Ten Reasons Big Brown Will Win Triple Crown
by Trevor Whenham - 05/20/2008
In the 30 years since we last saw a Triple Crown winner we have repeatedly been reminded just how hard it is to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in the same year. That's why I'm trying as hard as I can to limit my excitement and anticipation over what Big Brown could achieve. He seems like he has what it takes to win it all, but then so did Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Real Quiet, Silver Charm, Sunday Silence, Alysheba and Spectacular Bid, and none of them managed to get it done. That being said, there are at least 10 good reasons why this could finally be the year that our Triple Crown slump comes to an end:
He's a freak - If you have seen any of his races then this is obvious. The horse just wins, and he makes it look ridiculously easy. The post position doesn't matter. The conditions don't matter. The size or quality of the field doesn't seem to matter. He's ridiculously good and he knows it. He's not a particularly stunning horse, and he has well documented problems with his feet, but he is quickly becoming the model of a great racehorse. He didn't win the Preakness by as much as other recent winners like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones, but he never had to really try to do it. If he had been allowed to run when he wanted to on the back stretch then he could have won it by as much as he wanted.
Field isn't very impressive - I am careful when I discuss this one. On one hand, the horses he has faced so far haven't been of his caliber, and with the possible exception of Casino Drive they won't be in the Belmont, either. The reason for my hesitation, though, is that it is too easy to think that other Triple Crown winners or horses that have come close have faced significantly better classes. Outside of Alydar, Affirmed's Derby competition was underwhelming both at the time and through the lens of history. Seattle Slew beat a bunch of also-ran's in the Derby, too. Big Brown is much better than the rest of his peers, but that shouldn't be a strike against him.
Explosive acceleration - In both the Derby and the Preakness Big Brown has been close to the action until he flipped a switch and pulled away. If you watched the Preakness coverage on NBC then you saw the replay of the race from the blimp view. Big Brown was with the pack, and then several strides later he was free and clear. It was a truly incredible show of power. More importantly, it gives him a huge edge - no other horse in his class can come close to matching it because few horses in history can match it.
Distance doesn't look to be a problem - We can never truly know how a horse will handle the unique and grueling Belmont distance until they try it. There is no reason, though, to believe that he will be anything other than perfectly fine. He was fresh and vital at the end of the Derby, and he looked like he hadn't even run after the Preakness. The horse might hit a wall in the stretch like many do, but we have had no hint of that so far.
Racing intelligence - As impressive as the Preakness win was, I realized just how special this horse was on the back stretch. Edgar Prado made an aggressive move on Riley Tucker, and Big Brown was at risk of getting boxed in. Kent Desormeaux pulled the horse back hard to get him clear and move him three wide to get out of trouble. Most horses would not handle that well - they would resent the interference and would have their concentration ruined. Big Brown couldn't have cared less. It's as if he knew exactly what Desormeaux was doing, and he was good with it.
Trainer is hot - Training horses is a game of ebb and flow. For a year or two a trainer will look like he is invincible and can't possibly lose, but then luck will evade him for a while and he can't seem to win. Rick Dutrow Jr. is as hot as a trainer can be. Big Brown is a once-in-a-lifetime horse, but he's not the only star in the stable. On the same day that Big Brown won the Florida Derby Dutrow won two races on the Dubai World Cup card with Diamond Stripes and Benny the Bull. Momentum matters in racing, and Dutrow has all of it these days.
Jockey has been there before - No one has ever come closer to winning the Triple Crown without winning it that Desormeaux did in 1998 on Real Quiet when he lost by a short nose. He'd also come into the Preakness on an overwhelming favorite with Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 and fallen short. There is no jockey out there that is better suited to the pressure and scrutiny of this situation, and he has learned from what didn't work before.
It's hard to imagine a scenario in which he gets beat - There is a chance that Casino Drive is legitimate, but he is so untested that he makes Big Brown look like a grizzled veteran. Unless Casino Drive is a super freak, though, it's hard to see how he could get in trouble. He's handled any post position thrown at him. He has an incredible ability to avoid trouble, and he'll have all the room he needs to do so in the Belmont because of the length and the size of the track. He can set the pace or he can sit off of it. There is obviously no guarantee that he will win, but it seems likely that the only horse that can beat him is himself.
His lodgings - Empire Maker was heavily favored in the 2003 Derby, but he got beat by Funny Cide. He took the Preakness off and then returned for the Belmont and cruised to a dominating win. Dutrow stables his horses at Aqueduct, not Belmont, so he is staying with trainer Bobby Frankel at Belmont. Frankel trained Empire Maker, and Big Brown is staying in the same stall as that horse did. Maybe some of the karma will rub off on him.
We're due - After 30 years of agony and 10 near misses, surely it is time for fate to reward us and finally give us a Triple Crown winner. I'm certain we deserve it.