ELMONT, N.Y. -- Jockey Kent Desormeaux never had a clue about what was coming yesterday afternoon.
His horse, Big Brown, was eager in the saddling area, almost fresh with the saddle pony before being loaded into the gate and had plenty of run going into the first turn.
"I thought when I got outside those horses going into the first turn, I said, `That's it, the race is over, I got it.' Fortunately, there's no popped tires. He's just out of gas.
"About the five-eighths pole, I was keeping an eye on the horse in front and I thought, `OK, let's engage and let's at least keep him honest,' and I was done. I had no horse."
A decade ago, Desormeaux rode Real Quiet in the Belmont Stakes, missing the Triple Crown by a nose. It is viewed as one of the most hard-luck losses in the sport.
Yesterday, Desormeaux said the Real Quiet loss has eaten at him for years. But this one simply impressed on him how difficult winning the Triple Crown really is.
"I can't fathom what kinds of freaks those 11 Triple Crown winners were," he said. "It's unfathomable to me. I mean, because I won the Derby with some pressure. I won the Preakness in an armchair ride. And for whatever reason, he wasn't resilient enough today.
"This is unknown to me because he's actually supposed to be a mile-and-a-half horse. He's supposed to be a distance horse. With that being said, I can only - these occasions for me have only made me realize how awesome those 11 horses were."
Casino Drive stalled
Casino Drive, second favorite on the morning line, was scratched early yesterday as a precautionary measure by trainer Kazuo Fujisawa.
"It was very sad for us," said Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto.
Tada said the injury, still thought to be a stone bruise incurred while power-walking the Belmont Park barn-area horse paths, is not serious.
Announced attendance was not near pre-race projections, coming in at 94,476, but those on hand were free with their money. On-track wagering at Belmont totaled $13,233,071 for the 13-race card, a 49.6 percent increase over the $8.8 million wagered last year.
While the wagering record still stands at $14,461,402 bet on Smarty Jones in 2004, yesterday's total was the second-highest on-track handle in the track's history.
Early vet assessment
Dr. Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian at Belmont yesterday, said the reason for Big Brown's performance - or lack of one - will have to wait for a thorough examination.
But Bramlage said he "doubts" that taking Big Brown off steroids in April and off his vitamins over the past week had anything to do with the horse's performance.
Bramlage was also unsure whether the quarter crack in Big Brown's left front hoof or the heat influenced his effort, but didn't dismiss them.
"I would have thought if the quarter crack played any role, he would have shown some tenderness, although I guess it could be minor enough. He's a smart horse. He might have decided it wasn't his day and he was not going to try."