HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Two pieces of advice for anybody interested in watching the undefeated, 3-year-old sensation Big Brown train up to his role as the likely favorite in this year's Kentucky Derby: Plan to get up early and find a cheap flight to south Florida over the next couple of weeks.
Big Brown turned in the first of what will be three pre-Derby workouts, all to come at the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach, shortly after dawn Saturday morning, when he breezed five furlongs in 1:00.53 under exercise rider Michelle Nevin. Trainer Rick Dutrow said he plans to keep Big Brown at Palm Meadows until April 28 when he'll have his final Derby work before flying to Louisville that afternoon.
Big Brown was barely visible through the darkness and misty fog that hung over the backside as he cruised up to the five-furlong pole shortly after the track opened for training at 6:35 a.m. With Nevin sitting quietly the entire way, Big Brown posted splits of 12.09 seconds, 24.40, 36.17, and 47.84 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.94 while hugging the rail throughout the drill, much to Dutrow's delight.
"Michelle was smiling when she came back, which is good enough for me because she knows this horse better than anyone," said Dutrow as he accompanied Big Brown back to the barn. "We weren't looking to set a track record this morning. I don't see what else he really needs to do. I'll take two more the same way. What I liked best was the way he stayed right on the rail the whole time. And he did it with just a D-bit and a tongue tie."
Dutrow said he still can't understand why Big Brown drifted out to the middle of the track entering the stretch during both of his wins this winter as well as in his final work prior to the Florida Derby.
"I don't understand why he has gotten out like he does," Dutrow said as he rewarded Big Brown with a peppermint as he cooled out following his work. "And when I saw the picture of him in the Racing Form coming across the finish line in the Florida Derby with the bit hanging out through the other side of his mouth, I was embarrassed. Fortunately, even though he's still a little immature, he's just faster than what he runs against. His talent just overwhelms everybody else."
As for the potential competition he'll encounter in the Derby, Dutrow is not overly concerned about who shows up or just what their running styles might be.
"This horse doesn't need the lead," Dutrow said. "He sat off a horse when he won the allowance race earlier this winter, and you saw the way he worked today. He's not a horse who'll run off with you. He was well in hand this morning."
Dutrow also made no bones about why he kept Big Brown in south Florida for the Florida Derby rather than going to Dubai where he won two races earlier that day on the World Cup card.
"It was more exciting to be here with him," Dutrow said while pointing toward Big Brown, "than to go to Dubai with them."