Call me a skeptic, but it just seemed like Big Brown's gallop into horse racing history was setting up too easily. The rival horses in the Belmont weren't a magnificent bunch. And then his trainer was gratingly over-confident. He had been quoted (way too many times) for saying that a Belmont victory, which would give the huge bay colt the Triple Crown, was "a foregone conclusion." Yet ultimately Big Brown was so out of gas at the head of the homestretch that his jockey pulled him up and cantered to the finish line.
At least he didn't start whacking the horse with his whip in a futile effort to make up an impossible amount of ground.
Speaking as a writer who's always looking for the fairy tale, somehow the magic just wasn't there. Big Brown wasn't surrounded by a funky posse of quirky characters. There weren't any poignant backstories about elderly owners looking for one last chance at horse racing fame. He wasn't the favorite colt of some blue-blooded Kentucky horsewoman. I didn't feel for him the way I did about Smarty Jones, Real Quiet or Funny Cide. I never had the thought, "Oh, wouldn't it be grand if Big Brown won the Triple Crown!"
When it came to wearing the horse shoes of a Made in Hollywood hero, Big Brown wasn't even in the same class as Secretariat, Affirmed or Seattle Slew.
Horses being horses, I'm not certain that we'll ever know why Big Brown went kaput in the Belmont. I've often believed that sometimes race horses just wake up and think, "Ya' know, today I'm just not in the racing mode." Maybe they have a headache. Maybe the grooms one aisle over kept the radio on too loud the night before. Maybe on the way to the post the lead pony gave off bad vibes. Whatever the reason, race horses are a fragile bunch, and that's not just in reference to their spindly legs. Some little thing can throw off their mojo, giving another horse-- a longshot who just happened to wake up feeling particularly zesty-- the opportunity to be King for a Day.
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