Between 1997 and 2004, six horses entered the Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown. Most took or approached the lead at some point in the race but lost steam down the stretch. Real Quiet, with Desormeaux aboard, came closest, losing by a nose in 1998.
Starting too fast is considered the kiss of death at the Belmont, the longest race in the Triple Crown by a quarter-mile. But it's not the only potential pitfall.
In 2003, Funny Cide couldn't adjust to a muddy track. (Today's forecast for Belmont Park calls for sunny skies and a high of 89 degrees).
In 2004, Smarty Jones' handlers felt that opposing riders Jerry Bailey and Alex Solis ganged up on the favorite, who lost by a length.
"It is a hard thing to win," Rosenberg said of the Triple Crown. "That's what makes it special."
Despite all those possible factors, horse people remain confident in Big Brown.
"I think it's gonna be easy for him," said Barclay Tagg, who trained Funny Cide and will saddle Tale of Ekati for this year's Belmont.
If Big Brown fulfills that prediction, he will be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed survived three fierce duels with Alydar in 1978. That capped an unusual run of great 3-year-olds, which began with Secretariat in 1973 and continued with Seattle Slew in 1977.
Big Brown's owners, IEAH Stables, have said that win or lose, he will probably run in the Travers Stakes this summer and in the Breeders' Cup Classic in October. After that, he'll retire to a stud deal with Kentucky's Three Chimneys Farm worth at least $50 million.
If he wins the Triple Crown, observers will immediately wonder whether he belongs in the same company as Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. His times suggest not, ESPN analyst Edwards said, but Big Brown should get credit for the variety of circumstances he has surmounted.
"He's not winning by a length," she said. "He's blowing the field away, separating himself by daylight from the pack. That speaks volumes."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Today, 6:25 p.m. post time, Elmont, NY, TV: 2,7