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2-1 now would be BIG news

May 6, 2008 7:00 PM

Golden Edge by Ed Golden | Rick Dutrow bet $160,000 to win on Saint Liam when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2005. But the no bunkum trainer said he didn’t put a nickel on Big Brown when he won Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Too bad, because Dutrow will never get 2-1 on him again.

Barring the unforeseen, Big Brown will become the first undefeated Triple Crown winner since Seattle Slew in 1977 and the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. All Big Brown has to do is win the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 17 and the Belmont Stakes on June 7 to give racing its biggest boost since Secretariat and become a household word.

According to early reports, all horses vanquished in the Derby would not run in the Preakness.

And if anyone thinks there’s a 3-year-old that can beat Big Brown after his overpowering 43/4 length victory in the Derby, I’ve got some Okefenokee real estate to offer them.

If there were reservations about the superstar status Dutrow unashamedly bestowed upon Big Brown before the Derby, detractors now are as scarce as Republicans in San Francisco. Big Brown became the only horse other than Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 to win the Derby breaking from the No. 20 post position.

And Big Brown made it look easy.

As Dutrow said before the race, "There’s so much good karma around our barn, it’s impossible for a post position to get him beat."

Dutrow, 47, is the son of the late trainer Dick Dutrow, who, with King Leatherbury and Buddy Delp, dominated the Delaware-Maryland circuit several decades ago.

Under a flawless ride by Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown was understandably wide from his extreme outside slot going into the first turn. He edged into a more formidable position down the backstretch, made his move on the far turn, then drew clear in the stretch when asked to win as much the best in only his fourth career start.

And Big Brown is only going to get better. Think Breeders’ Cup Classic vs. Curlin at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

For the 37-year-old Desormeaux, winning his third Derby was a defining event in a Hall of Fame career he resurrected after Southern California horsemen spurned him in 2006. Much of their disenchantment was fostered by Kent himself, as he is first to admit.

Foremost among those he thanked after the victory was his family, especially his youngest son. Jacob (age 9) was born deaf and currently is battling Usher Syndrome, which is expected to leave him blind by the time he is in his early 20s.

Desormeaux’s candid disclosure of this heart-breaking revelation was first published in my GamingToday column of March 11.

Desormeaux, who now lives in Garden City, New York with his wife, Sonia, and sons Joshua, 15, and Jacob, expressed gratitude to his family for "uprooting them and taking them away from their friends," but added that winning another Derby was something he dreamed about.

"Once you win one, you always want to win another," he said.

Now only Desormeaux will have a chance to win the Triple Crown, as he had in 1998 with the Bob Baffert-trained Real Quiet, who won the Derby and the Preakness but lost the Belmont by a nose to Victory Gallop after holding a seemingly insurmountable five-length lead in the stretch.

No one could blame Baffert if he never forgave Desormeaux for that crushing setback. Desormeaux also has experienced nightmares over the one that got away, but capturing the Triple Crown with Big Brown would suppress those sordid memories.

Big Brown’s Derby triumph came moments before tragedy of unprecedented proportion, when the filly Eight Belles broke both front ankles and had to be euthanized on the track after she finished second.

Such is racing.

As for my selection of Colonel John, he finished a troubled sixth, 14 lengths behind. I knew he was history when every wiseguy and steam artist picked him, including Sports Illustrated, NBC’s Mike Battaglia and ESPN’s Kiss of Death, Hank Goldberg.

And anyone foolish enough to pick against Big Brown in the Preakness, take heed.

As he was walking to the winners’ circle after the race, a microphone picked up a remark of reinforced confidence Dutrow whispered clandestinely to a young woman who was accompanying him.

"They cannot beat this horse," he said.

Rick, you convinced me.

The homestretch:

According to MarketWatch, the betting on the Kentucky Derby was down 3.2 percent from last year. On track and off track wagering totaled $114.6 million compared to the 2007 total of $118.3 million.

Total wagering for the 12-race card at Churchill Downs was down 2 percent to $164.7 million from last year’s $168 million.

Old news dept.: In the April 1 edition of GamingToday we wrote that Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, would not attend the Run for the Roses this year because he would not have a horse in the race. A month later, on April 30, the same news was on the front sports page of the Los Angeles Times.

The anti-racing Times, by the way, played the Derby as the last story on its first sports page, giving it a one column headline with lower status than 2-1 favorite Oscar de la Hoya’s victory over tomato can Steve Forbes.

• If you’re wondering how the 76ers won by 20 points in the third game of their playoff against Detroit, a vastly superior team, it’s because the Pistons (who eventually put the Sixers out of their misery in 6) were in a 48-minute trance and never put forth a modicum of effort. Detroit won the next three games by a combined 49 points.