JEFF: What Can Brown Do At The Belmont?
By Jeff Falconio
It's been 30 years since a horse won the Triple Crown but Big Brown appears to be as good a bet as any to become the new king of horse racing. Just about everything has fallen into place for Big Brown since a crack was discovered on his left foot back on May 30. The colt has responded well to the injury and ran well in workouts leading up to Saturday's Belmont Stakes, include a superb 5 furlong practice run on Tuesday.
The next day Big Brown drew the inside position for the grueling mile-and-a-half stretch. On the surface that would appear to make Big Brown a solid lock but jockey Kent Desormeaux said he prefers to be on the outside and let the horse glide his way to victory a la the Kentucky Derby when Big Brown started on the far outside. So with an injured left foot and a surprisingly unfavorable starting position, will Big Brown fall short like the previous 10 horses who won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes? Don't bet on it.
If Big Brown gets a clean break and hits the rail early, the race could be over in the first quarter mile. There isn't a whole lot of speed in the field and with Big Brown's closing ability, it's not likely that another horse would be able to match Big Brown's pace. But what if he gets boxed in early? Remember, Big Brown appeared to be in trouble at the Preakness before Desormeaux worked him to the outside and a clear path to victory. With a wide open field and an extra 5/16th of mile to work with here Desormeaux will have time and space to jockey for position.
The two horses most likely to challenge Big Brown will be Casino Drive, the half brother of the last two Belmont winners, and Denis of Cork, who finished third at the Kentucky Derby. Not bad considering Denis of Cork was at one point 20th in that race. Macho Again finished second to Big Brown at the Preakness and drove hard down the stretch to place but with more length at the Belmont Macho Again might not be as big a factor. Of course, there are always the longshots like Guadalcanal, who starts as a 50-1 favorite (by comparison, Big Brown is 2-5). Guadalcanal will play an important role though as the horse will start at the number two position and will have the best opportunity to box Big Brown. This is a strong field led by Casino Drive but if the foot holds up Big Brown will be crowned as a superhorse on Saturday.