As a two year old all he was, was, a little know, yet very impressive maiden winner, of his first start on the turf. Nobody would ever have guessed what he would go on to become in just the next year. At three years old he became one of the most brilliant and captivating horses racing has seen in recent years. He drew comparisons from sports writers, handicappers, and fans of the sport, saying he was the best since Spectacular Bid, whose trainer called him the best horse to ever look through a bridle. This young, upstart of a colt’s name was Big Brown.
I myself heard of him after he demolished a field of allowance horses, in a race moved off the turf onto the main track. He won by a margin just under 13 lengths. I remember reading that he, form there was going to be pointed towards America’s biggest race for thoroughbreds, the Kentucky Derby. Sports writers were saying that he could be another Curlin, who just last year went from a maiden winner, to Preakness winner, to Breeders Cup Classic winner, all in just eight months. No way, I thought, how can there possibly come along another horse that can equal what Curlin has accomplished. I looked up his maiden and allowance wins on Youtube, and after watching them all I could do is stare at the screen in pure amazement. This horse was going to become the next racing great.
I’ll fast forward to his next race, the Florida Derby. I was unable to see it live, though, as soon as they became available to see on the Internet I sat down to watch. Again I was just astounded at the ease in which I watched Big Brown over come the outside post, a death sentence a Gulfstream, go to the lead to set blistering fractions, and then pull away from the field like they were all standing still. No horse was supposed to be able to do these kinds of things. Despite this, I still went with the more battle tested and experienced, West Coast star Colonel John as my pick for the Derby. Well, I can say to that is how stupid of me was that.
On Derby day Big Brown again just demolished the field. Breaking from post twenty, out of twenty horses, Big Brown stayed right behind the lead group of horses, racing four to five wide the whole race. This all did not matter to Big Brown, because when the time came for him to run he exploded, bounding away from the field to become the first Derby winner since Regret in 1915 to win the Derby off of just three career starts. He also became only the second horse to win from the post position twenty, the last to do that was in 1929. What makes this win all the more impressive is that he completely crushed his opponents by almost five lengths, and he did it with ease. Now he had the whole racing world wondering, just how good is Big Brown.
Two weeks later Big Brown answered with incredibly easy victory in the Preakness. He practically cantered under the wire with his jockey keeping him under a strong hold. Again nobody came close to Big Brown as he won by five lengths, now he was looking to become just the 12th Triple Crown winner, the first in 30 years. By Belmont day people were so sure of Big Brown’s ability they did not question whether he’d win, they were wondering by how much he would win by, some predicting a Secretariat like performance. As the gates swung open though, it was clear this was not the same Big Brown who routinely thrashed his rivals. Big Brown never finished and was eased in the stretch.
Nobody knows why Big Brown was so off his game that day. Some people say that a picture showing a bent and loose shoe was the main cause, others say missed training, or a bad ride, but it will forever remain a Triple Crown mystery. What we do know is that in his next race, the Haskell Invitational Big Brown came back with a bang. He was not as dominant as he had been in the past, but he showed he had the heart of a warrior when he ran down the free running Coal Play in late stretch. In his next race the Monmouth Stakes Big Brown was back on the lawn. Again he show he had the heart of a true champion, as he went to the lead setting brisk fractions, and still held off a hard charging Proudinsky by a head. What is most impressive is that Proudinsky never even went by after the wire, once Big Brown had seen him, he dug in and absolutely refused to let anyone by.
Big Brown was now set to begin preparations for the Breeders Cup Classic, where he would meet California’s synthetic sensation Go Between, some of the best horses from Europe, and most importantly Curlin, last year’s horse of the year and that year’s Dubai World Cup champion. This by some was said to be the race of the year, and possibly the decade.
Fate seemed again, to conspire against Big Brown. Only a few weeks were left until the Breeders Cup when the racing world learned that Big Brown had injured himself during a morning breeze and would not make the Breeders Cup. The champion had grabbed a quarter, taking a chunk out of the heel and bulb of his foot. From there Big Brown was retired to begin life as a stud.No matter what some say about him Big Brown was and still is a great horse.
Some may say you can’t be great after only racing in eight lifetime starts, I say yes you can. Big Brown displayed the brilliance, the dominance and the swagger you rarely ever see in a race horse, he did things that horses just aren’t suppose to do. His Kentucky Derby was incredible, and will never be equaled by another, and up until the Belmont he steam rolled ever horse that dared challenge him. After the Belmont, even though he was not as brilliant as he had once shown, he displayed the heart of a true champion when looked in the eye.
Many will argue that he was drugged up in each of his more dominating victories, but to me he still had no real advantage. The drug he was on, in my opinion, was like the equivalent of a human taking a Advil or Aleve to help dull or cope with a nagging pain you may have, so that you can perform to their normal standards. Lastly, what impresses me most is that he accomplished all these great things on feet so brittle, that were constantly plagued by quarter cracks. Knowing that fact makes you appreciate what he did all the more. Looking at him, is he the greatest or the very best of race horses, no, but he is right there with them holding his own. Big Brown is and always will be a great horse.