08/04/2008 12:00AM

Turf may be next for Big Brown

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Not too long after Big Brown returned to the winner's circle in Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, his trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr., also returned to form.

Following the Haskell press conference, the topic of Curlin, the defending Horse of the Year, and the Breeders' Cup Classic came up. Dutrow, known for his candidness and cockiness during the Triple Crown run, gave his assessment of Curlin.

"Curlin couldn't win the Derby, we could," Dutrow said. "Curlin couldn't win [the Haskell], we could. Curlin got beat [by] a filly. We haven't. Our horse is undefeated on the grass. Curlin isn't. I don't know why people think Curlin is such a good horse. We're way better than Curlin."

The only way to find out if Dutrow is right is to have the two horses run against each other. The only chance for that to happen is if both show up in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. While that is the stated year-end target for Big Brown, it is not certain that Curlin is being pointed that way. Jess Jackson, the majority owner of Curlin, said Monday that the Classic "is still in the options," but preferred to take one race at a time.

On Tuesday, Jackson was to announce where Curlin will make his next start. The Woodward here Aug. 30 or the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 24 are the most likely choices. Jackson appears to be leaning toward the Woodward, run on dirt at 1 1/8 miles.

"I'm a Californian and I'd love to be on the West Coast, but at the same time the best competition and the best dirt's out here," Jackson said at Saratoga after watching Curlin work five furlongs in 1:02.72 over the training track.

Jackson did say that shipping overseas for the Arc de Triomphe in October is no longer a consideration for Curlin.

Jackson said he would love for Curlin and Big Brown to meet, but "on our terms," he said.

"We don't have anything to prove, he does," Jackson said. "We like him, he's a great horse; it would be good for racing to have them together. We're not avoiding him, we're just doing what's right for Curlin."

While plans for Curlin's next race were to be finalized Tuesday, plans for Big Brown's next race will be made at a later date. The only thing for certain is that Big Brown will not run in the $1 million Travers here Aug. 23 because it's too close to the hard race he had in the Haskell.

On Monday, Michael Iavarone, the head of the International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Stable which owns Big Brown, said he would like to run Big Brown in a grass race some time in mid-September. Big Brown won his career debut on turf by 11 lengths last year at Saratoga.

At present, there is no race on a major circuit that fits the bill.

"I know racetracks are going to make offers for us to come there," Iavarone said. "We're pretty adamant on getting that race in or around the 13th. We're hoping somebody will create a grass race for us, and I bet you somebody does. There'll be offers to get this horse. You saw yesterday the electricity in that place was awesome yesterday."

A crowd of 45,132 at Monmouth Park watched Big Brown run down Coal Play in the final 70 yards to win the Haskell by 1 3/4 lengths. The Haskell was Big Brown's first start since being pulled up in the Belmont Stakes on June 7 when he was going for the Triple Crown. Big Brown had to do all the dirty work in the Haskell, chasing Coal Play before passing him in deep stretch. Big Brown ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.31 and earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure, second only to the 109 Beyer he earned in the Kentucky Derby.

Though Big Brown did drift out significantly in the stretch, Dutrow said Monday, "I didn't see anything that was negative yesterday."

Speaking from Monmouth Monday morning, Dutrow said Big Brown came out of the Haskell in good order. Big Brown vanned from Monmouth Park back to Aqueduct, arriving shortly after noon.

"Everything I see is good," Dutrow said.

With Big Brown passing the Travers, the field for that $1 million race could come up relatively deep. Harlem Rocker, who is 4 for 4 on dirt, and Macho Again and Pyro, the first two finishers from the Jim Dandy, head the field. Also pointing to the race are Belmont Stakes winner Da' Tara, Swaps winner Tres Borrachos, Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John, Mambo in Seattle, You and I Forever, Tale of Ekati, Acai, and Court Vision.