At the races - Big Brown's bust raises questions

June 15, 2008|By Larry Yanos

What's wrong with this picture?

In the same week:

1. Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. admitted Big Brown and stablemates have been using the anabolic steroid Winstrol this year;

2. Alex Waldrop - president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association - emphasized to all listeners that a ban on anabolic steroids is very important to the racing industry and will likely be implemented in 2009.

Who's on first?

Big Brown's effort, or lack of such, in last Saturday's Belmont Stakes has racing followers perplexed.

The strapping 3-year-old colt looked like a shoo-in to win the mile-and-a-half race and claim the Triple Crown ... but a strange thing happened on the way to the Forum.

Dutrow, the Hagerstown native, said he didn't use Winstrol before the Preakness Stakes or the Belmont Stakes, but did say he usually gives his horses Winstrol on the 15th of each month.


The anabolic steroid is permissible in several states - including New York, Maryland and Kentucky - but has recently come under heavy scrutiny.

Dutrow did give Big Brown the steroid before the Kentucky Derby. He also has said he did so before the Preakness, then backtracked, insisting he did not.

The bottom line is that the thoroughbred racing industry desperately needs a national drug policy. Right now, every state does its own thing. Trainers shipping horses from track to track are always faced with a new - and different - set of rules and regulations.

It doesn't make sense.

Playing the blame game

In the days following the discussions on anabolic steroid use, the controversial Dutrow took a verbal swing at jockey Kent Desormeaux - blaming the veteran rider for Big Brown's stunning last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

It's the same old story: A horse wins five in a row and the trainer is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Lose one race and it's the jockey's fault.

If we glance back at the history book, the trainer of Man O' War led his thoroughbred to 20 wins in 21 starts. Of course, the lone defeat was the fault of the jockey.

Getting back to the current issue, Dutrow told The Associated Press in his barn at Aqueduct, "I don't want to hurt anyone, especially Kent. But I still don't understand what happened. I don't see the horse with a problem, so I have to direct my attention toward the ride. That's all I can come up with."

With Big Brown attempting to become the first Triple Crown champion in 30 years, Desormeaux eased the unbeaten colt with a quarter-mile remaining in the Belmont Stakes.

"I had no horse. He was empty," Desormeaux said after the race.

Dutrow insisted he had found nothing wrong with Big Brown and is still searching for answers.

Desormeaux was a convenient target.

Everyone has a theory.

For what it's worth, mine would be:

1. Lack of training due to the injured hoof;

2. Lack of "juice" after having it in his system all the way up to and including the Kentucky Derby;

3. Heat and humidity at Belmont Park;

4. The mile-and-a-half is a tough, tough distance for a 3-year-old carrying 126 pounds unless your name happens to be Secretariat;

5. Just a bad day at the office: Ted Williams didn't go 4-for-4 every day, did he?

Charles Town Dash

The $200,000 Charles Town Invitational Dash will be held Saturday at Charles Town Races & Slots.

The Dash, for colts and geldings at 4 1/2 furlongs, highlights an evening of open stakes competition which will feature $500,000 in purse money.

The racing card has been named "The Charles Town Sprint Festival" and 147 horses have been nominated or invited.

Invitations for the featured $200,000 Dash for 3-year-olds and upward are led by the 125-pound highweight Ravalo - a winner of three consecutive stakes races at three different tracks.

Other notable invitees include Eaton's Gift, winner of this year's Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream Park; Grade III winner Noonmark and graded stakes winners High Finance and Lucky Island.

The evening of racing also will include three other $100,000 open stakes events - the Lady Charles Town (3-year-old fillies at 4 1/2 furlongs); the West Virginia Sprint Derby (3-year-olds at 4 1/2 furlongs); and the Red Legend Stakes (3-year-olds at 7 furlongs).

Pony tales

* The New York Racing Association reported that 94,476 people were on hand at Belmont Park last Saturday to witness yet another Triple Crown upset with longshot Da' Tara going wire to wire in the 140th Belmont Stakes. The victory ended heavily favored Big Brown's attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

NYRA reported on-track wagering on Belmont Stakes day races totaled $13,233,071 for the 13-race presentation, up 49.6 percent from $8,843,720 in 2007. An additional $507,776 was wagered on track on incoming simulcasts, making the total on-track handle $13,740,847, up 43.4 percent from $9,580,465 in 2007.

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