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Bill Dwyre

Racing finds a horse worthy of crown

May 18, 2008|Bill Dwyre

BALTIMORE -- The winner of Saturday's Preakness could be better named. They should call him Foregone Conclusion.

Big Brown isn't bad. In his case, it's more a description than a name.

The UPS people certainly like it. They bought in to sponsorship rights after he routed the field in the Kentucky Derby. For the next three weeks, you will read 37,000 permutations, clever and corny, about what Brown can do for you. Expect to be told often how this horse, like UPS, will deliver for you. How they're both on time, always first. Etc. Etc.

Options are leaving the country or keeping your TV turned off.

That's why, Foregone Conclusion would be more accurate and less prone to upcoming commercial overkill.

The foregone conclusion is that Big Brown will win the June 7 Belmont, making him the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. That's a huge deal. In the 30 years since Affirmed did it, 10 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and failed in the Belmont. That includes Real Quiet 10 years ago, with Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown's jockey, in the saddle.

Real Quiet lost by a nose. More like an eyelash.

Desormeaux talks about his regrets in that one. Not likely he'll have regrets on Big Brown. This time, he's not riding a horse, he's strapped to a rocket ship.

The jockey called his race an "armchair ride."

He broke from the seventh hole, tucked in behind several others horses, slid close to the rail so he didn't have to run 20% farther than the other horses as he did in the Derby, then waited until it was time to switch on the after-burners.

Just before turning for home, Desormeaux moved his hands forward on the reins three or four times and Big Brown went to a gear other horses only dream of.

"I just let him go. I said bye bye," Desormeaux said.

He won by 5 1/4 lengths and Desormeaux was holding him back at the end.

"He's going back to the barn," Desormeaux said, "and he only used half a tank."

The jockey called the performance "scintillating." Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. called his horse "Godzilla."

Southern California trainer Paddy Gallagher, whose Yankee Bravo was in the group of 11 others mostly running as stage props for Big Brown, said, "It looks like Big Brown might win the Belmont farther than Secretariat."

Secretariat won by 31 lengths in 1973, completing the first Triple Crown in 25 years. He died in 1989, but that race remains immortal for sports fans. One 3-year-old doesn't dominate like that. Secretariat did, and now Big Brown is.

Somehow, after Saturday's romp, mentioning Big Brown in the same breath does not seem sacrilegious.

He is special, blessed, not mortal. It's not fair to the other horses. Racing him is like giving Pete Sampras three serves, letting Wilt play on a seven-foot basket, fighting Ali with one hand.

Big Brown's next race shouldn't be the Belmont. It should be the Indy 500. Gentlemen, start your engines. Big Brown, saddle up.

They needed to make this Preakness a handicap race. Start the 11 props in the Pimlico Gate and Big Brown in Bethesda. Horses like him used to produce great match races. Wouldn't work for Big Brown. The other horses would call in sick.

The sport badly needs a Triple Crown. That has been well-documented. Not so well documented is what the other 11 entrants needed after this Preakness.

A shrink.

Big Brown went off at 1-5 odds. If you want to bet him in the Belmont, you'll need a second mortgage just to get a $100 profit. They'll probably make the other Belmont entrants wear blinkers. Not for racing strategy but for hiding the shame.

There was a nice breeze at their backs when the Preakness horses turned for home. For 11 of them, a cyclone wouldn't have been enough,

The Preakness record for the 1 3/16 -mile race is 1 minute 53.46 seconds, held by three horses. Big Brown went 1:54.86 with Desormeaux pulling on the parking brake. They have held 132 previous Preaknesses, and this might be the first time the winner walked across. Longshot Riley Tucker finished last, about the same time Big Brown was munching oats.

There is a horse named Casino Drive who wasn't entered in the Derby or Preakness but apparently has the pedigree to challenge Big Brown in the 1 1/2 -mile Belmont. Dutrow admitted it was a good horse, a challenger worth watching.

He was asked if he'd take Casino Drive in an exacta bet, a wager that picks the first and second finishers, and, when boxed, works in either order.

"It's a cold exacta," Dutrow said, meaning there was no need to box the bet because there was no question about first place.

It is three weeks until the Belmont, and we'll hear plenty about this marvelous horse in that time. Even more if he does the expected and wins.

After that, Big Brown probably will run in the Travers at Saratoga in upstate New York, followed by the Breeders' Cup in October at Santa Anita. More great exposure for him and the sport in two large media markets.

After that, the end will be near. His owners have a huge deal for syndication rights, which means he will be much more valuable making babies than winning races and racing fans. What a treat to see him race as a 4-year-old, even 5.

Little chance.

In most sports, when a star is born, he is allowed to star. In racing, he is sent away.

Don't look at it as a possibility. Consider it a foregone conclusion.

--

Bill Dwyre can be reached at bill.dwyre@latimes.com. To read previous columns, go to latimes.com/dwyre.

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