Big Brown wins Haskell with desperate stretch drive, proves courage under fire
by Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com
August 3, 2008 — Big Brown did what good horses do in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Sunday - he won on pure heart. It was a performance that looked eerily similar to his Belmont Stakes debacle except this time he wasnt pulled up he was asked demanded in fact - to win by jockey Kent Desormeaux and he came through with a desperate 1 -length victory over 20-1 Coal Play.
This time he left nothing on the track.
Big Brown broke on top but was quickly engaged on the outside by Coal Play. As in the Belmont Stakes, Desormeaux took a hold of Big Brown and almost made the same mistake of bumping and jostling on the first turn when he tried to get Big Brown off the rail, but Atoned to his outside didnt prove to be a problem. Big Brown settled into a perfect pace-pressing position just outside of Coal Play and the race was on.
After a quarter in 23.05 Coal Play was half a length in front. Coal Play then opened a 1 -length lead and got the half in a good 46.59. Coal Plays lead was back to only a length after six furlongs in a solid 1:10.85, but as they moved into the turn for home Big Brown looked like he was in trouble. In fact he looked exactly the same as he did in the Belmont Stakes on that final turn he was being asked and responding only enough to barely keep up with Coal Play. Jockey Joe Bravo had asked Coal Play for more and he was responding with the race of his life, getting the mile in 1:35.20.
After two taps on the shoulder with the whip in late turn it was clear Big Brown was not going to win this race without a full out run-over-broken-glass effort. Coal Play came into the stretch with a two length lead and it was decision time for Desormeaux. Either he ask the obviously-not-right Big Brown to run or pull him up again. Desormeaux made the right decision. He went to the whip. Right-handed. Whack! Wait. Whack! Wait. Big Brown started to roll. Whap! Whap! Whap! Whap! Four successive cracks of the whip and he found anther gear. But it still wasnt clear who would win.
Big Brown felt the sting of the whip 11 times in the stretch and finally got by Coal Play late while drifting out over the final 200 yards. It was a courageous performance by a horse that obviously wasnt at the top of his game. And give Desormeaux credit. He did what he had to do to get the job done, whether he wanted to or not.
The final time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:48.31. Coal Play came up with the performance of his life to finish 1 -lengths behind the winner and 4 -lengths in front of second choice Cool Coal Man. It was another 2 -lengths back to Alaazo. Nistles Crunch, Atoned and Magical Forest rounded out the order of finish, but really this looked like a two-horse race from the time they entered the final turn.
Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr. owned by IEAH Stables and partners, and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown paid a paltry $2.40 to win. The 3-year-old bay colt by Boundary-Mien by Nureyev improved his lifetime record to 6-0-0 from seven starts and increased his earnings to $3,614,500.
Based on the desperate nature of his win in the Haskell, theres probably a good chance we wont see Big Brown race again. But he did prove something on Sunday. Something we all wanted to know.
Big Brown has heart.
Haskell Invitational Results and Payoffs
Monmouth Park, Race 13, Sunday August 3, 2008
4 Big Brown $2.40 $2.10 $2.10
6 Coal Play 8.00 4.20
2 Cool Coal Man 2.80
$2 Exacta 4-6 paid $25.20
$1 Trifecta 4-6-2 paid $32.70
$1 Superfecta 4-6-2-3 paid $218.80
$1 Pick 3 1-4-4 paid $78.80
$1 Pick 4 3-1-4-4 paid $849.10