Before I wrote my May 21 post - A Plea to Iavarone: Let Him Run - I put a call into Mike Iavarone, hoping to get the owner's thoughts on whether or not Big Brown would race after the Belmont. I did not expect a call back, being that Iavarone is in the midst of the craziest time of his life, and is probably overwhelmed with interview requests and hundreds of other things to do. When I did not hear from him I went ahead and wrote my column.
Imagine my surprise as I walked my dog on the morning of May 22 and picked up my cell phone to hear Iavarone on the other line. Unable to conduct a typical interview because of the circumstances (my Chesapeake Bay Retriever was right in the midst of her 5th lap across the pond and there was no pen or paper within 200 yards), I made the best of precarious situation and chatted with Iavarone informally. As it turned out, the informal "interview" was perfect for these purposes.
I asked Iavarone the question all racing fans wanted to know: Would Big Brown really race after the Belmont or were they just leading us along? Iavarone was as candid as he could be. He said if Big Brown comes out of the Belmont in good shape, he would run again.
Not being satisfied, I pressed on.
I told him many fans (especially on this blog) are skeptical, despite what we have heard. I asked him if there was going to be an announcement of a "phantom injury," after the Belmont. I told him most of us expect it. Again, Iavarone was candid.
He said Big Brown must come out of the Belmont 100%. That is the first thing. If he does, he will absolutely race again. I posed a hypothetical. What if he doesn't have any kind of specific injury, but is just "sore" coming out of the race? Would they be willing to give him time off and see how he recovers before making a decision? He said they planned on giving the big horse time off after the grueling Triple Crown anyway, and yes, if all he needed was rest, they would race him once he was 100% again.
I told him I was well aware that IEAH was a bottom line company and protecting an investment was surely his first concern. With that being said, what incentive did they have to race him again? He said from a financial standpoint it was a no-win situation to race him again. He said the horse was worth upwards of $100 million and could only be insured up to $50 million. It makes "absolutely no sense from a financially aspect to race him again. It's a huge risk."
Then why do it, I asked? Do you feel an obligation to racing fans?
Yes, he answered without hesitation. He said that was the only reason he is planning on doing it. He knows how much people love watching Big Brown and what it would mean to the sport to see him in the Breeders' Cup. He said he looked forward to a potential match-up against Curlin in The Classic.
Not what I expected to hear from someone that has been labeled as a "Wall Street guy." Is he believable? You be the judge of that.
Iavarone went on to say how much fun he is having with Big Brown, how fortunate he feels to be in his current situation, and how he feels an obligation to give back to the sport. We talked about what could be done from an industry standpoint to keep its stars racing longer. We didn't come up with any solutions.
I have to say that I came away from the conversation impressed with Iavarone. I now believe there is a fair chance we will see Big Brown on the racetrack after the Belmont. I also may be a little naïve. Could Iavarone have been saying all the right things because that's what the public wants to hear? Absolutely. I know that full well. If he wants, he can always use the quarter crack injuries as a legitmate reason to retire him. It is the perfect out, a built-in excuse.
But all I have to go by is my instincts, and based on that, I am now cautiously optimistic we will see him at least once more after the Belmont.