Well, there goes the matchup of the century. Big Brown’s career is over, before he even made it to Santa Anita to face Curlin in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Bloodhorse broke the news a little while ago:
My heart goes out to all Big Brown fans (and I know there were many, and I do count myself among that list even if I disliked Dutrow a bit) for the untimely ending to their colt’s career.
Likewise, I can’t help but feel Curlin got jipped in all of this business. Now he won’t get a chance to show Big Brown what real competition is really like.
The timing of all of this is rather funny to me. Just yesterday I swallowed some pride and wrote the “with apologies to Dutrow” piece giving him a bit of credit for his role in engineering the big showdown between Curlin and Big Brown that the horse racing world so badly needed.
Well guess what? Now we’re back to square one. This just goes to show that you shouldn’t talk smack about a defending champion unless you’re able to line up, stare him in the eye, and prove victorious. Even then I’d say you should probably still follow the “walk softly, carry a big stick” motto.
This is just awful though. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad for horse racing. We were so freakin’ close you could taste it.
So where will Big Brown rank among the pantheon of all-time greats? Not very high in my humble opinion. True, he won in splendid style in his runs in the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes – but who was he running against? Is there a certifiable “star” among the entire lot? When Colonel John and Pyro are your biggest competition, it’s kind of hard to even inch him forward past recent horses, let alone the all-time runners. I’d still give Smarty Jones the edge over him. Likewise with Afleet Alex. I’ll stick with Barbaro out of an admittedly sympathy driven angle.
That being said, as I like to do when a champion retires, it’s time to look back and remember what once was and what could have been. Certainly he had the talent to compete for whatever race he was pointed to, and had he returned as a 4-year-old there is no telling how the colt might have developed.
Big Brown gallops to victory in a tragedy filled running of the 2008 Kentucky Derby