SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It appears Big Brown is headed for the greener pastures of the Jersey Shore.
With three options before him, the head of the group that owns Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown said late Wednesday afternoon that he is "75 percent" sure Big Brown will make his next start in the newly created Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sept. 13. The Monmouth, at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for 3-year-olds and upward, has a base purse of $200,000 that will climb to $500,000 provided Big Brown runs.
The Monmouth Stakes was one of three options presented to Michael Iavarone, co-president of the International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Stable that owns majority interest in the colt. Philadelphia Park offered to bump the purse of the President's Cup from $250,000 to $1 million if Big Brown ran, while Belmont Park is putting up a $100,000 stakes race that could go up to $200,000 if Big Brown started. Those races were also scheduled for the turf on Sept. 13.
Iavarone said that he has ruled out the New York race and was leaning toward the Monmouth, pending a Wednesday night conference with his partners, some of whom live in New Jersey.
"Monmouth makes a lot of sense for us," Iavarone said. "We really like that the people took to Big Brown. I like the turf course better. It's less money, but we've had good karma there. It's the racetrack that makes the most sense for us. We're definitely more likely to run at Monmouth."
Big Brown last raced at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3, winning the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational, and was very well received by the crowd of 45,132.
Naturally, Monmouth Park officials were ecstatic to learn that Big Brown is likely headed their way.
"He's the biggest draw right now in the game and we're excited to have him come back," said Bob Kulina, the track's vice president and general manager. "The people enjoyed him when he was here and our job is to try and get the best horses. Right now it looks like we got a shot to get Big Brown again and we're pretty happy about it."
Kulina said the connections of Big Brown will not receive an appearance fee for running Big Brown in the race. For the Haskell, the owners and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. each received $50,000 for bringing Big Brown to Monmouth.
Iavarone said the purpose of running Big Brown on the turf is to get him ready for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, run over a synthetic surface at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. Big Brown won his career debut on turf at Saratoga by 11 lengths.
"This is a race we're looking to make as easy on Big Brown as it could possibly be," Iavarone said. "For us to get to Jersey is a piece of cake."
- additional reporting by Mike Farrell