05/31/2012 2:52PM

Triple Crown near-misses: Big Brown, 2008

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockey Kent Desormeaux eases Big Brown in the stretch of the Belmont in 2008, the last year a horse went into the race with a chance to sweep the Triple Crown.

Big Brown, the most recent to attempt the Crown, turned out to every bit as mortal as Sunday Silence or Spectacular Bid when it came to the fundamental vulnerability of a horse without perfect feet.

In Big Brown’s case it was the recurrence of a quarter crack that seriously impacted his training for Rick Dutrow between his impressive wins in the 2008 Preakness and the Belmont. At the same time, it was the colt’s abject lack of serious competition in the Belmont field that gave his backers reason to believe the Triple Crown still could be won. For Big Brown to lose, something would have to go wrong.

So it did. Big Brown’s Belmont journey was a nightmare from the start. Pinned inside, the colt and Kent Desormeaux wrestled each other to the turn, bumped another horse out of the way, and then moved into a moderate pace about as relaxed as a cat in a room full of rockers. Whether you want to believe Desormeaux strangled the life out of Big Brown or Big Brown refused to take reasonable cues from his rider, the result was the same. Desormeaux asked Big Brown to go after the pacesetting Da’ Tara as they approached the head of the stretch and the answer was a deflating, “No mas,” at which point the rider mercifully eased the heavy favorite out of the race.

Da’ Tara, at 38-1, went on to win the race, and the Belmont stands erupted in catcalls at the sight of a geared-down Big Brown trotting home last. Reaction was mixed. There were those who wanted to string up Dutrow and Desormeaux by their thumbs, while others would have preferred tar and feathers. Nick Zito, Da’ Tara’s trainer, took a more philosophical view.

“This game will humble kings, and before honor is humility,” said Zito, who also trained Birdstone. “No matter what. If you’re around as long as we are, you can’t guarantee anything in this sport.”

Triple Crown near-misses

Spectacular Bid (1979) Pleasant Colony (1981) Alysheba (1987) Sunday Silence (1989)
Silver Charm (1997) Real Quiet (1998) Charismatic (1999) War Emblem (2002)
Funny Cide (2003) Smarty Jones (2004) Big Brown (2008)  


Zezinho1969 More than 1 year ago
Why nobody says it could be a kind of match fixing? if this year IHA doesn't make a"normal performance, I say it's Another match fixing...
D'Funnybone More than 1 year ago
Was Desormeaux under the influence when he rode BB in the 2008 Belmont? It sure looked that way. The hoof was NEVER a problem race day, It was a moronic ride by Kent, who tried to compromise BB biggest asset, his naturally fast cruising speed, by choking BB back 3 strides out of the gate. The horse was confused from the get go, and never ran a step that day. Why attempt to change running tactics race day when these tactics were never employed beforehand? Did someone get to Kent D. before the race? If you were in the paddock before the race, Kent looked angry on BB's back and was actually screaming at the fans to be quiet when they began to cheer for BB just before the horses headed to the the track. So many questions have gone unanswered these 4 years later on what exactly happened during the running of the 2008 Belmont Stakes, and I think it's time that some of these questions be answered. Big Brown had nothing later on in the race because he(BB) thought his day was over. Horses are not smart animals, this is why they are trained so long before they ever run. Once Kent geared down BB before he really ever got to running, BB thought his day was over. Worse ride in a big race that I have ever witnessed, actually made Ron Franklin look like Shoemaker. Disgraceful. Pathetic. Criminal?
Jordan More than 1 year ago
We saw with Real Quiet that Mo' wouldn't have backed down from the moment if Big Brown had any run left. On Real Quiet, Mo' rode like a maniac the final sixteenth of the Belmont; he knew the horse was gassed, but he tried everything, including pushing out Real Quiet in front of Victory Gallop in a move that almost certainly would have been awarded a dq had the photo gone differently. If Big Brown had anything at the top of the stretch, he wouldn't have been eased. Sure, he might not have finished last, but he damn sure wasn't winning. At that point, save the horse for a better day. I have no problems with the decision.
Clinton More than 1 year ago
kent desormeux is a clown and a buffoon , should have retired years ago