`Big' finish

Favorite Big Brown victorious

Eight Belles euthanized

Kentucky Derby

May 04, 2008|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun reporter

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Big Brown is a very big deal, babe.

The undefeated 3-year-old, who came into the 134th Kentucky Derby with just three career races and heard nothing but reasons he couldn't win, won yesterday with a beautiful performance that silenced his doubters.

Coming from the far outside, Big Brown became only the second horse in Derby history to win from the No. 20 post and became the first horse since Regret in 1915 to win the Derby in only his fourth race - a feat most Derby handicappers said couldn't be done in the modern era.

But Big Brown did it and made it look easy, beating Eight Belles - the lone filly in the field and the only pursuer within sight - to the finish by 4 3/4 lengths. Then, in a terrible scene, Eight Belles dropped to her knees as she was galloping out. The brave filly broke both of her front ankles and had to be euthanized on the racetrack.

"I was shocked," said Larry Jones, Eight Belles' trainer. "Put her down? We're used to trying to save them now. But when I did see her, there was no doubt it had to be done."

Big Brown carried jockey Kent Desormeaux to victory over the 1 1/4 -mile Churchill Downs track in 2 minutes, 1.82 seconds.

He took the lead at the mile mark from Bob Black Jack and never paused.

"Going down the backside, I didn't know if I had any horse," Desormeaux said. "He was just galloping, floppy-eared, off the bridle, cruising, and I remember a trainer told me once that's the difference between good guys and bad guys.

"A bad guy would have told him to make sure he had some horse. I just left him alone and let him canter until I needed him, and when I needed him, I showed him the stick and whoosh, [he] puts me in a new position."

Desormeaux said he made two moves yesterday, one going into the turn and then another at the three-sixteenths pole. "Every time I asked him for something, it was just like leaving the starting gate," he said.

The Derby victory is Desormeaux's third, putting him in company with Isaac Murphy, Earl Sande, Angel Cordero Jr. and Gary Stevens. Only three others have won more: Bill Shoemaker with four, and Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack with five each.

"This ride was perfect," Desormeaux said. "It was a dream, an uneventful cruise down the front side the first time. No distractions. No alterations in course. Just slide over, and he did it so within himself."

As Desormeaux and Big Brown cruised, many in the field beside him complained of being pinched, bumped, squeezed or otherwise inhibited.

But outside, Big Brown sailed, as did Eight Belles, Denis of Cork and Tale of Ekati.

Denis of Cork finished third, 3 1/2 lengths back, and Tale of Ekati came home fourth.

Recapturetheglory also had a good trip to finish fifth, and afterward, trainer Louie Roussel was delighted.

"I told you he'd run his heart out," said Roussel, who had not been to the Derby since finishing second with Risen Star 20 years earlier. "It took one hell of a horse to beat him. He was moving so good, and then Big Brown went by him and it really just ripped his heart out. He got it back together and ran on well. I'm so proud of my horse, but what about that Big Brown? Wow, what a horse!"

Big Brown's trainer, Rick Dutrow, had been telling everyone that for a week. His confidence irked some and amused others. But the trainer said he was simply telling the truth, the truth his horse was telling him.

He was not bothered by the No. 20 starting post. He was not bothered by the 20-horse field. He was not bothered by limited pre-race experience. He was not bothered by talk of Big Brown's bad feet, which Dutrow insisted were just fine and evidently were.

The trainer, who grew up in Maryland, told anyone who asked to bet his horse to win.

"It was just the way we envisioned things happening," Dutrow said. "We figured, `Hey, let's give our horse a chance to win the race.' We take 20, because maybe he gets one of those inside posts and somebody breaks sharper, comes over [on him]. With the outside post, we were guaranteed a good trip.

"And Big Brown puts himself wherever he wants to be in the race, and that's what he did."

The next stop is Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness.

"When you go after something and keep striving to get it [a Derby victory]," he said, "I mean you're after it and your mind keeps going in that direction. You want it. You want it. You want it. And I just kept wanting it. Now I want the Preakness."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

Derby at a glance

The top three finishers:

Horse Jockey

1. Big Brown Kent Desormeaux

2. Eight Belles Gabriel Saez

3. Denis of Cork Calvin Borel

Time: 2 minutes, 1.82 seconds Margin of victory: 4 3/4 lengths Winning trainer: Rick Dutrow Money: Big Brown paid $6.80, $5 and $4.80; Eight Belles paid $10.60 and $6.40; and Denis of Cork paid $11.60.

UP NEXT: THE PREAKNESS

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