Rick Dutrow is absolutely certain Big Brown is going to win the June 7 Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, just as he was sure the colt was going to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. So far this spring, the trainer has seen the future quite clearly.
He has some issues with the past. He does not see that quite as clearly.
When asked yesterday on a national conference call why he thinks Smarty Jones lost the 2004 Belmont Stakes after winning the Derby and Preakness, Dutrow said: "I think maybe the way they trained that horse for that race going up to the Belmont might have had a lot to do with him getting beat.
"I was at my house and they showed a flash to where Smarty Jones was breezing for the Belmont race. He did it at Philadelphia Park on a sloppy, sealed track. That just blew my mind away. I just could not imagine that anybody would do that with a horse, especially one going to win the Triple Crown. I feel that had something to do with it."
Smarty "breezed" just once between the Preakness and Belmont, a 7-furlong work in 1:29.2 on a fast track at Philadelphia Park on Friday May 28, 8 days before the Belmont.
"He's obviously wrong about the race track," Smarty's trainer John Servis said. "I don't know what tape he was watching, but it wasn't Smarty Jones. He's under a lot of pressure. Maybe, he's saying things he doesn't necessarily mean."
Or just saying things just because he says things.
Dutrow was not altogether complimentary of Casino Drive, the unbeaten Japanese-trained horse who is at Belmont Park and most likely is Big Brown's top competitor.
"If I were you guys, I'd put other horses underneath in the exacta," Dutrow said. "This Japanese horse has got so much to prove. I don't know if he's on top of his game training here. I'm getting different kind of reports from people that think they know."
Casino Drive worked very slowly on Wednesday, far slower than an American-trained horse would ever work.
"I did get a chance to see him come off the track as we were coming in," Dutrow said. "Now that I've seen him in person, he can't beat Big Brown. There's no way in the world he can beat Big Brown. He's just another horse in the race. Big Brown will have to school him, just like every other horse he's run against. It's going to be simple."
Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto was listening on the call to some of Dutrow's comments.
"I'm enjoying listening to his comments," he said. "It sounds like he knows my horse more than us. I'm enjoying it. I do not comment anything on Big Brown. I saw the horse. He's a nice horse. My job is not talking about him. My job is keeping my horse happy."
How happy everybody has kept his horse will be determined over 1 1/2 miles a week from tomorrow.
Big Brown owner issues
The background of Big Brown's owner Michael Iavarone and his International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Inc. (IEAH) has been a bit of mystery. Iavarone, 37, has this testament on the IEAH Web site: "His talents garnered him a reputation as a high-profile investment banker on Wall Street, and he brings his passion for the action packed environment of Wall Street to the similarly exciting world of thoroughbred racing."
In a Wednesday story, David Evans of Bloomberg pointed out that Iavarone actually sold penny stocks at four different firms during a 7-year Wall Street career. Iavarone was fined and suspended for unauthorized trades in 1999 and was never anything close to a major player.
Iavarone, who rang the opening bell Wednesday at the New York Stock Exchange, plans to raise $100 million for a hedge fund that will invest in horses. IEAH was formed in 2003. In addition to Big Brown, IEAH owns one of the world's best grass horses, Kip Deville, and one of its best sprinters, Benny the Bull. All three were purchased privately during their racing careers and are trained by Rick Dutrow. *