Two down, one to go. That’s all Big Brown needs to win the Triple Crown, culminating with this weekend’s 140th running of the Belmont Stakes.
The 2-5 favorite won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes earlier this year to set himself up for the No. 1 position in Saturday’s race. If Big Brown does in fact win, it will be thoroughbred racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 30 years and only the 12th in history.
As with all potential Triple Crown opportunities, the days leading up to the race and the stories surrounding the favored horse lend the already prestigious event an added aura of excitement – and give us all a reason to waste a day drinking Belmont Breezes in preparation of a mere two-and-a-half minutes of actual racing.
Keeping pace with the rest of the professional sports world, horseracing is also making headlines for alleged steroid use, including by Big Brown.
Due to an injury – a wall separation in his front hooves – Big Brown missed 90 days of training prior to February, when he was then injected with the steroid Winstrol. According to a report in The New York Times, Winstrol is legal in 28 of the 38 states where horse races are held, including the Triple Crown races.
There are critics who say steroid use in horse racing is no different than its use by Olympic sprinters during training. But horse trainers contend steroids improve the horses’ appetites and aid in muscle recovery after workouts.
Big Brown’s trainer, Rick Dutrow, has repeatedly said that his horse did not receive any injections in the five weeks surrounding the three Triple Crown races and that his horse should be considered steroid-free.
I can already imagine the would-be-naysayers marking Big Brown’s Triple Crown win – if it indeed happens – with an asterisk. Or saying that the win shouldn’t count because of his ’roiding past. This is all wrong and we should hear none of it. Unless we see an extreme upward trend in Triple Crown winners in the next 30 years, horseracing should consider the benefits steroid use has on the sport. While I don’t have a degree in veterinary medicine, I honestly believe that the steroids given to these horses are for training and health purposes. And that’s the difference between horse ’roiding and Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire bulking up to superhuman proportions.
I can’t help but not like Big Brown and his chances. Who doesn’t? I think we would all like to see another 3-year-old horse crowned. And I like Big Brown’s outspoken, party-ready trainer as well. Earlier this week Dutrow told the Times that he’s “got the best horse in the race.
“He’ll get me to the finish line. There’s nothing left to beat. Wherever the wire is, he’ll get me there.”
Dutrow has even taunted the owner of 7-2 second choice Casino Drive, a Japanese-owned horse, by saying that Big Brown will be galloping into the winner’s circle before Casino Drive hits the quarter pole. Even though Dutrow has been called a flake in racing circles, he brings a new type of trash-talking to the scene, and that’s a nice change from the usual “We are just going to let her run” or “We will race our race” from most trainers.
Finally, we have a little excitement in the stables.
Even though Telluride doesn’t have OTB anywhere in sight, you better believe my money will be on Big Brown. I like the confidence of the trainer, and the unimpressive times turned in by Casino Drive earlier this week are nothing to fret about. Yes, it will be Big Brown in the winner’s circle wearing the traditional blanket of carnations (of more than 300 flowers).
Oh yeah, if you are looking to get into the spirit of the Belmont Stakes, which is the oldest race in the Triple Crown and the most fashionably casual (ladies, no need to wear that ridiculous hat), here is the recipe for its traditional drink, the Belmont Breeze.
The Belmont Breeze
1.5 oz. Jack Daniels
.75 oz. Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry
.75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
.75 oz. Simple Syrup
1.5 oz. Fresh Orange juice
1.5 oz. Cranberry juice
Shake ingredients with ice and top with half 7UP and half soda water, approximately one ounce of each. Garnish with fresh strawberry, mint sprig and a lemon wedge.
– Original Recipe by Dale DeGroff