Yeah, I know that's blasphemy. I'm as big a fan as anyone. Julio thought I was nuts when at 6:25pm as we were in the middle of straightening a tooth on the haybine so that we could get the last few rows cut down I said we needed to go to the house quickly to watch a horse race on TV.
Big Brown wasn't supposed to lose. It was time for the Triple Crown jinx to be broken. We all wanted it so bad. The all-powerful sports media and the racing industry and the public wanted him to win. Well…he lost.
Big Brown is a horse. Big Brown doesn't follow our rules. Big Brown is as outside of our control as the weather. We can nurture him and work with him, but we don't control him.
Here is my take on it. Big Brown was an unusually serene race horse. Like all horses, he seemed to enjoy the rhythm of his gallop. He seemed to accept the influence of his jockey in the Preakness when he was tactfully maneuvered behind the horse on his outside to get into his favorite spot from which he could gallop in the open past his rivals.
In the Belmont he started on the rail and got boxed in as he did in the Preakness, but this time the maneuvering didn't have the harmony of the previous race. Big Brown was pissed off. He tossed his head. There was a loss of rhythm. He was being controlled by a harsh piece of metal in his mouth. It was not Big Brown's race at that point, it was the jockey's.
They managed to get to the outside, and for brief moments Big Brown looked like he could run past the horses to his inside. But he had to wait. This race was longer than the others and the guy on his back wasn't ready to go yet. It was hot out there too. Heat like he'd never run in.
Finally the jockey started to push. It was too late. Big Brown's racing spirit was gone. He didn't want to run faster and show off his power. He didn't have that fresh feeling and that sense that he was running his own race. Desormeaux knew there was no point in beating up on him to make him go. Big Brown had to want it and he didn't.
People who believe that racing is a cruel sport should pay attention to Big Brown and Kent Desormeaux. The horses run because they love to run. Horses also jump because they love to jump. We try to guide them and encourage them, but only when we manage to truly listen and work within their rhythms do we have much influence.
So Big Brown didn't give the people what they wanted in the Belmont , but he showed us what we needed to see. We aren't ever really in control, and when we understand that, we have a chance of finding peace.