NEW YORK - The street sweepers rolled past the stables at Belmont Park more than an hour before Big Brown arrived, as workers hurried to finish painting his new home at Barn 2.
About two dozen photographers and TV cameramen lined up to wait for the horse that could become the first in three decades to win the Triple Crown.
"He's a rock star," said Michael Iavarone, copresident of the horse's majority owner, IEAH Stables. "You wouldn't expect anything less."
Big Brown seemed unimpressed by the people scurrying around him, his trademark calm on display, as he made the short walk from his van to his stall. His preparation for the Belmont Stakes began yesterday as he made the trip up from Maryland.
Big Brown's arrival, around 2:20 p.m., had a red-carpet feel. A police escort accompanied his van into the facility. A UPS truck and deliverymen were on hand as part of the sponsorship agreement with the company he's named after.
"He's deserving," jockey Kent Desormeaux said. "He's that good."
The June 7 Belmont is still nearly three weeks away, but the chance to make history is getting Big Brown the celebrity treatment. If he follows his dominant victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with another win, Big Brown would complete the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
"He is thoroughbred racing right now," Iavarone said. "Everybody's here to see him. Thoroughbred racing needs it. It's been 30 years, and we haven't had a horse like this in a very long time."
For the first time since Smarty Jones in 2004, a horse has come to the Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown.
"It's a tremendous difference when the Triple Crown is a possibility," said John Lee, director of communications for the New York Racing Association.
The cameras will roll during Big Brown's workouts. The fans will flock to catch a glimpse of him.
"People want to say they were here for history," Lee said.
Big Brown was accompanied on the van by his groom, Herasmo Gonzalez. Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. and Big Brown's exercise rider, Michelle Nevin, rode in a car that followed the van throughout the trip of more than four hours.
Big Brown will stay in Stall 8 at Barn 2, previously occupied by the 2003 Belmont winner, Empire Maker.
Empire Maker spoiled Funny Cide's Triple Crown bid. Barn 2 is used by Bobby Frankel, perhaps Dutrow's best friend in the business.
Big Brown will work out again on May 31, Dutrow said. He'll go out for a jog tomorrow morning.