- Big Brown-mania has already reached overseas. Chris McGrath, writing in the UK's The Independent, was so taken with Big Brown that he opined that Dutrow's colt is not only an obvious candidate for the Kentucky Derby, but a feasible rival, later in the year, for Curlin himself. McGrath seems to be getting a little ahead of himself. Or is he? Big Brown got a 106 Beyer for the Florida Derby, by far the best two-turn fig in a Derby prep this season, and did it while dominating what was considered, at least before the race, a strong, wide-open field. It sure didn't get bet like one, did it? I got at least one thing right before the race when I wrote that "I wouldn't be at all shocked to see him go off at 2-1 or even less." It turned into essentially a two-horse betting race, with Big Brown the 3-2 choice, and Elysium Fields, who "was on the verge of a heat stroke when we got him back to the barn" according to Barclay Tagg [DRF], a solid second choice at 5-2. Fierce Wind, 10th at 7-1 (with no excuse that I've seen), was the only other horse in single digits. Even Tomcito, who'd gotten a fair amount of press, was dead on the board, at 12-1.
So the following are some thoughts on the new Derby favorite, and maybe some other subjects as well:
- I don't believe that the Derby distance will be a problem for Big Brown based on his pedigree, and from what we've seen thus far. I know that Boundary is considered to be a sprinter/miler sire, and that we prefer horses from the Raise A Native line based on recent history. But Nureyev, his broodmare sire, should add some stamina, and I love that wacky inbreeding to Damascus and Round Table; the latter in particular, from the Princequillo line, adds some potential staying power to the equation. Also, the dosage guys must love this one; he has a total of 36 Chefs-de-Race (23 in the midrange Classic category) and a dosage index of 1.67.
- I watched the head on replay at Cal Racing - I know that davidrex has been having problems, but I've seen it now several times, so try it again. The horse was all over the stretch, and Haskin described what he saw:
The only odd thing was jockey Kent Desormeaux pulling on the left rein a total of seven times after the colt appeared to drift out slightly. Even as he drifted back toward the rail, Desormeaux kept pulling on the left rein. At one point, Desormeaux’s butt went flying off the left side of the horse’s body before popping back over the saddle. When it did, Big Brown became a bit unbalanced and dipped his head and shoulder for one stride. It didn’t affect the stretch run; it just made for an awkward moment. [Bloodhorse]We've all read about Big Brown's foot problems, but it's entirely possible that it was just him being green. Steve Davidowitz, writing in the subscriber-only DRF Plus section of the Form, contemplates a darker explanation:
Aside from sheer inexperience, Big Brown's shift towards the rail occurred despite a left-hand whipping from jockey Kent Desormeaux, and this raised a potentially troubling question: Was this in any way attributable to the colt's hoof problems that previously interrupted his career?Even if he's just green, I think that's still something to consider before backing him in the Derby at short odds.
While such speculation may be completely off the mark, Big Brown's hoof problems will remain a background issue unless he puts in regularly spaced workouts from now to Derby Day. Given Big Brown's inherent speed and prior physical issues, it is hard not to recall the troubles that affected Unbridled's Song, who won the 1996 Florida Derby just as impressively as Big Brown only to suffer recurring hoof problems during Derby Week that undermined his Derby bid.
- I don't think that Big Brown is going to rate in the Derby should War Pass or someone else flash high speed. A couple of readers mentioned that he rated in his allowance win, but, I've often noticed speed horses that may have appeared to rate at a sprint distance, but don't when they go two turns. Bellamy Road (a horse that I'm keeping in mind in my effort to retain some healthy skepticism here) had a running line like that. Big Brown's allowance race wasn't a sprint, but it was a one-turn mile with sprint fractions early, including a second quarter of 22 2/5. So I don't think his being second was anything more than his being outsprinted at that point. And I believe that if War Pass shows flashes of his old self in the Wood and makes it to the Derby starting gate, there will be a real possibility of a speed duel. Of course, if I'm wrong about that as I may very well be, then maybe Chris McGrath isn't jumping the gun after all.
- Pyro, who has suddenly been forgotten, worked six furlongs at Keeneland in 1:14.60.
“I got him galloping out in 1:27 3/5 and the last five-eighths in 1:00 4/5,” said assistant trainer Scott Blasi, who supervised the move for trainer Steve Asmussen, who was in Dallas.He worked with stablemate Sonoma Cat. You can watch portions of the workout in this Zen-like video on the Keeneland site. I can now see myself starting to get excited about Pyro. I still think that he should be considered the favorite, and I discount the significance of his slower Beyers. If War Pass rules the Wood, and Pyro loses the Blue Grass after being too far back after six furlongs in 1:17, then maybe Asmussen's colt could be third or fourth choice come Derby day.
Keeneland clockers caught the pair in :23 for the final quarter, and :11.20 for the last eighth. [Bloodhorse]
- Georgie Boy is out with a pulled muscle.