They say whenever you suffer a major setback, you should get right back on the horse. But what do you do when you are the horse?
Big Brown triumphed at the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. But instead of making the other horses eat his dust with his usual ease, Brownie revealed the heart and soul of a champion.
He probably felt complacent after handily winning every previous race, especially the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. But it must have shattered his confidence when a perfect storm of misfortune at Belmont made him come in dead last.
Yesterday at Monmouth, Big Brown didn’t look cocky walking to the starting gate. He may have been pondering his options – risk another humiliation like Belmont, or play it safe and retire to Kentucky as a stud-muffin.
But jockey Kent Desormeaux was coming from a race he’d won minutes earlier on Silver Tree, so he had enough confidence for both of them.
Big Brown was well-rested and in better shape than ever. He’d even been training in bare front feet, his hooves were in such great shape.
But he didn’t command the field, and when he started drifting to the outside, I got déjà vu to Belmont. Then “At the eighth-pole, he kind of took off again,” Desormeaux said. “It was like he took a deep breath and kept going for more. That was courage I had never seen in him, courage I didn’t know about because he had always annihilated the competition. Today, he showed me he is a warrior.”
Sensing Brownie’s determination, Desormeaux used his whip for the first time and they passed Coal Play to win by 1 ¾ lengths.
I hope Big Brown is feeling himself again, now that he’s back in the winners’ circle.
What’s next? Maybe one more race like the MassCap on September 20 or the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup on September 27 before his ultimate challenge in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on October 25.