Horse racing: Dutrow’s goal is Triple Crown

With each passing day, trainer Rick Dutrow’s confidence remains high that Big Brown has a good chanc
Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. shares a laugh with reporters as he talks about Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)
Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. shares a laugh with reporters as he talks about Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)

With each passing day, trainer Rick Dutrow’s confidence remains high that Big Brown has a good chance to win the Triple Crown.

That’s what the horse is telling him, anyway, through his daily habits and excellent recovery from the Kentucky Derby. All systems go.

Next Saturday’s Preakness at Pimlico appears to be shaping up as anywhere from a 10- to 13-horse field, with only one horse, Recapturetheglory, coming out of the Kentucky Derby to challenge Big Brown a second time.

Dutrow gushed a confidence that some found grating — and some found refreshing — heading into the Derby, and nothing has diminished his cocksure attitude since then.

“I’d say he’s even money to win the Triple Crown,” Dutrow said during a national teleconference on Thursday.

In one breath, Dutrow doesn’t mind speculating about the prospect of having the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978; in the next, he’s just happy to get through each day in which nothing bad happens to his Boundary colt.

“I’ve got to tell you, since this horse won that allowance at Gulfstream, we’ve been taking it one day at a time,” Dutrow said. “You can’t wait for that next day to go by without any problems. After the Derby, I would’ve loved to just party and party and party, but I couldn’t wait for that next day, and put that day behind us. We’re just trying to get rid of these days.

“Judging from what I’m seeing, he seems to not be totally falling off his game. That’s where we need him, and that’s where he’s at.”

Big Brown will be lightly trained up to the Preakness, and will blow out a quarter-mile the morning of the race so Dutrow can see how the track is playing.

Recapturetheglory looks like the only horse who might try to be the pace-setter, and Dutrow said he’ll be comfortable whether Big Brown is on the lead or not, especially after he rated so well after breaking from the extreme outside in the 20-horse Derby.

“In the Derby, he had four, five inside of him, so there was no reason to go up any further,” Dutrow said. “And it gave our horse a chance to learn as he was going along, too. I can’t see anyone stealing it on the front. It looks like we have the best horse in the race, and it’s kind of a speed-favoring track.

“Then, in the Belmont, he’ll have some fresher, better horses looking at that spot, and we’ll be looking at our third race in five weeks. They’re not machines; he’s not a machine. So it looks like the Belmont will be the one we have to worry about. The Preakness looks like it’s in our favor. If we can get over the two-week thing, we’ll be OK.”

The rest of the Preakness field is shaping up to include Kentucky Bear, Yankee Bravo, Tres Borrachos and Hey Byrn, all of whom were pointed to the Derby, but didn’t have enough graded stakes earnings, and Racecar Rhapsody, Stevil and Behindatthebar. Riley Tucker and Macho Again are possible, as is Harlem Rocker, depending on how a scheduled work at Belmont Park goes this weekend for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Some are already projecting Big Brown to carry odds as low as 2-5, but not everyone is ready to concede him the Preakness.

“Let’s not get Big Brown into the Hall of Fame too soon here,” said Reade Baker, who trains Kentucky Bear. “He was certainly the best of those horses. Under different circumstances, the filly [Eight Belles] might have won.”

Baker and owner Bear Stables Ltd. adjusted their gameplan with Kentucky Bear, and ran in the Blue Grass to try to get enough stakes earnings, but he was third to Monba and Cowboy Cal.

He trained at Keeneland the morning of the Derby, and breezed a half-mile in :59, a work Baker called brilliant.

“He did it literally galloping, so to watch the race was tough,” Baker said.

Kentucky Bear, the Grade II Fountain of Youth winner, was the first Preakness hopeful on the Pimlico grounds, arriving on Wednesday, and jogging around the track twice Thursday morning.

The rest are expected to start trickling in on Sunday.

Big Brown, Tres Borrachos and Racecar Rhapsody are scheduled for the same flight from Kentucky on Wednesday.

Hey Byrn was pointed to the Ohio Derby, but his owner, Bea Oxenberg, wanted to take a crack at the Preakness with the Grade III Holy Bull winner, trainer Eddie Plesa told the Daily Racing Form on Thursday.

Trainer Louie Roussel wants to give fifth-place finisher Recapturetheglory a second chance because he believes his colt’s Derby was compromised by trouble he experienced in the Churchill Downs paddock and the tunnel leading out to the track.

In the tunnel, Recapturetheglory got overexcited and tried to lunge away from his handlers, unseating jockey E.T. Baird.

“It was all the two handlers could do to keep him from taking off. When we schooled him in the morning, he was great, but when you add 100,000 people, that’s different,” Roussel said. “He ran his race in the paddock, and then came out to the tunnel and threw the jockey off. Believe me, it was all Eddie could do to get back on. It looked like it knocked the wind out of him.

“I was right there. E.T. went off, and his goggles were scattered all over the place. It spoke to his courage that he got back on and rode a very good race. I went into the TV room to watch it, and said, ‘I’m done.’ ”

To counteract the antics, Recapturetheglory will wear cotton and earplugs when he gets to the track on raceday, and they’ll be removed right before he gets in the gate. Roussel said it will also help that saddling for the Preakness takes place in the infield, away from the noise of the grandstand.

West Point Thoroughbreds’ El Gato Malo had been considered for the Preakness, but will run in the Grade III Lone Star Derby

today instead.

weekend stakes

With the Preakness nearing, the Belmont Stakes is already on the horizon for some of the 3-year-olds who will use today’s Grade II Peter Pan at Belmont as a springboard.

Tomcito was pointed toward the Derby, but didn’t have enough stakes earnings, and he wasn’t suited to the tight turns at Pimlico, so he’s looking at the Belmont, trainer Dante Zanellitold the New York Racing Association.

“It’s too bad, because I think he would have run a heck of a race in the Derby,” Zanelli said.

Also looking to use the Peter Pan to get to the Belmont are two Japan shippers, Casino Drive and Spark Candle.

Casino, who broke his maiden by 111⁄2 lengths going nine furlongs in his only career start in February, is a half-brother to 2006 Belmont winner Jazil and a three-quarters brother to 2007 Belmont winner Rags to Riches.

Also on the card is the Grade III six-furlong Bold Ruler, which has drawn seven, including another Roddy Valente-owned horse on a hot streak, Callmetony. The 7-year-old gelding has won two straight, and has hit the board in six straight for the Loudonville resident, going back to last September.

On Sunday, Saratoga Springs-based Partingglass Racing will send out its Grade II winner, Dave, in the Kingston for the second year in a row against the 2007 winner, Red Zipper, trained by Shaker High School graduate John Morrison for owner Jeffrey Tucker.

Partingglass is on a roll since Belmont opened last week, winning a turf allowance with Ambidaxtrous on opening day and another turf allowance with Sweet Madness two days later. Each filly is trained by Tom Bush, and has won twice this year.

steep prices

Ticket applications for the 2008 Breeders’ Cup on Oct. 24-25 at Santa Anita are available online at www.breederscup.com.

Grandstand reserved seats must be purchased for both days and range from $200-$600 per seat. Infield patio seats at tables are $125 per day, infield lawn seats at tables are $50 per day and admission-only tickets are $20 per day for general admission and $50 per day for the clubhouse, not counting $10 per day for parking.

Applicants can check a box to be eligible for an upgrade to

“Premium” seats priced at $800-$1,000 for the two days.

sanford tour

The Friends of Sanford Stud Farm will hold an open house at the historic broodmare barn in Amsterdam on Saturday, June 21, to raise money and awareness about their efforts to restore the barn.

The Sanford Stakes at Saratoga Race Course is named in honor of Stephen Sanford, who owned Sanford carpet mills in Amsterdam and bought the Sanford Stud Farm outside the city in the 1880s, later building Sanford Stables across from the Saratoga track in 1901.

Sanford Stud Farm went on to become one of the world’s largest breeding facilities from the 1880s to the 1950s, occupying over 1,100 acres. Today, most of the farm has been sold for commercial development, but the once magnificent broodmare barn that is such a rich part of New York racing history still stands.

Friends of Sanford Stud Farm is raising funds to restore the barn and open it as a Heritage Center to recount the Sanford’s legacy. The group envisions having interpretive and educational displays to make it a cultural and educational destin­ation for people of all ages.

The group is also hosting a Friends luncheon at the track for the July 24th running of the Sanford Stakes. Information about that event and other activities can be found on the group’s Web site, www.SanfordStudFarm.org.

around the tracks

Grand Couturier, the upset winner of the Sword Dancer at Sar­atoga last year, had his first work, an easy half-mile in :50.56 at Belmont on Wednesday, after a long vacation in Florida. Trainer Robert Ribaudo wanted to run Grand

Couturier in the Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day, but will probably wait for the Man o’ War on July 12 as a prep for his return to the Aug. 16 Sword Dancer. …

Attendance, handle and purses were up at the recently concluded winter and spring Aqueduct seasons.

From January 1 to April 27,

average daily attendance rose

5.7 percent, from 2,610, to 2,760, daily average on-track handle jumped 4.3 percent, from $602,659, to $628,295, with total handle growing 11.2 percent, from $45,199,421 to $50,263,568.

The daily average for all sources handle was up 3.7 percent, from $7,847,427 to $8,139,712. …

Friday marked the end of an impasse between NYRA and 16 tracks associated with the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative that had prevented the simulcast of NYRA racing to those tracks. The signal returned to Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, Freehold Raceway, Atlantic City Race Course, Philadelphia Park, Penn National Race Course, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Charles Town Races, Delaware Park, Dover Downs, Harrington Raceway, Ocean Downs, Rosecroft Raceway, Colonial Downs, Suffolk Downs and their various off-track betting entities.

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