Moments after the Belmont Stakes, once the shock wore off, the first words out of my mouth were, "This is why horse racing is the most unpredictable and crazy sport there is. They could run that race 100 more times and I still would not wager $1 on Da' Tara."
Now that 24 hours have passed and I've had time to digest it all, I feel the same way. I am more surprised at who won than Big Brown losing. Although I thought Big Brown was clearly the best horse and had a great chance to win, I know how difficult winning the Triple Crown is and that anything can happen. But seeing Da' Tara, who lost to Big Brown by 24 lengths two months prior and had only a maiden win to show for seven starts, go wire-to-wire for 12 furlongs - now that shocked me. And it had to shock 99% of you too, because I didn't see or hear one person pick him to win. Not one.
As far as Big Brown, was it the heat? The quarter crack? Was he tired? Did he not like the inside post? Did Desormeaux make a tactical error by holding him early and then going so wide? Trying to figure out what was wrong with Big Brown is anybody's guess. It was probably a combination of a lot of things, including the horse reacting poorly to adversity for the first time.
In hindsight, lost money (and pride) aside, I was glad that Big Brown did not win the Triple Crown. And this is coming from someone who needed him to win to close out the late Pick 4. Here is why I feel that way and a few other observations one day later:
- Rick Dutrow handled himself in the same classless manner after the race that he did throughout the Triple Crown trail. His failure, along with representatives from IEAH, to show up at the post-race press conference was poor sportsmanship. Go make sure your horse is OK and then come back to face the media. There was enough time to do both. They were all laughs and smiles after the Derby and Preakness, and the first ones to soak up the limelight during the good times. But as soon as Big Brown loses they ran and hid. What's the old saying, "One's true character is best revealed during times of hardship?"
Dutrow handled the loss as most of us should have expected him to. He was arrogant and cocky throughout this whole run. He treated the Triple Crown like it was winning a series of allowance races at Aqueduct. He showed no respect for the connections of Casino Drive and the other 3-year-olds who raced against him, not to mention John Servis. His comments these last three weeks now make him look like a fool. Who goes into the Belmont Stakes saying it's a "foregone conclusion"? Who does that?
And when it came time for Dutrow to eat some crow what did he do? Hide. As I stated, we shouldn't have expected anything more from him.
- Had Big Brown won the Triple Crown, there was always going to be the lingering questions about steroids and illegal medication. Dutrow's long list of medication violations cannot be overlooked. Because of this, as much as many of us wanted to see a Triple Crown winner, this was not a horse I could embrace. Dutrow took that away from me. In hindsight, I'm happy he lost. It just didn't feel right. Perhaps if he had stayed with Paul Pompa Jr. and Patrick Reynolds all along I would have felt differently.
- Kent Desormeaux should not have eased Big Brown to the wire, and if NYRA does what is right, he will be suspended. There was nothing wrong with Big Brown. He was not injured, Desormeaux confirmed it, and so did Dr. Bramlage. Whether Desoremeaux did this on his own or was given instructions to pull him up if he wasn't going to win, who knows. But it was clearly against the rules. If Big Brown wasn't healthy enough to be out there, he should have been scratched. Once he goes into the starting gate it is the jockey's obligation to ride the horse to the best of his ability unless he is injured. Would he have won or hit the board? No. But he owed it to the public to finish the race "even if there was no apparent chance to win prize money." He did not do that. And to watch him being eased only five weeks after the Eight Belles tragedy made millions of TV viewers assume we had another major injury on our hands. It made horse racing look bad once again. Just ride the horse home under wraps Kent. The one thing I do give Desormeaux credit for is showing up like a man after the race to answer questions. He was the only representative of Big Brown to do so.
- Hats off to Nick Zito. The "Triple Crown Killer" did it again and shocked us all. He is not a Hall of Famer for nothing and unlike some trainers who get scared off by entering horses against huge favorites in big races, Zito does not. He has guts. Nice job Nick.
- I am convinced we will never see Big Brown race again. I hope you enjoyed him while he was here.
- Finally, thank you to everyone who has contributed to making this blog successful and enjoyable. Many of you have asked if it will be continuing now that the Triple Crown is over. It will! In a few weeks it will change names to "Breeders' Cup Chat" and we will begin talking about the second half of the racing season. Name change aside, this is a continuous blog. As long as I am with Blood-Horse we will have this forum to share our views. Thanks again.