LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- While trainer Rick Dutrow considers the circumstances less than ideal, the connections of the survivors of Saturday's 134th Kentucky Derby appear to have conceded the Preakness to Big Brown.
"The next race is out of my hands," Dutrow said, "because it's coming back in two weeks. I like to train a horse for a race, but I'm not going to have a chance to train him. I'm just going to kind of play around with him. The timing is not good for me. I know he looks like he's the best horse in this crop, but still he's got to go over there in two weeks and he's got to show up there the right way again. There's going to be some new horses. I don't think I'm going to feel as confident because I really love training a horse for a race. I can't do it now. My hands are tied.
"It's very difficult; I'm kind of worried about it. When the horse goes into a race the right way, good timing and all, I don't see anything beating him. But now, it's not happening. You've got to come right back off that huge, huge race. Pimlico's a different game. It's just two weeks and the turns are so tight ... that might be to our advantage. But I don't like two weeks.
"I don't see that he beat a great Derby field, so I wouldn't know how to judge things. Like Secretariat -- the best crop I've ever seen in my life, and he beat them -- he took them to the cleaners ever time. I'm not going to compare him against past horses. It just wasn't a strong Derby field other than our horse."
Still, the crushing blow delivered by Big Brown in the Derby, has convinced the trainers of the vanquished that a plan that does not include a trip to Pimlico is the more prudent course of action.
Denis of Cork, third behind Big Brown and the fatally injured filly, Eight Belles, in the Derby, will await the Belmont Stakes, trainer David Carroll said on Sunday. Barclay Tagg will reserve Tale of Ekati for the final leg of the Triple Crown as well.
The only Derby starter still under consideration for the Preakness, Recapturetheglory, who set the pace and finished fifth, awaits a decision that will come quickly. "We are getting in the car [on Monday] and either driving eight to 10 hours to Baltimore or New Orleans," said co-owner and trainer Louie Roussel, who trained Risen Star to a Preakness win 20 years ago.
The list of likely Preakness starters is short. As of Sunday, four horses not in the Kentucky Derby are considered likely starters by Pimlico officials -- Lexington Stakes winner Behindatthebar, El Gato Malo, who was excluded from the Derby on the graded stakes earnings rule, Giant Moon, most recently fourth of nine in the Wood Memorial, and Kentucky Bear, the third finisher in the Blue Grass Stakes. Harlem Rocker, undefeated in three starts and winner of the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, is a possibility but more likely to pursue the Canadian Triple Crown.
Those hesitant to board the Big Brown bandwagon before the Derby are thoroughly convinced. The enormity of winning the Kentucky Derby with only three prior starts, against suspect competition and while overcoming an outside draw in a field of 20 is daunting. Those who may have considered testing him in Baltimore have been given pause. The few who see the 12-furlongs of the Belmont Stakes as a potential equalizer are willing to wait and rest for five weeks. And during that time Big Brown will have another race, a victory in which will propel him to New York undefeated.
There is one Goliath among the 3-year-olds of 2008. The search begins for a David.
Paul Moran is a two-time winner of the Media Eclipse Award, and has received various honors from the National Association of Newspaper Editors, Society of Silurians, Long Island Press Club and Long Island Veterinary Medical Association. He has also been given the Red Smith Award for his coverage of the Kentucky Derby. Paul maintains paulmoranattheraces.blogspot.com and can be contacted at email@example.com.