It won't be Derby do-over

After Big Brown's easy victory Saturday, trainers quick to decline invites to Pimlico

Preakness

May 05, 2008|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- When Big Brown, the dominating Kentucky Derby champion, arrives in Baltimore in two weeks for the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course, he will find a cast of new challengers.

Yesterday, all but one trainer of the other horses in the Derby field turned down an invitation to the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. Only Louie Roussel, who was pleased with the fifth-place finish of Recapturetheglory, said he is still considering the race.

"[This morning], I will get in my car and either begin driving eight to 10 hours to Baltimore or eight to 10 hours home to New Orleans and take two weeks off," he said. "If I'd finished in the top three, I'd be committed. You'd have to be.

"But we'll think on it overnight. My horse needs the rail and a good trip, because while he has speed, he's not in Big Brown's league. We'll think about it, but we'll probably do the smart thing. Big Brown is fantastic."

Eight Belles, the only filly in the Derby field, finished second but had to be euthanized immediately after Saturday's race when more than a quarter mile after the finish, while galloping out, she broke both her front ankles.

David Carroll, who trained Denis of Cork to a third-place finish, indicated he has no interest in the Preakness.

The situation didn't surprise veteran trainer Nick Zito, who will leave his Derby runners Cool Coal Man (15th) and Anak Nakal (seventh) in Louisville and bring Stevil, who has not won since breaking his maiden in October, to the Preakness.

"It's a salute to the way [Big Brown] ran," Zito said of the Preakness defections. "Taking that horse on in the Preakness from here is a tough task. Big Brown was tremendous. You can't say enough about him, and it just looks like he could carry on on any track. Right now he's an amazing horse."

Part of what impressed Zito and the rest of the Derby competitors was the way Big Brown was able to rate off the lead, a surprise to many, though Big Brown's trainer, Rick Dutrow, had insisted the horse was more than a front-runner.

Saturday, Big Brown, sired by Boundary, started from the outside, the No. 20 post, and seemed to simply bide his time before hitting the go button for a 4 3/4 -length victory over Eight Belles.

Yesterday morning, the filly's trainer, Larry Jones, his eyes puffy and swollen from a near sleepless night, stood outside his barn still disbelieving.

"I keep looking, and she ain't in there," he said. "She ain't coming back. As to why, we'd like to think God wanted her in his stable. He gave us signs all along the way that we were in the race we were supposed to be in. He [God] put her in that race and let her run a great race, and then he took her.

"I know God doesn't make mistakes. There's a reason for this. I just don't know what it is yet."

Jones said his filly ran within herself. Though she couldn't catch the winner, she wasn't fading, running comfortably in second, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Denis of Cork. Asked about Big Brown, Jones smiled.

"I'd just as soon let him be our next Triple Crown winner and let my filly go out in glory," he said.

Big Brown's win made him the first horse since Regret in 1915 to win the Derby in just his fourth career start and the second to win from the No. 20 post. But while competitors seemed ready to concede the Preakness to Big Brown, Dutrow, who had been nothing but confident about a Derby victory, voiced concern.

"I know he's the best horse," Dutrow said. "But we're talking about running again in two weeks, which I don't like, and a new group of horses that might include a hot-shot speed horse. Pimlico is a different game, babe."

Besides worrying about preparing his horse in the two-week window, Dutrow, who grew up in Maryland and helped his father train and race his horses at Pimlico and Laurel Park, was not shy about stating his dislike for the Pimlico racing surface.

"Big Brown, he's supposed to love Pimlico," Dutrow said. "It's a speed-favoring, tight-turned racetrack, which suits him. But I don't like it. The surface is too hard, and the harder the surface, the harder the track is on the horses. Bad things can happen."

A few barns away, Zito laughed.

"He's something," Zito said. "If he hates Pimlico so much, tell him to stay home and I'll bring three horses to take his place."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

EVENTS SCHEDULE

Preakness

May 13

At Federal Hill Park Pee Wee Preakness, 11 a.m.

May 14

At War Memorial Plaza, City Hall Preakness Frog Hop, noon

May 15

At Lexington Market Preakness Crab Derby, noon At Turf Valley Resort Preakness Balloon Festival, 3 At the Power Plant Miller Lite Nites, 7:30

May 16

At the Can Company First Friday, 6 Marshall Crenshaw concert At Belvedere Square And They're Off, 6 Crawdaddies concert At Harbor East Twas the Night Before Preakness, 6 Ryan Shaw concert

May 17

At Howard and Conway streets The Preakness Parade, 11 a.m. At Pimlico Race Course 133rd Preakness, 6:05 p.m.

AT A GLANCE

What -- 133rd Preakness Stakes

When -- May 17

Where -- Pimlico Race Course

What to watch for -- The dominance of Big Brown in Saturday's Kentucky Derby has intimidated other trainers in the Derby field and could set up a historic first. Should Recapturetheglory's trainer decide not to bring him to the Preakness, it would be the first time in 50 years that no horse advanced from the Kentucky Derby to challenge the Derby winner in the second leg of the Triple Crown. In the past 50 years, as long as charts have indicated a horse's previous race, only two other times, in 1960 and 1980, have as few as two horses - the Derby winner and one challenger - advanced to the Preakness.

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