Belles just took a bad step. It happens. This was unusual in that I
can't remember a horse breaking both ankles. Clearly they had to put
her down. A horse can stand on 3 legs while recovering from surgery
on a 4th, but not on two. She ran a nice race; I had her pegged for
3rd, not that she was outstanding – she definitely wasn't –
but that there were only two good horses in the race: Big Brown, an
emerging superstar who may be the next great one, and Colonel John,
who got caught in traffic, which happens (a lot) in the Derby.
story of Derby Saturday isn't the filly. Like I say, these things
happen. It's a horse who went against history – he had only
three lifetime starts (hasn't been done since 1915), and he won from
post #20 (hasn't been done since 1929). He has yet to win by less
than 4 1/2 lengths, or to look like he couldn't have doubled each
winning margin if his jockey had asked him to.
A month later,
is clearly something wrong with Big Brown in the Belmont. He was
rank and fighting his jockey for the first 3/8 of a mile, and even
after he was in position – third on the outside, in perfect
striking distance -- you could see that the first two jockeys had
more of a hold on their horses than Desormeoux did on Big Brown,
which was an indication that the horse wasn't 100%. And when
Desormeoux tried to put him in gear on the far turn, there was no
response – and this wasn't Curlin he was facing; these were
sub-par 3-year-olds who finished the race in sub-par time. To give
you an indication, had Big Brown run the Belmont at the same pace
At the same pace he'd won the Derby
and the Preakness, he would have finished 22 lengths ahead of the
winner. That is the mark of a horse who's not right.
did the right thing, easing him at the head of the stretch. The
horse had just changed hands for $50 million three weeks ago. You
don't abuse a $50 million horse who is clearly not himself just to
finish 7th instead of 9th.
I write this, the day after the Belmont, they still don't know
what's wrong with the horse. His feet checked out fine. His legs
checked out fine. His heart checked out fine.
I thought they'd probably find some blood in his lungs, but when
they scoped him his lungs checked out fine. I also thought he
probably got kicked when he was in tight quarters going into the
clubhouse turn, but there were no marks of abrasions on him. That
doesn't mean the horse is fine; just that whatever was bothering him
hasn't been found yet.
thought if he won the Belmont he'd probably retire, an undefeated
Triple Crown winner. Now those guys who shelled out the $50 million
are faced with a decision: retire him as a horse who got hot for a
few weeks and never beat a quality animal – or wait for the
Breeders Cup Classic in the late autumn and go up against Curlin, a demonstrably
great horse who has easily beaten the world's best in a pair of $5
million races, here and in Dubai, in his last two starts.