Big Brown continues 30 years of pain in Triple Crown pursuit

America expected an imperious, rampant champion, a lap of honour, a first Triple Crown winner in three decades. Instead the abiding image was of Rick Dutrow, slumped alone over a rail in a hidden corner of Belmont Park, the very picture of dejection. All that could be seen of the trainer was his broad, sagging back, his light blue shirt blackened with sweat. His world had come apart, and even American cameras would pry no closer.

Five weeks of bragging had elapsed since Big Brown's sensational success in the Kentucky Derby. In the meantime, the brash, brawny colt had won the Preakness Stakes with equal leisure, and the late withdrawal of his only serious opponent, Casino Drive, had seemed to confirm that destiny finally beckoned an heir to Affirmed, who had become the last of 11 Triple Crown winners in 1978.

But 94,476 sweltering New Yorkers watched in dismay as Kent Desormeaux started to wriggle uncomfortably in the saddle even before leaving the back stretch. It was soon plain that the leader, Da' Tara, was still going far more sweetly and Desormeaux quickly resolved to ease Big Brown, certain that something was amiss. So it was that the 3-10 favourite finished on the bridle, as everyone expected – but coasting home in last place.

No physical explanation arose overnight for his performance. In fairness, there had been no shortage of vultures over Big Brown, who to some eyes had come to distil the moral decay of American racing.

Dutrow had frankly confessed to administering steroids to his horses, and the fact that he was able to do so within the rules focused international attention on their laxity.

As a son of a sprinting stallion, moreover, he represented the reckless lust for speed among commercial breeders since the days of Affirmed. As the only serious dirt race over a mile and a half, the Belmont has thwarted a series of Triple Crown aspirants over recent years. Regardless, there had also been a sense that Big Brown, by fair means or foul, might prove the last of the great dirt champions before the introduction of safer, synthetic surfaces.

Those who took all these factors into account will now be cynically confident that Big Brown's reputation – and value as a stallion – will never be risked again. In the absence of anything that obviously required treatment, one of his co-owners yesterday said that the colt would proceed as scheduled to the big summer meeting at Saratoga.

It was there, back in 1919, that Upset had the temerity to live up to his name by beating the mighty Man O' War. The farrier who shod Upset was grandfather of David Patterson, the governor of New York State, who had expected to present Dutrow with his trophy on Saturday.

Instead, he was shaking hands with Nick Zito, a New Yorker who had also foiled the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones with Birdstone in 2004. "The governor put it best," Zito said. "His relation put the shoes on Upset. That's the game. You keep trying. The champ didn't run his race today. He wasn't himself. Da' Tara was."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent