Preakness: Big Brown is 2-for-2
By Beth Harris
BALTIMORE ó Big Brown charged to the lead turning for home and then cruised down the stretch to win the Preakness on Saturday, still perfect and squarely pointed toward thoroughbred racing’s first Triple Crown in 30 years.
“We should have enough horse to get the job done,” said trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., who had predicted his bay colt would win the first two legs.
Just as he did two weeks ago in a Kentucky Derby marred by the breakdown of Eight Belles, the colt named for UPS delivered another stunning win, this time by 51/4 lengths. Macho Again was second and Icabad Crane was third.
The Belmont Stakes will be run June 7. It’s been three decades since Affirmed swept that race along with the Derby and Preakness to give racing its 11th Triple Crown winner.
Big Brown broke from the middle of an undistinguished pack and jockey Kent Desormeaux took him off the pace. He was fourth the first time past the grandstand, behind pacesetter Gayego. He moved up to third on the first turn, where he stayed all the way down the backstretch.
“My whole job in that first half-mile was to keep his face clean,” Desormeaux said. “There’s not a grain of sand on most of his body.”
The decisive moment came approaching the final turn, when Desormeaux angled Big Brown out three-wide for clear running room. As he hit the top of the stretch, Desormeaux simply crossed the reins to let Big Brown know it was time to take off.
He didn’t even need the whip in the stretch.
At least twice, Desormeaux ducked his head under his right arm to check on the fading competition. There was no need. Big Brown was in total control.
“I looked between my legs, under my arms, they were eight back,” he said. “I just stopped riding, reeled him in and just made sure he didn’t pull up. He just kept kicking his legs up and striding for the wire.”
He added: “What a lovely ride I had.”
In the Derby, Big Brown started on the far outside of 19 horses and used an explosive finishing kick to win by 43/4 lengths, the tightest margin in his 5-0 career. He’s won those races by a combined 39 lengths.
The muscular colt joined Majestic Prince (1969), Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (1977) and Smarty Jones (2004) as undefeated Derby and Preakness winners.
“He’s just shown up every step, every way,” Dutrow said. “I just can’t imagine him not showing up for the Belmont.”
Big Brown is the first 3-year-old since Smarty Jones to head for the Belmont Stakes with a triple try in play.