Many Positives for Big Brown to Win Triple Crown
by Trevor Whenham - 05/07/2008
Can Big Brown win the Triple Crown? I sure hope so. We haven't had a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed pulled it off, and I am pretty desperate for one. For the past couple of decades I have suffered a mini-breakdown every time the Derby winner has lost on the trail and it's not pretty, so I am sure that all the people who know me well are even more hopeful than I am. Every year at this point in the process I am convinced that this is the year that the heartbreak ends (except for when Giacomo won - he didn't stand a chance), so it doesn't mean much when I say that I like the chances this year. Regardless, I have to say that it seems more likely this year than it has in many years in the past. Not convinced? Let's look at the arguments for and against to see where we stand:
We will have a Triple Crown winner because:
Level of competition - This is especially relevant when it comes to the Preakness, and it involves some simple math - Big Brown was significantly better than any horse in the Derby, and none of the horses in the Preakness are as good on paper as the supposedly elite Derby horses, so Big Brown should be just fine. There are a couple of somewhat interesting horses, like the unbeaten Harlem Rocker, that could be in the Preakness field, but not even their connections can honestly argue that they are in the class of the Derby winner. The Belmont field could be a bit tougher. A few of the Derby horses could take another shot - Tale of Ekati, Denis of Cork, and maybe one or two others. Others will step up to try as well, but the most intriguing potential challenger is a horse called Casino Drive. He makes the inexperienced Big Brown look like a seasoned veteran - he has raced just once, and that was in Japan. He won that race by a Big Brown-like 11.5 lengths, though. What makes him very interesting, though, is that his dam also gave birth to 2006 Belmont winner Jazil and 2007 winner Rags to Riches. We'll know better what to expect from this horse if he runs on May 10 in a prep as planned, but he could be a challenge. Still, there is little reason beyond wild speculation to currently believe that there is a horse as good as or better than Big Brown out there.
Freakish horse - Horses that win the Triple Crown are usually freakishly impressive. Big Brown is certainly that. He was won all four of his races with stunning ease, and he answered a lot of questions with his Derby win. It's not as simple as saying he is a freak so he will win it - Silver Charm was a freak, too, and he was thwarted. Still, even his biggest critics have to admit that he has enough talent to win the two remaining races if everything falls into place.
Fresh - His lack of experience (three races as a three year old including the Derby) has been a big concern up to this point, but it could be one of his big assets from now on. The Triple Crown is incredibly grueling, and this horse is fresh and well rested. His races have been few and far between, and he has avoided hard contact or particularly serious challenges in all of them, so he is as ready to face this challenge as a horse can be from a physical perspective.
We're due - I hate the argument that anything is due to happen in sports - it's a quick route to poverty. Still, we're due. We had winners in 1973, 1977 and 1978, but nothing since. We are in the midst of the longest Triple Crown drought. It's a very difficult thing to accomplish, and horses and training have changed since the days of Secretariat and Seattle Slew, but sooner or later a horse is going to pull it off. After all, 10 horses have won the Derby and the Preakness since 1978, and Real Quiet came within a short nose in the Belmont of winning all three, so it's not like it is beyond the realm of possibility.
We won't have a Triple Crown winner because:
Inexperience - Big Brown has been blessed with smooth races and outstanding racing luck. The fact remains, though, that this is a horse that has only run four times. That means that there's a lot that he hasn't seen and doesn't know how to respond to. He's never been boxed in or bumped hard. He's never had to significantly check his progress or otherwise deal with adversity. He's never stumbled out of the gate or had a jockey make a mistake. Sooner or later his luck is going to end and he will find himself in trouble. I'd feel better if I was confident how he would respond in that case.
Fragile feet - To win the Triple Crown you have to make it to all three races. Big Brown has been healthy this year so far, but he has a history of pretty serious foot problems that kept him out of training for months as a two year old. The strain and intensity of these two remaining races have the potential to create problems, and those problems could stand in the way of his place in history.
A horse could surprise - It may seem like Big Brown is head and shoulders above the rest, but anything can happen in horse racing. As an illustration you need only look back to Smarty Jones in 2004. He was an undefeated Derby winner. He won the Preakness by almost 12 lengths. The Belmont field wasn't particularly strong. He was virtually a lock. But then a little known 36/1 longshot named Birdstone came from nowhere to break the hearts of millions. It happened before, and it could happen again.
Fate hates me - Self-explanatory.