Big Brown at Belmont
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Big Brown will try to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years when he runs in the Belmont Stakes today. The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and Belmont was Affirmed. In 1978, he battled down the stretch against Alydar.
Unidentified Broadcaster: It's Alydar in a firm battling back along the inside! We'll test these two to the wire! Affirmed under a left-hand whip. Alydar on the outside driving. Affirmed and Alydar, heads apart. Affirmed's got a nose in front as they come under the wire!
SIMON: And Affirmed won the Triple Crown at Belmont by a nose. William Nack is a commentator for ESPN and author of "Secretariat: Making of a Champion." He joins us by phone from a hotel near Belmont Park in New York. Mr. Nack, thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. WILLIAM NACK (ESPN Commentator; Author, "Secretariat: Making of a Champion): It's my pleasure.
SIMON: A little news first. The horse who was considered to be perhaps Big Brown's best rival, the Japanese horse - well, a horse is Japanese. The horse, owned by Japanese people, named Casino Drive, was scratched from the race this morning. He had a bruise that he suffered from a stone in practice. Does this remove the most obvious rival? What other horses would you point us to?
Mr. NACK: Well, it does remove the most obvious rival. He was the one horse that ran - he ran a pretty spectacular race here a few weeks ago in the Peter Pan. And he suffered this stone bruise the other day and they had to scratch him this morning. But there's another horse in here that's got a chance, I think, a horse named Denis of Cork.
Mr. NACK: And another horse named Macho again is, I think, OK, and Tale of Ekati are the three horses probably that have the best chance. But Big Brown appears to be dominant.
SIMON: Trainers say that that crack in Big Brown's left front hoof is completely healed. Is that possible? Will it make a difference?
Mr. NACK: Well, they say they have it under control. It's not a structural problem like something in the ankle or knee. They put a patch on it. And the horse appears to be going fine and it shouldn't be any problem to him. The only drawback of it is that the horse lost about three days of training while they were working on it and that's never good. But I just think this horse is just so superior to everybody else, I don't think it's going to matter.
SIMON: Mr. Nack, there have been 10 horses over the past 30 years who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown but not this third one, Belmont. Remind us again why Belmont has been so daunting.
Mr. NACK: Well, once they get here, they've already had two, and it's all done within a period of five weeks. The Derby is the first Saturday in May. The Preakness is the third Saturday in May. Two weeks between them. And three weeks later, they do the Belmont. One is a mile and a quarter, one is a mile and three-sixteenths, and then they come up to a mile and a half. It's a very rigorous regimen, very, very difficult on a horse both physically and mentally.
To keep him together, to keep his nose in the feet tub, it's just a very hard thing to pull off. And I think the last few years, there've been a couple of horses who should have won it, and I think it was just bad luck they didn't. One of them was Silver Charm and the other one was Real Quiet, back in '97, 1998.
SIMON: You know, I think anybody watching the Belmont today, you have to think about Eight Bells who was euthanized after breaking both front ankles in the Derby and, of course, the memory many of us still have of Barbaro's tragic breakdown in the 2006 Preakness. Can horse racing withstand any more high-profile accidents in a major race?
NACK: Well, I don't think so, actually. It will survive, but I mean, I don't - I think people would really start leaving, leaving in droves. I will tell you one thing. The racing industry is holding its collective breath at the beginning of all of these major classic races. And they certainly will be holding their collective breath today.
SIMON: Well, author and commentator William Nack, thank so much for being with us to help us take a preview look at the Belmont. Thank so much.
NACK: OK. Thank you.
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