Monday, August 04, 2008
BIG BROWN, 1-5 FAVORITE, WINS HASKELL INVITATIONAL
OCEANPORT, N.J. * Dual classic winner Big Brown displayed championship form at Monmouth Park on Sunday as he dug down deep to catch a stubborn Coal Play in the final furlong to win the $1 million Haskell Invitational Presented by Vonage (G1) by nearly two lengths.
The 45,132 fans on hand on a perfect summer afternoon were treated to a tremendous horserace as the 1-5 Big Brown was forced to call on all his reserves to gain his fourth Grade 1 victory of the year as jockey Kent Desormeaux kept him in a drive from the quarter-pole to the wire.
The Haskell drew record wagering of $4,257,409, pacing Monmouth to a single-day record total handle of $17,642,954, all all-time record for New Jersey pari-mutuels. The betting totals easily surpassed last year’s records of $3,734,404 bet on the Haskell, and $14,122,636 bet on the 14-race card.
“Everything was perfect,” said Dennis Dowd, senior vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. “Not only did we get to see another great Haskell, but finally the weather was on our side. The racing office did a great job putting together 14 terrific races, and the handle certainly reflected that. The Haskell capped off a great weekend of racing for the State of New Jersey.”
Big Brown, who chased Coal Play all around the oval, asserted himself the final furlong while drifting wide and crossed the wire a length and three-quarters in front of his rival. Cool Coal Man, like Coal Play trained by Nick Zito, finished third, four and a quarter lengths farther back.
Alaazo, longest shot on the board at 33-1, finished fourth, followed by Nistle’s Crunch, Atoned and Magical Forest.
Big Brown finished the nine furlongs in 1:48 1/5 and paid $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10 as the overwhelming choice. Coal Play, off at 20-1, completed the $25.20 exacta and paid $8 to place and $4.20 to show. Cool Coal Man, the 6-1 second choice, returned $2.80 to show.
Coal Play broke from the gate like a shot under Joe Bravo and assumed command from the gate. Big Brown found himself trapped on the rail the first turn, first by Coal Play and then by Atoned.
However, the bay colt by Boundary was able to swing out entering the bend, and raced behind and outside Coal Play the entire length of the backstretch.
Coal Play began to get away from Big Brown rounding the turn, and Desormeaux put the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner into a drive to give chase.
Coal Play surged ahead for a furlong, but in the final eighth of a mile, Big Brown asserted himself while racing in the center of the track and drew clear the last sixteenth.
“He found a new gear and just kept sticking his neck out,” Desormeaux said. “I knew he was going to get there. At the top of the stretch that horse (Coal Play) took off, but Big Brown took off after him. He just kept coming, and I knew we’d get him.”
“He showed up today,” Dutrow said of Big Brown. “That other horse ran a huge, huge race. The last eighth, he got himself together and showed us what he’s made of.”
Michael Iavarone, co-president and co-CEO of the IEAH syndicate, said, “I thought we were in trouble at the quarter-pole. Nick Zito’s horse ran so big. He kicked away from us and I thought we were in trouble. This was another dimension for Big Brown * he showed his heart and courage.”
Zito, who upset the Belmont with Da’Tara and looked like he would spring another surprise today, was happy with his two-three finish.
“I thought we had a helluva shot turning for home,” Zito said. “I thought to myself ‘We could do this again.’ I’m very happy right now. We made him (Big Brown) run, that’s for sure. But this is good for racing. Coal Play ran a big race.”
Desormeaux, who has been aboard in all Big Brown’s races this year, was effusive in his praise.
“Big Brown is the best horse I’ve ever ridden,” said Desormeaux, who passed the 5,000 mark in career wins last week. “Today he showed he’s a warrior. He’s always won his other races with such ease. Today he showed what courage he had. Grade 1’s, they don’t give them away, and Big Brown earned it today.”
The $600,00 winner’s share of the Haskell’s $1 million purse raised Big Brown’s career earnings to $3,314,500.
$1,000,000 HASKELL INVITATIONAL (GRADE 1)
WINNER * BIG BROWN
2ND * COAL PLAY ($8.00, $4.20)
3RD *COOL COAL MAN ($2.80)
WINNING TIME * :23, :46 2/5, 1:10 4/5, 1: 35 1/5, 1:48 1/5
WIN PRICE * $2.40, $2.10, $2.10
WINNING EXACTA -- $25.20
WINNING TRIFECTA -- $65.40
WINNING TRAINER (RICK DUTROW JR.) * “I feel much better than the last time he ran, I’ll tell you that.”
About running back in the Travers: “If it was up to me, I wouldn’t run back so quick. It may not be in his best interests.”
The difference in his last two races (Belmont and Haskell): “You can’t compare them. It’s different tracks, different horses, different setups. And I can’t compare the Belmont to any of his races. He showed the whole racing world today he is that good.”
Did you know before he had such guts and heart? “He’s a racehorse, and most of them have that. We just didn’t have a chance to see it (with Big Brown) until today.”
On coming back after Belmont: “It was easy to bring him back. He does everything right. He’s an easy horse to train. It’s easy to get him up to a race.
“He showed up today. That other horse (Coal Play) ran a huge, huge race. The last eighth, he got himself together and showed us what he’s made of.”
About the rollercoaster ride this season: “Since I been born it’s been a rollercoaster for me.”
Same horse as in Derby? “I can only judge by how he trains. He’s the same horse in the morning that he’s always been. He won the Derby impressively, but today, he met a horse that took us right to the hoop.”
WINNING JOCKEY (KENT DESORMEAUX) * “He found a new gear and just kept sticking his neck out. I knew he was going to get there. At the top of the stretch that horse (Coal Play) took off, but Big Brown took off after him. He just kept coming and I knew we’d get him.
“The plan was to go to the lead, but that would have been suicidal. That other horse (Coal Play) was headed to the lead no matter what. Then that other horse (Atoned) made a mad move to trap me in, but he didn’t.
“Usually I don’t ask him to break, when I kissed at him when the gates opened I knew (I was on the Big Brown from the Kentucky Derby). He’s absolutely so intelligent. The thing that separates him is his mind. I love being around him. He’s got a way about him, an aura.
“Big Brown is the best horse I’ve ever ridden. Today he showed he’s a warrior. He’s always won his other races with such ease. Today he showed what courage he had.
“He’s always been a drifter and today I decided I wasn’t going to hold his line. As long as he was going forward I was going to let him go on with it. At the 3/16ths pole he switched leads and then at the 1/8th pole he took off again.
“Grade 1’s, they don’t give them away and Big Brown earned it today.
“The Belmont was just so sad. I was really sad for the race fans. We didn’t have that storybook fantasy.
“He’s so resilient. I couldn’t pull him up. I couldn’t stop him.”
WINNING OWNER (MICHAEL IAVARONE, IEAH STABLES) * “I thought we were in trouble at the quarter pole. Nick Zito’s horse ran so big. He kicked away from us and I thought we were in trouble. This was another dimension for Big Brown * he showed his heart and courage.
Asked about Big Brown’s next start: “I think right now Rick will evaluate him and we’ll plan a sensible campaign. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the ultimate goal.”
“His place in history was established in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. It’s not fair to judge him by the Belmont. Only 11 horses have done it (won the Triple Crown). He showed a lot of heart and determination in a side of Big Brown I didn’t know existed until today.
Asked how he feels: “It’s happiness * happiness for us and happiness for the horse, for our family. It’s been trying since the Belmont Stakes obviously. But we don’t feel bad for ourselves because he didn’t win the Triple Crown. We’ve just wanted to make sure that Big Brown is safe.”
NICK ZITO * trainer of 2nd and 3rd place Coal Play and Cool Coal Man * “I thought we had a helluva shot turning for home. I thought to myself, ‘we could do this again.’ I’m very happy right now. We made him (Big Brown) run, that’s for sure. But this is good for racing. (Coal Play) had a big race two back. The plan was to set him up for this. Big Brown looked great in the paddock and when he broke. But down the backside I got excited. He (Coal Play) ran a big race.”
JOE BRAVO- “My horse ran an awesome race. I felt very confident in this horse heading into the race. He ran great, I can’t complain. It’s just very rough when things go right for you and you don’t get the win. He ran hard, I’m proud of him. Zito(trainer Nick) did a great job with him.”
EDDIE CASTRO (jockey on 3rd-place Cool Coal Man) * “My horse ran well. We got a good trip sitting off the pace. I’m happy with the way he ran.”
Jose Lezcano * “He broke well and I just let him settle. He ran on a little but the horses in front just kept going.”
Edgar Prado * “With the blinkers he was pulling pretty hard early which is not like him. He was done at the ½ mile pole.”
Elvis Trujillo * “I wanted to be a little closer with the way the track was playing today. I asked him at the 3/8ths and he just didn’t have anything.”
Jorge Chavez * “He broke good and I had good position. All the other horses moved off the rail so I had god position and could ask him whenever I wanted. He was not the same horse today. When I asked him he had nothing.”
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