Big Brown set to race again - at the Jersey Shore

June 20, 2008 3:26:49 AM PDT
Big Brown is set for his next race: the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 3 at Monmouth Park.Less than two weeks after Big Brown's Triple Crown attempt ended with an inexplicable last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, co-owner Paul Pompa Jr. said the Haskell on the Jersey Shore will mark the colt's return.

"The race fits his style," Pompa said Thursday. "We were disappointed after the Belmont, and we needed to regroup. We did and the Haskell is the plan."

Big Brown has been training daily at Aqueduct Racetrack, while his poor performance in the Belmont remains a mystery to the owners and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.

"Big Brown is healthy and our plan right now is to keep racing him this summer and fall," Dutrow said in a statement to a congressional committee investigating horse racing safety.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner never seemed comfortable in the 1½-mile Belmont, and jockey Kent Desormeaux eased up with a quarter-mile remaining.

The choice of the 1 1-8-mile Haskell over the 1¼-mile Travers Stakes on Aug. 23 at Saratoga was made based on the track and weather.

"Monmouth is a speed-favoring track and it's comparable to Gulfstream Park, which Big Brown is fond of," Pompa said, a reference to Big Brown's two overpowering wins at the Florida track before the Triple Crown races. "And the spacing between races sets up other options."

Michael Iavarone, co-president of majority owners IEAH Stables, told the Daily Racing Form that it's hotter and more humid at Saratoga, while it's likely to be cooler at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Temperatures on Belmont day reached into the 90s, with oppressive humidity.

Bob Kulina, Monmouth Park's general manager, was delighted by the news.

"It will make it our biggest day of the year and a huge day for New Jersey racing and Monmouth Park," he said. "We have been fortunate to get some good horses. Hopefully, our luck will continue."

Running in early August also leaves open the possibility of another race before the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita - Big Brown's final start before he is retired to stud at Three Chimneys in Kentucky. Pompa said the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Sept. 27 is an option.

Desormeaux, criticized by some for his ride in the Belmont, is expected to retain the mount.

"There's been no discussion on replacing him," Pompa said.

Monmouth Park initiated a Triple Crown race bonus a few years ago that will pay the owners and Dutrow $50,000 each to run their colt in the Haskell. The bonus is worth $25,000 for each Triple Crown race victory.

When Big Brown's breeding rights deal was announced last month, Iavarone said the colt would not run next year as a 4-year-old.

There had been speculation Big Brown's final race would be the Belmont, but Iavarone has said as long as Big Brown is healthy he would continue racing through the Breeders' Cup Classic.