Friday, June 6, 2008

Big Brown Seeks Triple Crown Victory Despite Injury

24-7 - Big Brown has cruised through the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes to become the heavy favorite in tomorrow's Belmont Stakes as he vies to become the first Triple Crown winner, since Affirmed in 1978, despite being plagued by a "quarter crack" hoof injury (a split in the hoof wall, traveling down from the hairline).

Big Brown suffered the ailment to his left front hoof, but the 3-year old spirited runner is showing remarkable signs of progress during the recovery phase. This particular hoof injury can take anywhere from just a few days to several months to heal completely; however, these types of injuries are very common and the nominal insult to Big Brown's hoof is not nearly as severe as those he has suffered in the past. He was sidelined for about six weeks when he developed an abscess in his hoof; a short while later, he formed a second abscess in another hoof and was out of commission for another 45 days. This current affliction appears to be minor and hoof specialist Ian McKinlay is taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure that he will heal in time for the big race.

Big Brown is appearing to run better and the horse is showing consistent signs of improvement day after day, so it looks like the Belmont Stakes will be on in full force for this potential Triple Crown winner. According to McKinlay, the injury appears to be healing very well on its own. Iodine and alcohol have been used to treat the injury and the thoroughbred is apparently experiencing little to no pain. The Belmont Stakes is geared to take place June 7th and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. is extremely confident in Big Brown's ability to take the Belmont Stakes in Triple Crown honor. Dutrow claims, "Everything is right on target. He is by far the best horse in the race."

The crack in Big Brown's hoof is expected to be sealed with an acrylic and fiberglass patch, but the colt may have more to contend with than just an injured hoof, as Japanese trained horse, Casino Drive, winner of the May 10th Grade II Peter Pan Stakes, is considered the biggest competitor to possibly stop Big Brown from achieving his ultimate goal. Casino Drive is the half brother of the past two Belmont Stakes winners, Jazil and Rags to Riches.

Undeterred, Dutrow is extremely confident that his horse will come out on top. When asked about Casino Drive, Dutrow stated, "I don't have a good fix on that horse, but I know that the horse is not at the top of his game. There's no way. I've seen this horse. My friends around the stables have seen this horse. There's just no way this horse can beat Big Brown in a horse race. That's impossible." Nonetheless, the question on everyone's mind remains: will this injury, no matter how "minor," affect Big Brown's performance at Belmont?

While many bettors will be choosing Big Brown to win the race, the most difficult aspect will be calculating the other top finishers in the race. Scores of horse racing enthusiasts turn to professional handicapping services to assist them with their race analysis. "There are many horses in the field that have an opportunity to hit the board," says James Morrison, President of Operations for the online handicapping website, "it should be an interesting race, particularly since there is a potential Triple Crown winner."

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