NEW YORK - The crack in Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown's left front foot is on the mend, and the colt could be on the track by tomorrow to resume training for the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay opened the slight quarter crack yesterday and inserted stainless steel wire stitches to draw the crack together. The 10-minute procedure went smoothly, McKinlay said, and Big Brown was walked around the barn and returned to his stall, where he has been since the injury was discovered Friday.
"Basically, we've done what we can right now," McKinlay said. "It might be 48 hours before we see the full result of stabilizing the quarter."
McKinlay and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. were optimistic Big Brown would resume training later in the week and stay on course for his attempt to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.
McKinlay will return to Belmont Park tomorrow to examine the hoof, then likely clean out the area, replace the stitch to just "snug up the crack" and then cover it with adhesive. The next step would be to place a fiberglass reinforced patch on the crack, "one that is probably stronger than the hoof wall." McKinlay said.
Dutrow said the break in training will not affect how his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner runs in the 11/2-mile Belmont.
"It's just a little hiccup on the way over there," Dutrow said. "That's all it is. The time that he has missed means nothing to me or him."
If all goes well, Big Brown could gallop tomorrow and keep training up to a final workout five days before the Belmont, weather permitting.
"As long as we get one breeze in him that's all I was looking for," Dutrow said. "I'll play it safe [today]. The most we'll do is ride him around the shed row. I want Ian to look at him [tomorrow], and if he says 'go,' that's exactly what we're going to do. If he says give him a couple more days, that's what we'll do."
McKinlay has repaired injuries much more severe before big races, allowing Touch Gold to fight off a leg injury from the 1997 Preakness and go on to win the Belmont and spoil Silver Charm's Triple Crown try.
A quarter crack is a vertical crack in the hoof wall between the toe and heel of the hoof, usually extending into the coronary band, where the hoof meets the skin of the leg.
The injury is fairly common and not considered serious. Healing time can range from a few days to a few months, depending on the severity of the crack.
Foot woes are nothing new to Big Brown. When he first arrived at Dutrow's barn in Aqueduct late last year, he had an abscess in the sole of his left front foot, which caused a wall separation and sidelined him 45 days. In January, he suffered the same injury to his right front foot and missed another 45 days.
The quarter crack is minor compared to the earlier injuries.
"Those were major obstacles," McKinlay said. "We are not in that realm at all. By [today], we will know right where we are. If that foot cools right out, we're extremely close to putting him back together."