NEW YORK - Big Brown galloped yesterday and will wait until Friday to have an acrylic and fiberglass patch attached to his slightly cracked left front hoof, the final step in the repair process ahead of Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

Initially, the plan had called for the patch to be applied yesterday, but hoof specialist Ian McKinlay said waiting a couple of extra days would allow for more natural healing to occur.

"This is just a slight, slight crack," McKinlay said. "We're being extra cautious because he's heading toward the Triple Crown . . . As the clock ticks, it's gotten better and better."

Big Brown will go for his last training run today on the 1 1/2-mile oval, where he will try to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. *