NEW YORK -- Already convinced Big Brown will be the first Triple Crown champion in three decades, Rick Dutrow Jr. is now predicting when it will be safe to start celebrating at the Belmont Stakes.
"I have to think if he ever gets the lead in the Belmont the race is going to be over," Big Brown's trainer said Friday. "I can't see any horse coming up and catching him."
What he's not sure of is exactly when his unbeaten Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will be taken to the front by jockey Kent Desormeaux.
If there's no other horse capable of keeping up with Big Brown early in the 1½-mile Belmont on June 7, "that's only going to help us, make things easier on us.
"I'm not saying we're in a hurry to make the lead," Dutrow added. "At any point, when he's got a head in front, I just can't see someone coming and catching him."
Time and again, Dutrow has said there isn't a 3-year-old in the same class as Big Brown, not even Casino Drive, the unbeaten horse from Japan likely to be the second betting choice in what could be a 10-horse field.
After Big Brown returned from a third straight morning gallop around Belmont Park, Dutrow continued to marvel at his colt, whose dappled coat gleamed in the morning sun.
"Look how good he looks. He just looks unbelievable," Dutrow said. "I can't believe I'm training a horse that looks this good and has done what he's done. Forget about it. There's no way in the world there's any horse that's doing any better than Big Brown. It's impossible."
Big Brown still has stainless steel sutures on the inside of his slightly cracked left front hoof, but hasn't missed a beat since he resumed training Tuesday after missing three days because of the injury.
"Not an issue," Dutrow says over and over again when asked if the injury could affect Big Brown's performance.
In fact, he said he doesn't see anything standing in Big Brown's quest to join the likes of Affirmed, Seattle Slew and Secretariat as Triple Crown champions.
A wet track?
"He would love it. It would work to our advantage," Dutrow said.
"I don't even care about the post position," he said.
"If they said, 'Rick, we're going to run the Belmont on the grass this year, I'd say that'd be fine," he said. "We don't need to worry. He will handle things."
Big Brown has dominated all five of his races. He cruised to a 4 3/4-length victory in the Derby and wasn't asked to exert himself in the stretch. Two weeks later, he came back and won the Preakness by 5 1/4 lengths under wraps after briefly getting caught behind horses around the first turn.
"No matter what you want him to do he's going to do for you," Dutrow said. "I think it helped [the Preakness]. Every time you see him doing the things he does, it's unbelievable. He's not supposed to be doing the things he does."
Can Big Brown overwhelm the Belmont field and win by a huge margin, perhaps approaching Secretariat's record 31-length win in 1973?
"He's a really good racehorse and just hasn't been lining up with other really good racehorses," Dutrow said. "That's why he separates himself."
When Dutrow was about to be asked about the length of the Belmont, he didn't even need to hear the entire question.
"There's going to be more separation," he said. "The longer they go the better off for us."
On Thursday, Dutrow said it was a "foregone conclusion" that Big Brown would become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
"To me, I just see the horses he's in with and I see our horse," he said. "So I expect him to win this race."
Macho Again, winner of the Derby Trial and runner-up in the Preakness, worked a half-mile in 48.20 seconds at Churchill Downs on Friday. Trainer Dallas Stewart said the colt would be shipped to Belmont on Tuesday. ... Dutrow said Big Brown will have his final tuneup for the Belmont -- a 5-furlong workout -- Monday or Tuesday.