Rick Dutrow was back to being his flamboyant self yesterday.
"I'm glad to see that the competition there is not as stellar," Dutrow, trainer of Big Brown, said of the horses that will challenge the Kentucky Derby winner in the May 17 Preakness. "[Frank] Stronach's horse [Harlem Rocker] is the only one I have any respect for. He has a little buzz about him. But he's the only one I see."
And Harlem Rocker isn't committed to running yet.
"If we get over the two-week thing, [Big Brown] is going to be tough to beat," Dutrow said. "I just say what I see. We have the best horse. I don't see much to worry about here. I don't see Big Brown falling off his game. He's in his zone."
Dutrow, talking on a conference call, might have been surprised to hear that the trainers who followed him sounded a lot like him regarding their own horses.
"Let's not get Big Brown in the Hall of Fame too soon here," said Kentucky Bear's trainer, Reade Baker. "He was the best of those he ran against, but that doesn't mean he's the best of everyone else. ... I'm positive I can win this race."
And trainer Louie Roussel, who brings Recapturetheglory, the Derby fifth-place finisher, said: "I'm looking forward to trying [to beat Big Brown] again."
Roussel said he delayed making his Preakness decision because he wanted to see how his horse came out of the Derby. Recapturetheglory got spooked by the crowd noise in the paddock and threw his jockey in the tunnel on the way to the track even before running in the 20-horse field.
The trainer wanted to have his horse X-rayed, to make sure nothing was amiss, to see how he trained this week and to see if he would eat his food or sulk.
"I wanted to make sure everything is perfect, because this is a very tough assignment," said Roussel, who added that he will be putting cotton and earplugs in Recapturetheglory's ears before saddling and going to the gate.