ELMONT, N.Y. -- With cameras from eight television stations and several still photographers chronicling his every step, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Big Brown, arrived safely at Belmont Park at 2:25 p.m. on Monday.
Big Brown will attempt to become the sport's 12th Triple Crown winner when he runs in the $1 million Belmont Stakes here on June 7. The sport has not had a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Big Brown is the 11th horse since then to win the first two legs.
Jockey Kent Desormeaux accompanied groom Herasmo Gonzalez, who walked Big Brown off the van and into Barn 2 and put him in stall 8. Barn 2 is home to trainer Bobby Frankel and stall 8 was home to Empire Maker, the 2003 Belmont Stakes winner, according to Frankel assistant Jose Cuevas.
The van ride from Pimlico took a little more than four hours. A one-car police escort picked up the Brook Ledge van on the New York side of the George Washington Bridge. Still, the van did get stuck in typical New York traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway. Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. and exercise rider Michelle Nevin drove in a car behind the horse trailer.
As he has been throughout the Triple Crown series, Big Brown was cool and collected as he came off the van and subsequently followed by the paparazzi.
"This is quiet compared to what we dealt with in Kentucky," said co-owner Michael Iavarone, who drove over from his Garden City, N.Y., office a few miles away to welcome his unbeaten colt. "He was the Roman Emperor in Kentucky. He's a rock star."
For Big Brown, as well as all the connections, this arrival was a homecoming of sorts. Big Brown began his career in the barn of Belmont-based trainer Patrick Reynolds, who last year was stabled in Barn 63. The horse moved over to Aqueduct in mid-September after Iavarone's International Equine Acquisition Holdings bought 75-percent interest in the colt from Paul Pompa Jr. and transferred him to Dutrow, who is stabled at Aqueduct.
Iavarone and his business partner, Richard Schiavo, live on Long Island, as does trainer Rick Dutrow.
"This is what we thought about all along after he won the Derby is to get a chance to bring it back here and win it here in New York," Iavarone said.
Dutrow said Big Brown would return to the track on Wednesday. He will likely have one breeze on the weekend before the Belmont Stakes and could possibly blow out the morning of the race, as he did for the Preakness. Dutrow added that he is satisfied with how well Big Brown came out of the Derby and Preakness.
"He's eating up everything, he's been bouncing around the barn the last couple of days, so I'm happy with the way he come out of his race," Dutrow said. "It certainly didn't look like it was an issue for him to run back that quickly."
On the Monday after the Derby, Desormeaux said he wished the Preakness was "in 2009" so he could relish the victory. On the Monday after the Preakness, Desormeaux's thoughts had changed in regard to the Belmont.
"Once you accomplish the first two, it feels like it's an eternity to the Belmont," said Desormeaux, who lost the 1998 Triple Crown aboard Real Quiet by a nose. "I'm excited, I'm anxious, I want to find out my destiny, and we have to wait three weeks."