Making a Big Move For The Derby

Below is a story that I wrote last week for on Big Brown. If you haven't watched his race from March 5 at Gulfstream Park, do yourself a favor and check it out here. It is worth watching. This horse, if he stays healthy, will be a major factor in the Florida Derby, and perhaps on May 3.


By Jason Shandler 

Up until a week ago Mike Iavarone had all but given up on the possibility that Big Brown would have a chance at the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

Although his 3-year-old Boundary colt was certainly talented enough to belong on the Derby trail, Iavarone said, quarter cracks in both feet had kept him out too long. Time was simply running out.

"We had mentally written off the Kentucky Derby," said Iavarone, who along with Richard Schiavo co-owns IEAH Stables, a New York-based racing company that purchases and manages Thoroughbred partnerships. "He was so far behind that we had to be realistic about the situation. We were targeting the Calder Derby (gr. IIIT, April 26, on the turf)."

And then, in an instant, everything changed. Iavarone got a call from Big Brown's trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.

"Rick called me last month and said he just breezed him five-eighths and he galloped out," Iavarone continued. "He said he was more fit than he thought he was. He was about 80% at that point. So we decided to put him back in there."

Still with only one career start, an 11 ¼-length score on the turf at Saratoga back on Sept. 3, IEAH entered Big Brown in a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park March 5. The race was originally scheduled for turf, but because of rain was moved to the main track. The result was astounding.

Under Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown stalked the pace and then drew off in the stretch like a locomotive, winning by 12 ¾ lengths without ever being touched. The eye-popping performance changed everything.

"It blew all of us away," Iavarone said. "He is still only about 75 or 80% fit, and it was still a knockout. Kent said his :45 half (mile) felt like a :48. We immediately began to focus on the Triple Crown again.

"We knew he was a special horse when we bought him. We didn't buy him for any other reason than to think about the Triple Crown."

IEAH privately purchased a 75% interest in Big Brown from Paul Pompa Jr., (who retained the other 25%) a short time after the maiden romp at Saratoga. Big Brown was being pointed towards the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf before suffering the first of his quarter cracks in late September.

After giving him time off, Dutrow brought Big Brown back into training a couple months later, but an injury to his other foot in mid-January pushed things back even more.

Hopefully for IEAH, that is all in the past. The $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) March 29 at Gulfstream is next.

And if all goes well, it's on to Churchill Downs.

"If he runs the race we expect him to he'll be right there," Iavarone said. "If he can't class up then we'll have to regroup. He'll tell us if he's ready for Churchill. But right now we feel like it's just a matter of keeping him healthy and happy. He is a special horse."



Leave a Comment:


All I can say is wow... he looks like the Florida Derby LOCK... 45 half and then he takes off in hand ??? wow...

08 Mar 2008 10:45 PM

Nice!!..who did he beat though?.And i'm not sure about the final splits, it is Gulfstream Park, remember!...just more speed to press War Pass up front. PYRO is the MAN!!  

09 Mar 2008 12:03 AM

Butttt..There is a health issue, I've had horses with foot problems like BB and it's hard to keep them going...let's hope for the best.

09 Mar 2008 10:56 AM

Jason, thanks for starting this blog on Big Brown. Just last night I got a chance to view his two races and all I can say is what draynay just said: "wow."

First he crushes his opponents on grass to break his maiden, then he makes a shambles of the one mile Gulfstream race on dirt, in an eye-catching 1:35 and change while hardly taking a breath. He'll certainly step up in company in the Florida Derby, but the horse looks like a freak. Could he be another Barbaro? Another Curlin?

I just hope Big Brown stays healthy. What a bundle of power and talent! I can see where he gets his prowess for both grass and turf: damsire, Nureyev, 3x3 Northern Dancer, 3x4 Damascus, and 4x5 Round Table.

Thanks again for the blog!

09 Mar 2008 11:22 AM
BB Fan

I just watched the video on that race. Wow!  He does look good. Can't wait to watch him again.

09 Mar 2008 11:23 AM

May be too much too soon going from Alw into Gr 1. More than half the field scratched out of his last off the turf romp so I`m really not sure what to make of him yet. Fla Derby should show whether he`s a contender or pretender. He`s just a pretender to me right now. That could change if he shows me something against a good field on dirt.

09 Mar 2008 11:33 AM
Timely writer 2

I felt privileged and lucky last week because I took a break from my computer and turned on my TV in time to see the Big Brown race, live. The analyst was dumbfounded, I was amazed. He won so effortlessly.

Wow! I truly hope he stays fit. If he wins again in similar manner, he will be the star from the east, lighting up the kentucky derby proceedings like  no other horse in recent memory.

Go Big Brown!

10 Mar 2008 10:24 AM
Pat O'D

Unless he wins or finishes second in the Florida Derby, he won't have enough graded earnings to get in the Kentucky Derby . He could finish third in a triple photo ,and unfortunately will be out of luck.

10 Mar 2008 10:40 AM

Clearly a talented horse, but demolishing a handful of horses coming off the turf and onto the main track leaves more than a few questions to be answered.

10 Mar 2008 12:36 PM

I remember seeing an amazing performance of a maiden last year. This horse crushed the field by at least 12. This horse only had 3 races leading up to the Derby. And that horse couldn't get it done on the First Saturday of May. If CURLIN couldn't do it, there is no way this horse can. Foundation at 2 is a big requirement for the Derby. Save yourself some time and toss this horse from the top slot on Derby Day. No chance.  

10 Mar 2008 3:09 PM

I wouldn't put Big Brown in the top slot on Derby day, even if he does win the Florida Derby, unless War Pass stubs his toe along the trail; but if he's victorious, I'll probably put him alongside Pyro and Court Vision.  

Despite only two starts, six months apart, and devoid of stakes company, Big Brown has thus far handled his opponents so easily, on grass and dirt, that I'm going to assume for now that he's the real deal. I don't know how the Saratoga track was playing last September, but I guess Gulfstream has been playing fast; never-the-less, this horse can motor. His fractions haven't exactly been pedestrian.

Big Brown is a serious front runner, and just keeps opening up daylight between himself and everyone else, which is exactly what War Pass does; and I love how he strides out. He also seems to handle the turns pretty well. He's a very professional looking horse for just two starts.

10 Mar 2008 5:56 PM

He did look awesome but Gulfstream has been a conveyor belt for speed this meet.

10 Mar 2008 8:19 PM

Big Brown sat behind the speed rating very nicely 45 and change then exploded. The mile in 1:35 and he did this in hand !!! The jockey called off his races in Dubai !!!  What does that tell you?

This horse is a monster... true Curlin did not win the Derby but Curlin was young, a little immature and unraced as a two year old.  Big Brown ran at 2 and demolished a field of 12.  If he wins in hand and never sees the whip in the Florida Derby what will be said then ?  Big D is calling off Dubai to stay on Big Brown that tells me all I need to know.  If he wins easily... is it hard to imagine him rating behind War Pass than exploding on the turn ???  On a side note watch Visionaire upset Pyro at Keenland.

11 Mar 2008 12:06 AM
Bryce Be Quick

Big Brown-- not on my radar screen, and thanks for bringing this guy to me attention. Some inspired breeding here, taking Claiborne-bred Boundary (now out of service due to fertility issues) and a classically bred Dam, Mien, giving Big Brown Native Dancer 3X on both top and bottom of the pedigree chart. Will enjoy seeing what he might do in a field likely including Elysium Field, who has been on my radar screen, in his next start.

12 Mar 2008 8:34 AM

Does anyone know where I can find the Hey Burn allowance race replay for free?  I keep hearing his name with Big Brown.

13 Mar 2008 5:34 PM

I love all the buzz about BIG BROWN. His two races were truely impressive and show he has lots of raw talent and huge potential. And winning like he did and only being at 80% of his potential. All great stuff! And a refreshing change to all the PYRO-WAR PASS; WAR PASS-PYRO talk for weeks. But given his past history of foot problems, let's see how he runs in the FL Derby. And then, if he wins big or runs well, we can start the bandwagon!

13 Mar 2008 9:53 PM

Visionaire wins the Bluegrass.

Big Brown wins the Florida Derby.

Tale of Ekati wins the Wood.

Wow... would that be interesting...

If Big Brown wins easily it will really upset the apple cart.

13 Mar 2008 11:26 PM
Pat O'D

Big Brown will have his hands full with Tomcito.This horse beat 3 year olds racing as a two year old in South America.

15 Mar 2008 9:08 AM
Matthew Wohlken

I did not see the race but I'm interested!!--Kent D....aka "The Brain"---knows how to ride the Derby homestretch---I think the West Coast is strong this year---but "Brownie did a helluva job!!!!"

16 Mar 2008 8:26 AM

Gulstream plays toward speedy types which should help Big Brown`s chances. That being said, I hope he gets a lot of play in the Florida Derby since I`ll likely not use him in my exactas or trifectas.

16 Mar 2008 5:08 PM

PatO'D, I'm not sure who will have their hands full, if Big Brown and Tomcito meet up in the Florida Derby, but I have no doubt that they are both to be taken seriously. Big Brown is certainly the "Big Unknown", having foot problems and never having met stakes caliber horses, but I think I read recently that Big Brown did a 1 mile work in 1:35 B, that's scary, and Tomcito did a 1 mile in 1:39 and change , still very good. I like to think that Tomcito will be impressing a lot of folks if he goes in the Florida Derby because I hear he can run all day and has an explosive closing kick. This would be a race to see, no doubt.

16 Mar 2008 5:53 PM

 When I saw his maiden race in Sept. I knew he was the one I had been waiting for. In my shortsightedness I began preaching about the next Derby winner almost religiously to anyone who would listen, and showing his race to anyone who would watch. For 6 mos. I tracked his activity almost daily. Hoping, waiting & dreaming.

For followers present and future,go to,click "stable roster", click "Big Brown";

The 2008 Triple Crown Winner!

Enjoy the Ride!!

17 Mar 2008 7:08 PM
Big Brown's Breeder

Thanks to Bryce Be Quick for the "inspired breeding" comment. Here was the thinking on the breeding. First, Equix's Optimatch Program predicted a high probablility of a stakes winner resulting from this mating (there are a few different stallions whom can be mated with Mien and that prediction would be repeated).  Second, the mating resulted in inbreeding to Northern Dancer, Damascus and Round Table, and all of these crosses show up in the principal runners produced by Boundary. Third, and as important as the first two factors, the mating results in four crosses of the important mare Selene.

17 Mar 2008 8:47 PM

I just watched Big Brown's two races again, and then viewed a few of Tomcito's, including the Derby Nacional. Impossible at the moment to say which horse is better, although Tomcito is a little more seasoned.

All I can say is I wish it were March 29th already.

18 Mar 2008 12:44 AM
Ricardo Benites

The big ? here is whether can Tomcito close at this level? He will have to be closer to the pace if he want to take on Big Brown on the short GP strecth. I like the horse, his connections and he will definately be "the people's horse" if he makes it to the big dance. A $7,500 horse will make a lot of people dream with horse racing even to those who spend millions at the sales... Good luck Tomcito!

20 Mar 2008 12:47 AM

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