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Inside job is required for win

Big Brown draws the No. 1 post for the Belmont Stakes. He remains heavy favorite.

June 05, 2008|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Big Brown, who has had success starting from the outside, will test the inside in Saturday's $1-million Belmont Stakes.

Big Brown, attempting to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 30 years, got post position No. 1 in Wednesday's draw at Belmont Park and was installed as the 2-5 favorite.

Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby from the 20th and outside post and the Florida Derby from the 11th and outside post. So the rail wasn't what trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. wanted.

With three positions left in the draw -- 1, 3 and 5 -- and Big Brown still not assigned a number, track announcer Tom Durkin, who conducted the proceedings, asked Dutrow which one of those three he preferred. Dutrow said No. 5.

But on the next draw, that position went to Casino Drive, the 7-2 second choice. Then No. 1 went to Big Brown, with Macho Again, a legitimate contender who will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, getting No. 3 on the last draw.

If Dutrow was disappointed, he didn't show it.

"I just can't see the post getting him beat," he said. "If he breaks good out of the one hole, it will be to our advantage. And if he doesn't, he'll have plenty of time to get out there.

"We'll take it."

Jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "Obviously I'm going to have to jockey for position."

The Belmont was expected to attract a field of nine, but that grew to 10 with the surprise late entry of Guadalcanal.

And that entry might present a problem for Big Brown, since Guadalcanal will start in post position No. 2.

Guadalcanal, the longest shot in the field at 50-1, is winless in five starts and has run only in maiden races, although he finished second by a nose the last time out -- in a $39,000, 1 1/2 -mile turf race at Churchill Downs on May 23.

Having never run in a big race in front of a big crowd, Guadalcanal could bump Big Brown, impede him, or somehow cause him to get off to a bad start.

Coincidentally, another horse named Guadalcanal ran in the Belmont in 1961, finishing third, according to Bob Benoit, longtime racing publicist and photographer and former Hollywood Park general manager.

The original Guadalcanal was a son of 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation and also ran in the Hollywood Derby in 1961, finishing sixth. Sherluck, who won the Belmont that year, finished eighth.

In the '61 Belmont, odds-on favorite Carry Back, trying to complete the Triple Crown, finished seventh.

On Wednesday, Dutrow continued to express confidence in Big Brown and downplay the quarter crack on the inside of Big Brown's left front hoof. It is called a quarter crack because it is located in the quarter of the hoof between the toe and the heel.

Dutrow has been saying the injury might be a blessing, that maybe missing a few days of training gave Big Brown a needed rest.

"He couldn't be any better and I couldn't be any happier," Dutrow said Wednesday. "He was very rough this morning, which we really liked. He is ready to run, looking for action."

Former jockey Jerry Bailey, who will work ABC's Belmont coverage Saturday as a commentator, shed some light on the situation during a conference call with reporters.

"The injury doesn't put the horse in any real danger," he said. "It's more a minor annoyance. Worst case, the horse is not able to put out a 100% effort."

Then, voicing an opinion similar to what others in racing have been saying, Bailey added, "I think they may be downplaying it a little bit."

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larry.stewart@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Belmont Stakes field

Post positions and field for the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, N.Y. Distance: 1 1/2 miles.

Purse: $1 million. Winner's share: $600,000. Saturday's post time: 3:25 p.m. PDT. TV: Channel 7.

*--* PP HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER ODDS 1. Big Brown Kent Desormeaux Richard Dutrow Jr. 2-5 2. Guadalcanal Javier Castellano Frederick Seitz 50-1 3. Macho Again Garrett Gomez Dallas Stewart 20-1 4. Denis Of Cork Robby Albarado David Carroll 12-1 5. Casino Drive Edgar Prado Kazuo Fujisawa 7-2 6. Da' Tara Alan Garcia Nick Zito 30-1 7. Tale Of Ekati Eibar Coa Barclay Tagg 20-1 8. Anak Nakal Julien Leparoux Nick Zito 30-1 9. Ready's Echo John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 30-1 10. Icabad Crane Jeremy Rose H. Graham Motion 20-1 *--*

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BELMONT STAKES

Where: Belmont Park, N.Y.

When: Saturday.

Post time: 3:25 p.m. PDT.

TV: Channel 7.

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