Dutrow has reason to talk up Big Brown

Times Staff Writer

The world's most over-analyzed race is upon us again as the Kentucky Derby will be run for the 134th time today at Churchill Downs.

Every year, all kinds of theories, systems and general nonsense are written about or discussed endlessly on why certain horses will or won't win the Derby.

Here's to keeping it simple: Big Brown, a lightly raced son of Boundary, is the best and fastest member of his class and is the choice to make it four victories in a row.

Considering how Big Brown humbled his rivals in three starts in New York and Florida, it is easy to understand why trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. is so confident. Dutrow's bold proclamations and overwhelming faith in his colt are refreshing in a sport where trainers often spout the same hackneyed phrases when questioned about their animals and how they will fare in a particular race.

Despite all that is on the line, Dutrow has made it clear that he will go to the windows and put his money where his mouth is.

Don't think this is idle chatter. Dutrow bet big -- a reported $160,000 -- to win on Saint Liam when that talented horse took the 2005 Breeders' Cup Classic.

Much has been made of Big Brown's inexperience. The fact he has raced only three times is why some say he can't win the Kentucky Derby, but some of those same folks said he couldn't win the Florida Derby because he had post 12 or that Barbaro couldn't win the 2006 Derby because he hadn't raced in five weeks.

What's next? Big Brown has no chance because no horse with a two-word name where both names begin with a B has won the Derby since Ben Brush in 1896?

If Big Brown does not win today, it won't be because of a lack of seasoning. He will simply be outrun. The best 3-year-old doesn't always win the Derby. To name a few, Risen Star (1988), Point Given (2001), Afleet Alex (2005) and Curlin (2007) were clearly at the top of their respective classes, but all failed -- for one reason or another -- to capture the roses.

Opting for the outside in the field of 20, Dutrow guaranteed Big Brown won't have any pressure to his right when leaving the gate, and jockey Kent Desormeaux will be able to survey what's going on inside of him before deciding his course of action.

Although Big Brown won the Florida Derby on the front end, he isn't a need-the-lead type. He will sit if necessary and wait for his rider, who has won the Derby twice previously, to push the button.

Colonel John, the Santa Anita Derby hero, is probably the main threat. The son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow has thrived since arriving in Kentucky and should relish more ground. He overcame adversity to win in Arcadia, but that race is looking less impressive by the minute.

Monba is being dismissed by many because he won the Blue Grass over the Polytrack at Keeneland, but the Maria's Mon colt wasn't that far behind Colonel John in the Hollywood CashCall Futurity last Dec. 22 and is one of six in the field with a win over the Churchill Downs main track.

Eight Belles is an entrant who will get a lot of attention because she is seeking to become only the fourth filly to win the Derby, joining Regret, Genuine Risk and Winning Colors. Having seen the latter two, Eight Belles is not in their class, and her odds aren't likely to reflect her true chances of winning.

The Unbridled's Song filly has won four in a row, but her last victory in the Fantasy at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., was not a thing of beauty against only three opponents.



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