Big Brown trainer says Triple Crown is 'foregone conclusion'
NEW YORK -- Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. held nothing back, saying it's a "foregone conclusion" Big Brown will win the Triple Crown. What's more, he insists that Smarty Jones, the last horse to try for racing's biggest prize, lost the Belmont Stakes because his connections "were not smart."
Asked if he was getting nervous in the days before Big Brown's attempt to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978, Dutrow seemed even more emboldened.
"I feel that he will do it," he said Thursday during the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's pre-Belmont conference call. "I feel like it's actually a foregone conclusion. To me, I just see the horses he's in with and I see our horse so I expect him to win this race. ...
"I know that when that day actually does come, and if our horse is in good shape, it will be the most exciting, thrilling moment of my life. So I just ... I know that that's coming, but right now I'm just staying involved with our horse and what we think is best to get him there the right way and it keeps us plenty busy."
Big Brown missed three days of training this week with a slight crack on the inside of his left front hoof, but Dutrow says it won't affect the unbeaten colt in the 1½-mile Belmont on June 7.
"I can't imagine what I'm going to feel like when they turn for home," he said. "I just can't imagine. I know that it's going to be a beautiful picture for us. I know our horse is just ... he's just in a zone and I see his competition, that turning for home something is going to come over the crowd. So, I can't wait."
He discounted the chances of unbeaten Casino Drive, who won the Peter Pan Stakes by 5¾ lengths and is considered Big Brown's top challenger despite just two career starts.
"The Japanese horse has so much to prove," he said. "I don't know if he's on the top of his game training [at Belmont]. I would not depend on this horse for second [place]."
When asked if he thought any of Big Brown's rivals might be out to hinder his colt's attempt rather than trying to win, he said: "I just can't imagine that anybody would go do something stupid just to keep us from winning the race."
When it was mentioned some still believe that's what caused Smarty Jones to lose the Belmont, Dutrow had his own take.
"I think maybe the way they trained that horse for that race going up to the Belmont had a lot to do with him getting beat," he began. "I was at my house and they showed a flash where Smarty Jones was breezing for his Belmont race. He did it at Philadelphia Park on a sloppy, sealed track. It just blew my mind away."
He also believed the way Smarty Jones won the Preakness, with an all-out effort in a record 11½-length romp, played a part.
Big Brown, he noted, had the Preakness well in hand in the stretch and jockey Kent Desormeaux "grabbed a hold and he knew we still had another race to go through.
"I think that the connections of Smarty Jones just were not smart in order to get their job done for the Belmont," Dutrow said. "They should have played it a lot safer, a lot better. I don't see that everybody was after the horse in the race. ... I don't feel like the jockeys and the trainers would care if another horse wins the Triple Crown. Why would they care? Why would they go out of their way to make themselves look not so good in the racing game?"
John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones, seemed to take Dutrow's comments in stride, although he pointed out correctly that Smarty did not have a pre-Belmont workout over a sealed and sloppy track at Philadelphia Park.
"If it wasn't what Rick wanted I can't help that," Servis said in a telephone interview. "I did what I thought was the best thing to do.
"It was just Rick being Rick. He has got a lot on his mind these days, especially with the quarter crack and all. He's under a lot of pressure, and a lot of times we say things we don't mean. I'll take it with a grain of salt."
Earlier Thursday, Big Brown galloped around Belmont Park for the second straight day and remains "right on target" for the Belmont even though the quarter crack has not completely healed.
Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay said Big Brown's injury is 70 to 80 percent healed, adding, "the longer we can treat it the better he gets."
McKinlay inserted stainless steel sutures into the area to pull the crack together Monday, and he will patch the area with a methacrylate adhesive a few hours before Big Brown's final workout before the Belmont.
That workout is planned for Monday, weather permitting.
"It's coming slowly but surely," Dutrow said. "We're just playing it safe, knowing that we just got to get one more breeze in before the Belmont. And we're right on target as far as I'm concerned."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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THE TRIPLE CROWN
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• Cronley: Hard to understand a loser
• Cronley: Mopping up
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• Paulick: Big Brown vs. Greatness
• Forde: Gangs of New York
• Plonk: Sign of the times
• Finley: Un-American
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• Plonk: The Dutrow Projects
• Paulick: We've been here before