ELMONT, N.Y. - All Rick Dutrow Jr. could do now was lean on a wood railing at the test barn at Belmont Park and stare into the distance. He was looking for an answer that wasn't coming anytime soon, if ever.
Nearly an hour after Big Brown's Triple Crown bid ended with a shocking last-place finish in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, the trainer tried to explain how his seemingly invincible colt had failed so badly.
"I got no idea," he said. "I was looking for a problem, and so far I can't see a problem."
Dutrow walked alongside Big Brown in silence as the colt was led off the track and back to the barn area, with some racing fans shouting derisively, `Yeah, Dutrow!"
The trainer watched intently as Big Brown was led around the inside the barn. Each time he came around, the colt stopped suddenly and stared at Dutrow. It wasn't until the fourth go-around that Dutrow finally uttered two words.
"Hi buddy," he said to Big Brown, who then turned and continued to walk.
A few minutes later, Dutrow's 13-year-old daughter Molly walked up and gave Dad a smile.
"I'd hug you, but you're too sweaty. Any other time."
Dutrow smiled for an instant, then he hugged her — and turned and stared back into the barn.
It was perhaps his only good moment of the day.
As the race unfolded, Dutrow figured for sure Big Brown would grab the lead early, bide his time along the backstretch and then bury the opposition as he did in winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
He exuded confidence every day leading up to Big Brown's bid to become the first Triple Crown champion in 30 years. He would say over and over that Big Brown keeps telling him he's ready for a big race.
But Big Brown was bumped in the first turn, never found his powerful stride along the backstretch and had nothing left with five-eighths of a mile to go in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.
"The horse kind of looks like he's fine to me, so the only thing I know is to wait and see how things go," Dutrow said, adding that Big Brown will be scoped to see if there were any health issues. "Right now, I don't see him being off; he may be off tomorrow."
Dutrow said he didn't believe the cracked front left hoof that kept Big Brown from training for three days was a factor in the loss. He also said jockey Kent Desormeaux made the right move in pulling up Big Brown in the stretch.
"It certainly seems like Kent did the right thing," he said. "When they turned for home, something wasn't right."
"We did really good with him," the trainer said. "It was a very disappointing race. Right now, it looks like he'll live a good life if he never races again. He didn't get the Triple Crown, but we got the Derby and the Preakness, and that was great."
In the next 48 hours, a decision could be made to retire Big Brown, whose breeding rights were purchased recently for more than $50 million by Three Chimneys Farm.
"We'll see if he's OK, and if we're sure he is 100 percent getting back into training, we'll go forward with him," Dutrow said. "If not, I'm sure we'll do the next thing, which is to retire him. We're very, very proud of him."
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Triple Crown winners
The horses that have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in the same year.
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