NEW YORK - So far, there doesn't seem to be a crack in the confidence of camp Big Brown.

Twelve days before the Belmont Stakes, hoof specialist Ian McKinlay began repairing a quarter crack to the left front hoof of the Triple Crown hopeful.

He carved a little trench along the slight crack and stitched it up with stainless steel wire yesterday. It was another step in a several-days process that would allow Big Brown to resume training as early as tomorrow for his attempt to become the first Triple Crown champion in 30 years.

"Just a little hiccup on the way over there that's all it is," trainer Rick Dutrow said a few minutes after McKinlay briefed him on the colt's condition. "The time that he has missed means nothing to me or him."

Michael Iavarone, co-president of Big Brown's majority owner IEAH Stables, stopped by barn 2 at Belmont Park for an update.

"At this point, I'm very comfortable with us making the Belmont," Iavarone said. "If something goes wrong, I'll deal with it then. Right now, it's Rick's call. He's going to do what's best for the horse."

The injury is common and not serious. Healing can range from a few days to a few months, depending on the severity of the crack. McKinlay says there is no infection, and Big Brown is in no pain. But no matter how well the crack heals, the big test will come when Big Brown returns to the track for a gallop and puts his full weight on the foot.

While Big Brown's connections may be upbeat, there has to be concern about the first bump in the road for the unbeaten 3-year-old colt who overpowered 19 rivals in the Kentucky Derby and 11 more in the Preakness Stakes. His five wins have been by a combined 39 lengths. *