Big Brown and jockey Kent Desormeaux compete at the 140th Belmont Stakes BELMONT – It was everything it had been built up to be. From the media hype to Kent Desormeaux’s guarantee of a Triple Crown win, all eyes were on Desormeaux and Big Brown as they entered the gates at Belmont to make history.

It was everything it had been built up to be. That is, until the gates were opened and the famous words of track announcer Tom Durkin were uttered…

“And they’re off!”

But when the nine horses and their jockeys bolted out of the gates, something else felt off. With Casino Drive, Big Brown’s biggest threat, a scratch, Desormeaux and his freak of a racehorse should have been a sure winner. Maybe it was all the pressure of being expected to be the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years, or just a tired horse that ran out of gas after giving it all he had in his previous two races, blowing away the competition.

Big Brown never looked like he had what it took, Saturday, to pull out the win. When Desormeaux steered his horse to the outside, seemingly comfortable in third place, it was inevitable that he would make his move like he had in so many other races and leave the rest of the field in the dust.

That never happened.

Instead, Big Brown failed to pull away, and his once overly confident jockey decided that it wouldn’t happen.

He did, however make history. Rather than risk further injury to what he called the “best horse he had ever been on top of,” Desormeaux wisely pulled up and Big Brown became the first Triple Crown hopeful to finish Belmont in dead last.

Ian McKinlay, the foot specialist who had worked on Big Brown’s quarter crack that was suffered following his win at the Preakness, denied that the injury is what held him back.

If that’s the case, maybe it was karma slapping trainer Rick Dutrow in the face for his arrogance. Or, maybe it was the lack of steroids.

While not illegal in the sport, numerous racehorses are given steroids. It was well documented that Big Brown had been given the drugs prior to each of his previous races. Dutrow, however, wanted to show off his work and prove just how strong his horse was by winning the final race of the Triple Crown without the extra help. Boy did that backfire. Not only was it a devastating loss that might have drastically reduced the value of his prize horse, it was Big Brown’s first ever loss. And a big one.

The horses and trainers shouldn’t be faulted for using the performance enhancers. It’s virtually an even playing field given that all horses use them. Dutrow tries to figure out what went wrongBut by not winning the Triple Crown without the extra help, does that mean that Big Brown’s legacy, specifically the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, should carry an asterisk? There are probably some skeptics that will say there is no question. But if he happened to pull out the win, he would have had his own place in history, possibly ahead of the previous 11 Triple Crown winners. By not using the steroids, Dutrow was trying to prove a point. Like him or not as a person, he was playing on an unlevel field. Sure, he might have been a little cocky by allowing his horse to race against others that were enhanced. But being overly disappointed for Big Brown not winning on Saturday is almost like getting bummed that an unjuiced baseball player doesn’t hit as many home runs as one that shoots up regularly.

Big Brown will no doubt have his name permanently etched in the history books of horseracing. Whether or not his legacy is tarnished by the actions and decisions of his trainer is a different question. Perhaps Dutrow had what was coming to him. Big Brown should be appreciated for the beast that he is and receive nothing but congratulations. Hopefully, for the sake of the fans, he will have more opportunities to race in the future and can answer questions that are in the minds of many critics and casual fans.

Dutrow, on the other hand, will have to come up with a worthy answer to the question that is being begged from the lasting image that was captured at the conclusion of the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes – “Why the long face?”

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