gone on to win an allowance race, the Florida Derby, the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness Stakes, all with Kent Desormeaux. Rose rode against Big Brown in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on Icabad Crane, who finished third, 5 3/4 lengths behind Big Brown. Icabad Crane will come back for a rematch in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.

"He got stopped at the quarter pole," Rose said of Icabad Crane. "To get stopped the way he did and come back on and finish, it was an excellent race. The more distance for him, the better. A lot of horses in the Belmont don't want to go that far. You weed them out by the top of the stretch.

"Hopefully we won't have the kind of problems we did in the Preakness. To get stopped and pick right up is difficult to do. But he's a tough little horse. He's very relaxed, very laid back."

Icabad Crane, trained by Graham Motion, was scheduled to have his final work for the Belmont on Monday at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland.

Rose knows what it takes to win the Belmont. He did it three years ago with Afleet Alex, who was third in the Derby, then overcame a bad stumble after being interfered with by Scrappy T to prevail in the Preakness. In the Belmont, Afleet Alex romped by seven lengths.

"He was much the best in there," Rose said. "It was a lot nicer than clipping heels at the Preakness. I just had to sit on him to the quarter pole. By the quarter pole, the ones who couldn't get the distance were out of the way.

"I actually think the Belmont is the easiest of the Triple Crown races to ride. Everybody makes a big deal about the mile and a half. But it's easy to ride. You just want to keep your horse relaxed early, just sit on him, and find a spot. Saving ground is a big key at Belmont. You don't want to lose ground."

Big Brown gets new sutures, may breeze Tuesday

Big Brown galloped 1 1/2 miles over Belmont Park's main track a couple of hours after hoof specialist Ian McKinlay replaced the stainless steel sutures in the quarter crack on the colt's left front foot. McKinlay said that it was just a routine change and it helped tighten things up around the quarter crack.

"It's doing great," McKinlay said. "They say he's traveling beautiful. That's all we can ask for."

It was the fourth straight morning Big Brown galloped after missing three days of training due to the quarter crack and then jogging on Tuesday.

"Best day he's galloped since he's been here," trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said.

McKinlay, who was not expected to look at Big Brown on Sunday, is likely to put an acrylic patch over the quarter crack on Monday. Dutrow said he would breeze Big Brown either Monday or Tuesday, but seemed to be leaning toward Tuesday.

"If I do it Monday I'll get a little bit better breeze in him; if I do it Tuesday it'll be all basic, basic stuff, so I'll most likely do it Tuesday," said Dutrow, noting it would be a five-furlong move. "As long as the track and the weather are good."

The rain that made Belmont's main track sloppy for the races held off Saturday morning during Big Brown's training session. He went to the track following the renovation break. After coming through the paddock tunnel, Big Brown stood at the finish line while he watched a bunch of horses go by on a busy morning.

After about five minutes, Big Brown broke off into his gallop and definitely seemed strong as exercise rider Michelle Nevin kept a tight hold of her reins.

"He really trained good this morning," Dutrow said. "He took a hold of Michelle. He's ready to do what we want him to do."

Dutrow said he is very happy with the condition of Belmont Park's main track. He said he met with New York Racing Association president Charles Hayward and racing secretary P.J. Campo last week after Big Brown developed his quarter crack. Dutrow, who on May 23 had a horse run seven furlongs in 1:20.70 - just 0.53 of a second off the track record - said he asked if it was possible to make the track less hard.

"I didn't tell them what to do, I just suggested maybe we could use a little more cushion on the track if it's possible," Dutrow said. "It's only gonna help our horse get there the right way. They seemed to agree with us 100 percent. The track the way it is now, I wish it was like this every day until Belmont closed down for good because it was excellent this morning."

John Passero, NYRA's director of racing surfaces, said that the track has about another quarter-inch of cushion because he has graded the track less and harrowed it more in the last week.

"Instead of grading it every day or every other day, we made sure it was every third day," Passero said. "It's a natural process. I never added more cushion, I just let the cushion fall down naturally."

- additional reporting by David Grening