LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Big Brown is a very big deal, babe.
The undefeated 3-year-old, who came into the 134th Kentucky Derby with just three career races and heard nothing but reasons he couldn't win, won yesterday with a beautiful performance that silenced his doubters.
Coming from the far outside, Big Brown became only the second horse in Derby history to win from the No. 20 post and became the first horse since Regret in 1915 to win the Derby in only his fourth race - a feat most Derby handicappers said couldn't be done in the modern era.
But Big Brown did it and made it look easy, beating Eight Belles - the lone filly in the field and the only pursuer within sight - to the finish by 4 3/4 lengths. Then, in a terrible scene, Eight Belles dropped to her knees as she was galloping out. The brave filly broke both of her front ankles and had to be euthanized on the racetrack.
"I was shocked," said Larry Jones, Eight Belles' trainer. "Put her down? We're used to trying to save them now. But when I did see her, there was no doubt it had to be done."
Big Brown carried jockey Kent Desormeaux to victory over the 1 1/4 -mile Churchill Downs track in 2 minutes, 1.82 seconds.
He took the lead at the mile mark from Bob Black Jack and never paused.
"Going down the backside, I didn't know if I had any horse," Desormeaux said. "He was just galloping, floppy-eared, off the bridle, cruising, and I remember a trainer told me once that's the difference between good guys and bad guys.
"A bad guy would have told him to make sure he had some horse. I just left him alone and let him canter until I needed him, and when I needed him, I showed him the stick and whoosh, [he] puts me in a new position."
Desormeaux said he made two moves yesterday, one going into the turn and then another at the three-sixteenths pole. "Every time I asked him for something, it was just like leaving the starting gate," he said.
The Derby victory is Desormeaux's third, putting him in company with Isaac Murphy, Earl Sande, Angel Cordero Jr. and Gary Stevens. Only three others have won more: Bill Shoemaker with four, and Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack with five each.
"This ride was perfect," Desormeaux said. "It was a dream, an uneventful cruise down the front side the first time. No distractions. No alterations in course. Just slide over, and he did it so within himself."
As Desormeaux and Big Brown cruised, many in the field beside him complained of being pinched, bumped, squeezed or otherwise inhibited.
But outside, Big Brown sailed, as did Eight Belles, Denis of Cork and Tale of Ekati.
Denis of Cork finished third, 3 1/2 lengths back, and Tale of Ekati came home fourth.
Recapturetheglory also had a good trip to finish fifth, and afterward, trainer Louie Roussel was delighted.
"I told you he'd run his heart out," said Roussel, who had not been to the Derby since finishing second with Risen Star 20 years earlier. "It took one hell of a horse to beat him. He was moving so good, and then Big Brown went by him and it really just ripped his heart out. He got it back together and ran on well. I'm so proud of my horse, but what about that Big Brown? Wow, what a horse!"
Big Brown's trainer, Rick Dutrow, had been telling everyone that for a week. His confidence irked some and amused others. But the trainer said he was simply telling the truth, the truth his horse was telling him.
He was not bothered by the No. 20 starting post. He was not bothered by the 20-horse field. He was not bothered by limited pre-race experience. He was not bothered by talk of Big Brown's bad feet, which Dutrow insisted were just fine and evidently were.
The trainer, who grew up in Maryland, told anyone who asked to bet his horse to win.
"It was just the way we envisioned things happening," Dutrow said. "We figured, 'Hey, let's give our horse a chance to win the race.' We take 20, because maybe he gets one of those inside posts and somebody breaks sharper, comes over [on him]. With the outside post, we were guaranteed a good trip.
"And Big Brown puts himself wherever he wants to be in the race, and that's what he did."
The next stop is Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness.
"When you go after something and keep striving to get it [a Derby victory]," he said, "I mean you're after it and your mind keeps going in that direction. You want it. You want it. You want it. And I just kept wanting it. Now I want the Preakness."
Derby at a glance
The top three finishers:
1. Big Brown Kent Desormeaux
2. Eight Belles Gabriel Saez
3. Denis of Cork Calvin Borel
Time: 2 minutes, 1.82 seconds Margin of victory: 4 3/4 lengths Winning trainer: Rick Dutrow Money: Big Brown paid $6.80, $5 and $4.80; Eight Belles paid $10.60 and $6.40; and Denis of Cork paid $11.60.
UP NEXT: THE PREAKNESS
Derby winner Big Brown looks to capture the second jewel in racing's Triple Crown on May 17 in the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. The gates open at 8 a.m., and the post time for the first race is 10:30 a.m. The Preakness post time is 6:05 p.m.
The race at a glance
Kentucky Derby, At Churchill Downs, 3YOs, 1 1/4 miles, dirt. Value of race: $2,211,800; 1st $1,451.800; 2nd $400,000; 3rd $200,00; 4th $100,000; 5th $60,000.
Horse Wgt PP 1/4 1/2 3/4 1M Str Fin Jockey Odds
Big Brown 126 20 4- 1/2 6-1 1/2 6- 1/2 1-hd 1-2 1/2 1-4 3/4 Desormeaux 2.40
Eight Belles 121 5 5-hd 5- 1/2 5-2 4- 1/2 2-2 2-3 1/2 Saez 13.10
Denis of Cork 126 16 20 20 20 13-hd 6-1 3-2 3/4 Borel 27.20
Tale of Ekati 126 2 9- 1/2 7-hd 7-1 5-1 4- 1/2 4- 3/4 Coa 37.40
Recapturetheglory 126 18 3- 1/2 3-hd 3-hd 2-hd 3-2 5-2 1/2 Baird 49.00
Colonel John 126 10 17- 1/2 16-hd 10- 1/2 6- 1/2 7- 1/2 6- 3/4 Nakatani 4.70
Anak Nakal 126 3 16- 1/2 15-1 1/2 17-1 12-hd 11-2 7-no Bejarano 53.90
Pyro 126 9 18-1 1/2 17-hd 18-1 1/2 15-2 9- 1/2 8- 3/4 Bridgmohan 5.70
Cowboy Cal 126 17 2- 1/2 2- 1/2 2-1 3- 1/2 5- 1/2 9-3 3/4 Velazquez 39.20
Z Fortune 126 6 7-hd 8- 1/2 8-1 8-2 8-2 1/2 10-1 1/2 Albarado 19.20
Smooth Air 126 12 15- 1/2 18-4 11-hd 10- 1/2 10-hd 11-1 3/4 Cruz 42.00
Visionaire 126 8 19-4 19-3 19-hd 18-2 1/2 16-3 12-1 1/2 Lezcano 25.30
Court Vision 126 4 13- 1/2 12- 1/2 15-1 1/2 14-1 1/2 12-hd 13-nk Gomez 17.70
Z Humor 126 11 14-1 13-1 1/2 16- 1/2 16-2 15- 1/2 14-7 1/4 Douglas 63.60
Cool Coal Man 126 1 6- 1/2 4- 1/2 4-hd 9-4 14-1 15-nk Leparoux 44.10
Bob Black Jack 126 13 1- 1/2 1-1 1- 1/2 7-hd 13-2 16-4 3/4 Migliore 29.40
Gayego 126 19 8-1 9-2 9-1 1/2 11- 1/2 17-4 17-12 Smith 18.90
Big Truck 126 7 10-hd 10- 1/2 12- 1/2 17- 1/2 18-3 18-2 Castellano 28.60
Adriano 126 15 11-hd 14- 1/2 14- 1/2 19-4 19-4 19-8 3/4 Prado 28.90
Monba 126 14 12-1 1/2 11-1 13- 1/2 20 20 20 Dominguez 31.60
Time 23.30 47.04 1:11.14 1:36.56 2:01.82
Weather: Clear; Track: Fast. Off: 6:15; Start: Good for all, except 8, 12
(20) Big Brown 6.80 5.00 4.80
(5) Eight Belles 10.60 6.40
(16) Denis of Cork 11.60
BIG BROWN: Raced wide in the early stages before taking charge turning for home and steadily pulling away in the stretch. "This horse has a lot talent and he has the brains," jockey Kent Desormeaux said. "I had a beautiful, uneventful trip."
EIGHT BELLES: The lone filly in the field was never far off the pace and gamely battled to hold second before sustaining a fatal injury while galloping out after the race. "She went out in glory," trainer Larry Jones said. "She went out a champion to us."
DENIS OF CORK: The trailer of most of the race, Denis of Cork made a strong move in the stretch, passing 10 horses in the final quarter of a mile. "We saved every inch of ground," said jockey Calvin Borel, who won last year's Derby aboard Street Sense. "He ran a huge race."
TALE OF EKATI: The Wood Memorial winner ran a fairly even race, advancing from seventh after the first half-mile. "He gave me the move I was expecting," jockey Eibar Coa said. "He just wasn't good enough today but he showed he belongs with these horses."
RECAPTURETHEGLORY: The Illinois Derby winner pressed the early pace, running third. "He was moving so good and then Big Brown went by him and it really ripped his heart out," co-owner and trainer Louis Roussel III said.
COLONEL JOHN: The 4-1 second choice got squeezed at the break and never fully recovered. "He encountered a lot of trouble coming out of the gate," trainer Eoin Harty said.
ANAK NAKAL: Made a late run from back in the pack. "He moved really well at the end," jockey Rafael Bejarano said.
COWBOY CAL: Closely followed the pacesetting Bob Black Jack before fading in the lane. "He used up too much in the early part of the race," jockey John Velazquez said. "He just did not want to go any further."
Z FORTUNE: Never made a move. "I had a great trip," jockey Robby Albarado said. "He just wasn't fast enough."
SMOOTH AIR: Fell back to 18th at one point before launching a mild rally. "I tried getting him into the race, little by little," jockey Manoel Cruz said. "He tried his best but I think he could do better."
VISIONAIRE: Stumbled at the start and raced with the pack, but did not kick in hard enough. "I had a clean trip but he was in there in a bunch," jockey Jose Lezcano said.
COURT VISION: Raced evenly but had no stretch punch. "I had a good trip inside all the way and slid by a couple of horses with relative ease," jockey Garrett Gomez said. "Turning for home, he was empty."
Z HUMOR: The longest shot in the field at 63-1 never shook loose. "We were in really close quarters," jockey Rene Douglas said. "I know I was behind a horse and I kept getting bumped."
COOL COAL MAN: Well positioned early but empty in the stretch. "We saved all the ground we could but he didn't fire," jockey Julien Laparoux said. "I think maybe it was a little too long."
BOB BLACK JACK: Set the pace before fading on the final turn. "Anytime I put a little pressure on him, he bobbled," jockey Richard Migliore said.
GAYEGO: The Arkansas Derby winner had traffic trouble on the first turn. "I was never in it," jockey Mike Smith said.
BIG TRUCK: Raced in midpack for much of the race before stopping. "I ran out of gas," jockey Javier Castellano said
ADRIANO: Was never a factor.
MONBA: The Blue Grass winner lacked a rally. "My horse just didn't run any good," jockey Ramon Dominguez said.
At Federal Hill Park Pee Wee Preakness, 11 a.m.
At War Memorial Plaza, City Hall Preakness Frog Hop, noon
At Lexington Market Preakness Crab Derby, noon At Turf Valley Resort Preakness Balloon Festival, 3 At the Power Plant Miller Lite Nites, 7:30
At the Can Company First Friday, 6 Marshall Crenshaw concert At Belvedere Square And They're Off, 6 Crawdaddies concert At Harbor East Twas the Night Before Preakness, 6 Ryan Shaw concert
At Howard and Conway streets The Preakness Parade, 11 a.m. At Pimlico Race Course 133rd Preakness, 6:05 p.m.
A look at horses who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness:
Smarty Jones 2004
Funny Cide 2003
War Emblem 2002
Real Quiet 1998
Sunday Silence 1989
Pleasant Colony 1981
Spectacular Bid 1979*Affirmed 1978
*Seattle Slew 1977*Secretariat 1973
Canonero II 1971
Majestic Prince 1969
Forward Pass 1968
Kauai King 1966
Northern Dancer 1964
Carry Back 1961
Tim Tam 1958*Citation 1948
*Count Fleet 1943*Whirlaway 1941
*War Admiral 1937
Bold Venture 1936
Burgoo King 1932
*Gallant Fox 1930
Note: *-Triple Crown winner