The mid-season of racing is quickly approaching with the
imminent openings of Saratoga and Del Mar. The most precocious of the two year
olds have made their debuts and a few already have more than one start under
their girths. A true picture of the
Freshmen sires’ potential will emerge as the bulk of this year’s crop make
their appearance from mid-July onwards.
One of the most anticipated crops of babies is that of Champion Three
Year Old Big Brown.
Big Brown (Boundary – Mien, by Nureyev) exploded
onto the racing scene in early September of his two year old season with an 11
¼ domination over maidens in a 1/16 mile
turf contest. The son of Boundary sat on
the shelf for six months, until reappearing in a one mile dirt allowance
contest at Gulfstream in early March as a three year old. Emulating his maiden win,
Big Brown ran away from a field of allowance runners prevailing by 12 ¾ lengths.
The victory catapulted him onto the Triple Crown lists. Twenty five days later,
Big Brown destroyed the hopes of eleven other Classic hopefuls with an
authoritative 5 length decision in the Florida Derby. The field included
eventual Belmont Stakes winner Da’Tara, who finished a dull ninth.
Despite drawing the far outside in the Kentucky Derby, Big
Brown took all of the betting money. The undefeated colt kept his win streak
alive with a sparkling 4 ¼ length triumph. The Derby field contained eventual
Travers Stakes hero Colonel John and Court Vision, who would later evolve into
a top turf horse. Unfortunately, the
Kentucky Derby was marred by the tragic breakdown of the gallant filly Eight
Belles, who crossed the wire in second, 3 ½ lengths in front of the third place
Comparisons to the 2004 undefeated Kentucky Derby winner
Smarty Jones followed Big Brown to the 2008 Preakness Stakes. Sent off at 1-5
odds in the second Triple Crown leg, Big Brown again made short work of his
classmates, galloping to a 5 ¼ length sweep and joining Majestic Prince,
Seattle Slew and Smarty Jones as the only undefeated Derby/Preakness winners in
history. In the intervening three weeks
between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, Big Brown developed a quarter crack,
causing an alteration in his training program. Despite the setback, Big Brown
was installed as the favorite for the Belmont Stakes. His race record and
talent towered over the remaining field of eight rivals. As the Belmont Stakes progressed to the mile
pole, a shocked crowd watched as the colt was pulled up by his jockey Kent
Desormeaux, all the while fighting to run.
The horse was quickly removed from the track and rushed back to the
barn. His connections refused to give any immediate explanation or status on
the colt. As the weeks ensued, various
excuses were given. His trainer Rick Dutrow,
Jr. announced that the colt had raced on steroids, but denied giving the
drug to the colt since before the Kentucky Derby. Later it was announced that
the colt had ripped off his shoe during the race.
Two months later, Big Brown rebounded in the Haskell Invitational.
He drifted slightly in the stretch, but got the job done, winning by 1 ¾ lengths. Instead of facing Colonel John in the
Travers, Big Brown took on the older turf veterans Proudinsky, Shakis and
Silver Tree in the Monmouth Stakes. Big
Brown prevailed by the narrowest margin of his career, defeating Proudinsky by
a neck going 1 1/8 miles over a good turf course.
Just weeks before the colt’s forthcoming venture to California
to face Champion older horse Curlin and the top European runners Raven's Pass,
Henrythenavigator, and Duke of Marmalade in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Big
Brown grabbed a quarter, ripping a three-inch piece of flesh off his right
front foot after it collided with his right rear foot during a morning breeze.
The injury wasn’t life-threatening and would require only a couple of months to
heal. However, instead of bringing the lightly raced colt back for a four year
old campaign, Big Brown’s connections retired him to stud at Three Chimneys Farm for an
initial fee of $65,000. The courageous
colt earned an Eclipse Award as Champion Three Year Old and left the racetrack
with a 8-7-0-0 ($3,614,500).
Examining a young sire’s pedigree offers clues to how his
offspring will perform. Big Brown's sire
Boundary was a Grade 3 class sprinter on the race track. At stud, he was noted
as a better broodmare sire than sire of sires. He currently has four sons
standing at stud in the US and Australia. Boundary's best son standing in the
U.S. is the second year stallion Pomeroy. Pomeroy was a precocious two year
old, who evolved into sound runner who raced through age five. Not
surprisingly, his offspring are win-early sprint types who are contenders up to
1 1/16 miles. The majority race over dirt, but Pomory sires the occasional turf
or synthetic winner.
There aren’t many stakes horses in the first two generations
of Big Brown’s distaff family. None of his half siblings have come close to
emulating Big Brown’s brilliance on the track.
His dam Mien won one of her two
starts and she is a half-sister to the listed turf stakes winner Queen of the
Creek (by Theatrical). Big Brown’s
second dam Miasma began her career in England and placed in a listed stakes as
a juvenile. She owns the only blacktype
produced by her dam. The third dam
Syrian Circle is a half-sister to the Champion Older Mare Hidden Lake and two
other stakes winners.
Despite this, there is interesting breeding in Big Brown’s
pedigree. His dam Mien carries a Formula One breeding pattern. In a "Formula
One" the horse traces back to a foundation mare through the tail-female lines
of the sire and the dam (the dam of the Sire and the female line of the Dam). In Mien’s case, both her sire and dam are descended
from the Lowes 5-h distaff family, tracing back to Goody Two-Shoes. Mien has additional
line-breeding to this family through her Lear Fan’s damsire Lt. Stevens, who is
a full brother to Nureyev’s second dam, Thong.
The sensational Intermediate/Classic Chef-de-race Nureyev is Big Brown's damsire and clearly his stamina
genes are present in Big Brown. Big
Brown also has fairly close inbreeding to the Intermediate/Classic Chef -de-race Damascus (3S x 4D) as well
as inbreeding to the Stout Chef -de-race
Round Table (4S x 5D).
Big Brown has 78 foals in his first North American crop. So
far, five foals have started. Big Brown has two winners, one in Russia and the
other at Churchill Downs; one runner placed third and the other two finished
off the board. The young stallion’s
offspring aren’t expected to be early season types. They should begin gathering victories from
July onwards and improve with racing.
About half of Big Brown’s crop is out of mares whose families either won
or placed in their debuts, so many of his offspring should win at first or
second asking. Big Brown’s progeny should do well over all surfaces, especially
turf, and be best between 5F to 1 1/8
miles, although some individuals may go longer depending on their distaff lines. Notable offspring include half siblings to
the top sprint sire D’Wildcat and the multiple stakes winners Beautician,
Recapturetheglory, Middlesex Drive, Medallist and Pink Champagne. Other foals on
the roster are out of the stakes winning dams Ivannavinalot, Shaggy Mane, Sugar
Punch, Formal Miss and Irish Smoke.
By Laurie Ross, HRN Pedigree Analyst