The Thoroughbred Daily News reports that the injury happened during a six-furlong work on turf in company with GI Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and fellow Rick Dutrow Jr. trainee Kip Deville (Kipling). “It looks like he grabbed a part of his foot and tore off a large chunk,” said IEAH Co-President and Co-CEO Michael Iavarone. “We have no choice but to retire him. There’s nothing else we can do.”
Big Brown had been expected to complete his racing career with a much-anticipated match-up against reigning Horse of the Year Curlin (Smart Strike) in the October 25 GI Breeders’ Cup Classic before heading to stud next year at Three Chimneys Farm. Iavarone admitted that the timing of the injury, rather than its severity, caused Big Brown’s retirement. “It’s not a devastating injury, as far as the long-term future of a racehorse,” he said. “It’s a devastating injury for a horse that’s preparing for a race in 12 days. The area where the injury is takes a long time to heal. There is not a lot of blood flow to that area, and it takes a lot of time for that flesh to repair itself. When you’re looking at a race that is 12 days out and an injury that will probably require 60-90 days, and with a deal that you have to turn your horse over to Three Chimneys December 31, we didn’t have a choice.”
Asked if he regretted the decision to send the Derby winner to stud next year, Iavarone said, “I’d like to run him as an eight-year-old, but under the terms that we structured with Three Chimneys, unfortunately, I’m not going to get the enjoyment of that. As much as I’m a fan, I also have to look at it as a business. I needed to find the place to stand Big Brown, and the place we were most comfortable with was Three Chimneys. As part of the agreement, they wanted to stand the horse as a four-year-old, and we capitulated using both our racing fan side and our business mentality.”
Pinhooker Eddie Woods acquired Big Brown as a $60,000 FTKOCT yearling. He was purchased by Hidden Brook for Paul Pompa Jr. for $190,000 out of the 2007 Keeneland April sale. Big Brown made only one start as a two-year-old, romping home by 11 1/4 lengths over the Saratoga turf last September.
IEAH bought into the colt after that impressive effort, but well-publicized foot issues kept the colt on the sidelines until March. He resurfaced with a 12 3/4-length demolition job in a March 5 Gulfstream allowance and the hype quickly followed.
Big Brown lived up to all the superlatives, taking the March 29 GI Florida Derby in just his third start. Arguably, Big Brown’s finest moment on the track came on the first Saturday in May. Making just his fourth start and breaking from the far outside post in the field of 20, Big Brown bounded clear impressively down the storied Churchill stretch to win the GI Kentucky Derby by an authoritative 4 3/4 lengths. His star continued to ascend with an easy 5 1/4-length triumph in the GI Preakness Stakes, and Big Brown was heavily favoured to sweep the Triple Crown races in the GI Belmont Stakes. But, on a sweltering day in the Big Apple and battling a quarter crack, the colt was eased in the stretch of the 1 1/2-mile Classic. Big Brown rebounded with a win in the August 3 GI Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth, and ended his racing career with a win over the Oceanport turf in the September 13 Monmouth Stakes. He retires with seven wins in eight starts and earnings of $3,614,500.
Michael Iavarone gave much of the credit for Big Brown’s success to Rick Dutrow, saying, “This horse came to Rick with well-documented foot problems, and he got more out of this horse then I think any trainer in the world would have.” Despite his impressive accomplishments, Iavarone thinks Big Brown was only getting better. “I don’t think we’ve ever gotten to the bottom of Big Brown,” he said. “He never had the ultimate conditioning leading up to the Kentucky Derby because he battled these little issues. But he developed a heart as big as his physical ability. I think if we ever got to the point that he could have put the two together, we would have seen something that would have been breathtaking. I think he showed it in the Derby and the Preakness, but he was winning those races on raw ability. I think we were beginning to see him develop as a professional racehorse. And it kills me to get this close and not to see it happen.”