MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: A $200 MILLION CUP?
Ray Paulick will be live blogging the teleconference featuring trainer Rick Dutrow and IEAH president Michael Iavarone as they discuss the foot injury that ended Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown’s racing career earlier today. The teleconference, organized by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. UPDATE: Only Michael Iavarone will participate in the conference call.
2 p.m. … Eric Wing of the NTRA outlines the week ahead. Jess Jackson will be on a teleconference Tuesday to discuss whether or not Curlin will be pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup; on Wednesday, someone from the NTRA will discuss safety and welfare recommendations resulting from industrywide meetings on Thursday the Breeders’ Cup pre-entries will be announced in a teleconference.
The first speaker on the call is Michael Iavarone, president of IEAH Stable, co-owner of Big Brown with Paul Pompa Jr.
2:05 p.m. … Michael Iavarone said "today was a tough day." He was there to watch the work with his family and co-owner Paul Pompa Jr. He said Big Brown worked in company with Kip Deville on the turf and both horses went well. "I had my daughter in my arms," Iavarone said as he walked back to the barn. When he got there, trainer Rick Dutrow told Iavarone, "I think we are in big trouble with Big Brown." Dutrow said a large chunk came out of the right front foot and blacksmith Alex Leaf said there was no chance the horse could run in the Breeders’ Cup. The injury, called grabbing a quarter, occurs when the back foot strikes the back of the front hoof.
"This was a tremendous blow to the gut of all of us," said Iavarone. He said Big Brown would have a few tough days ahead, though this is not a life-threatening injury. Iavarone expects him to remain in New York for about a month before leaving for Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., where he will take up stallion duty in 2009.
2;10 pm. … The injury would have required a minimum of 60 -90 days to heal, said Iavarone. "Horses grabbing quarters happens in Thoroughbred racing all the time," said Iavarone. "He tore it up so bad that even if he had wraps he could grab right through there. … We have done everything we could to keep this horse going in the right direction. … To have this come up just shocks all of us."
2:12 p.m. … "He’s a one in a million as an owner and as far as the fans are concerned, there are going to be more Big Browns that come down the road. Continue to market and advertise them. Horses like Big Brown and Curlin are great for the sport. As long as we continue to advertise and market these kinds of horses, the game is going to be OK."
2:15 p.m. … "As a fan I want horses to stay around forever, naturally. But I’m a fan and an owner and have responsibilities to the other owners. As much as I am a fan, I have to look at this as a business. … We capitulated to the agreement (whereby Three Chimneys insisted Big Brown go to stud as a 4-year-old)."
2:17 p.m. … Iavarone is asked to describe how the injury happened. "What I’ve heard is that someone said he may have taken a funny step at the 3/8 pole." Iavarone didn’t see it from his vantage point. "To me the work looked outstanding." The bulb on the back of the front foot was split right in half, Iavarone said, and a piece of the hoof also got caught up in the injury.
2:20 p.m. … Was this related to other foot problems? "It’s unrelated. It’s not even a foot problem. He grabbed his quarter and it’s not related to any pre-existing conditions. It’s the first time it’s happened to me in a work. It’s just a stroke of bad luck."
A question about Curlin and the anticipated matchup. "The banter that went on between the two camps was almost like professional wrestling. Rick and I were having fun with it. We have no problem with Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen. ,… Curlin is a special horse and I hope he makes it to the race. I’m devastated today. I felt going into it we didn’t have a lot to lose. We had a lot to gain."
2:22 p.m. … "The key right now is we have to prevent infection. He’ll heal. That’s the only way thiis could become serious." The injured area has to be cleaned out and Big Brown will be given antibiotics. "He’s walking very sore but he can stand on it."
2:23 p.m. … Iavarone describe watching today’s work as two F-16s in formation.
2:24 p.m. … "We still own a significant piece of Big Brown. … They (Three Chimneys) were great in structuring a deal that kept us in the game."
2:25 p.m. … Iavarone said he and his wife stayed up late last night watching a replay of the Kentucky Derby and he admitted getting a little tear in his eye, but said to his wife there’s still one big race ahead.
2:26 p.m. … "He had no front shoes on," Iavarone said in response to a question about whether or not Big Brown was wearing toe grabs for the turf workout. "No bandages, no wraps, no (toe) grabs, nothing."
2:27 p.m. … "Rick Dutrow is a genius around a racehorse. He got more out of this horse in my eyes than any trainer in the world would have. What we were starting to see was a changeover from (Big Brown’s) utter brilliance to his heart. He developed a heart as big as his physical ability was. If we got to the point where he could put the two together you would have seen something breathtaking. It kills me at this point, it kills me, to get this close and not to see it happen."
2:30 p.m. … "Rick handled this with incredible class," Iavarone said, when asked about the mood at the Dutrow barn. He said it was a time to reflect on the good times and not dwell on the bad luck that ended Big Brown’s career.
2:31 p.m. … Iavarone is asked about whether or not he’ll be cheering for Curlin if he goes in the Classic. "I am completely in Curlin’s corner. If they give me a Curlin hat I’ll wear it."
Almost simultaneously, a statement was distributed from Jess Jackson, the majority owner of Curlin: "My family and I are saddened to learn of Big Brown’s career ending injury during his morning workout. I have always said what an incredible horse Big Brown is and that the bay colt brought energy and excitement to our industry, especially during his run at the Triple Crown.
"I am equally disappointed that Big Brown and Curlin will never compete against each other. It was a dream of mine and thousands of other fans of the sport. Now, we all join together in wishing Big Brown a speedy recovery."