Big Brown on Curlin: “One of us had to lose.”

October 27, 2008

By Fred

I was honored to be the first cat to interview Big Brown. He spoke to me by phone from an undisclosed location where he’s recovering from an accidental self-inflicted wound he sustained on his right front foot during a workout. He was forced into early retirement, missing the climactic race of his life – the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on October 25 – his matchup with 2007 Horse of the Year, Curlin.

Fred: Brownie, you’ve dropped out of sight. Your fans want to know how you’re doing.

Big Brown: I’ve never been better, Fred. I’m hanging out at the stable surrounded by big baskets from fans of apples, carrots, and lump sugar. I even smoke an occasional cigar since I’m not in training anymore.

F: Did you watch Curlin’s race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic?

BB: You call that a race? I could have outrun Curlin wearing loose shoes and one hoof tied behind my back. What a prima donna! He let artificial turf throw him so that Brit, Raven’s Pass, could beat him. He even let old Tiago get by. That never happened in any of my races.

And what was that braided mane all about? If Rick Dutrow had tried to tart me up like that before the Derby, I’d have kicked him into next Tuesday.

F: Speaking of your humans, did you hear your owner, Michael Iavarone, talking about the death threat he claims he got before the Belmont if anything happened to you?

BB: I think that guy will say anything for some ink. He must have been threatened by The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. I was a train wreck in the Belmont. What horse walks across the finish line? But Iavarone’s still in one piece, so what happened to that so-called threat? Why didn’t he go to the police?

F: I also heard that PETA wants Iavarone to take a pass on your $50 million stud deal and have you castrated so future generations of thoroughbreds won’t inherit your foot problems.

BB: Easy for PETA to say. I’m being put out to pasture while I’m still in my prime. What the hell am I supposed to do for the rest of my life if they don’t let me have some fun with the fillies? Take up knitting and Sudoku?

F: You’re a superstar. Even with a big name like Curlin, the Breeders’ Cup seemed a little flat without you.

BB: Thanks, kid. I am going to miss that adrenaline rush, the crowd cheering me on, and those blankets of flowers. But Smarty Jones tells me life’s good at Three Chimneys. I’ll miss my jockey Kent Desormeaux, but not Ricky the Needle. Around the stables, that’s what we horses nicknamed that dirt bag, Dutrow. He gave me a steroid habit, then made me quit cold-turkey right before my Triple Crown shot in the Belmont. I’m thrilled that some states are finally outlawing steroids, but I still pity Dutrow’s next protégée.

F: Do you think Curlin was relieved that you skipped the Breeders’ so you weren’t there to see him come in fourth, after all the hype?

BB: Personally, I’ve got nothing against Curlin. But the way the system works, one of us had to lose, and I’m glad it was him.

Big Brown’s Biggest Problem: His Trainer

June 12, 2008

By Fred

Horse trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. became the second biggest loser at Belmont when he blamed the jockey after no medical reason was found for Big Brown’s last-place finish, blowing his Triple Crown chances.

Kent Desormeaux is the same jockey who rode Big Brown to victory in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He’s said Brownie is the “best horse I’ve ever ridden,” and he should know, being a Hall of Famer with nearly 5,000 victories under his cap.

While sports writers crucified Dutrow for dissing everyone, including the other horses at Belmont – by calling Big Brown’s win a “foregone conclusion” – Desormeaux maturely approached Dutrow and they reached an understanding.

Theories abound about what happened, but I think they’re underestimating Big Brown’s intelligence. He’s an unbeaten champion who found himself stuck in a herd on a miserably hot day. When he decided, “To hell with this,” it didn’t matter what Desormeaux did or didn’t do.

Big Brown has a mind of his own. You could see his usual joie de vivre was missing going into that race, although the talking heads kept praising his “calmness.”

Fortunately, Big Brown will get another chance – with Desormeaux in his saddle. If all goes well, they’ll compete in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 23 at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 25 at Santa Anita.

Not that he’ll ever admit it had anything to do with the pep disappearing from Big Brown’s step, but Dutrow’s putting Brownie back on the steroid Winstrol on June 15.

I never thought I’d get attached to a horse, but I look forward to seeing Big Brown make a big comeback, in spite of Dutrow.

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