Big Brown slightly injures hoof

May 25, 2008 2:14:37 PM PDT
Triple Crown contender Big Brown has a slight crack to his left front hoof, although trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. expressed confidence Sunday the injury won't keep his colt from running in the Belmont Stakes in less than two weeks. But the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner has missed two days of training at Belmont Park, and will miss at least several more while being treated by hoof specialist Ian McKinlay for a five-eighths of an inch crack on the inside of his left heel.

"We're all concerned because there's a big race coming up," Dutrow said at a Sunday news conference outside his barn. "But Ian has us pretty well relaxed."

The trainer said he was 100 percent confident Big Brown would be in top form when he attempts to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978. "I sure am," he said.

The injury was detected by Dutrow on Friday, who wasn't sure what the problem was so he summoned McKinlay, who treated Big Brown for more serious front foot issues - abscesses in the soles of each of his front feet that led to wall separations - last year and again in January.

McKinlay treated the cracked hoof with an iodine and alcohol solution Sunday, and said he will take a closer look Monday, perhaps patching it up and inserting a set of wires before stitching up the area.

Big Brown has won all five of his career starts by a combined 39 lengths and will be the heavy favorite to take the Belmont on June 7 and end a 30-year Triple Crown drought. With three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont, it gives Big Brown a little more time to recover, even if he does miss substantial training time.

"If it was two weeks we would be nervous, but since we have an extra week I'm as cool as we can be. It's bad that this happened, but it's good that it happened at this time," Dutrow said.

McKinlay downplayed the severity of the problem, noting that a best-case scenario would allow Big Brown to return to the track on Thursday.

But what if the problem worsens?

"The worst case is he doesn't make the race," Dutrow said. "The horse is in great shape. He doesn't know anything is wrong with him. When you touch it and put pressure on it, he's going to give. But the worst possible thing that could happen is he doesn't make the race, and that will only hurt human beings. Not him. He's laying back, not worried about anything."

Dutrow was understandably subdued.

"It scares us when something like this happens, but I got Ian assuring me it's going to go down like clockwork and he's still going to run the same race," Dutrow said. "This has nothing to do with his ability to finish what he starts. ... Now if something else happens, then we're going to be in trouble."