Chip Dutrow, trainer Rick Dutrow's youngest brother, stood outside Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown's stall at Pimlico yesterday morning feeding him handfuls of alfalfa as the horse waited for his van to depart for Belmont Park.
"You don't want to give him too much of this because it's too rich for him," said Chip Dutrow, also a trainer who works for Rick and their other brother Tony. "That's why I'm kind of just hand feeding him. But he seems to know he's not supposed to have too much."
Big Brown seems to know everything.
At the Kentucky Derby, he knew he was going to win the race, a knowledge that was relayed to the public by his trainer.
"I'm only saying what the horse has told me," Rick Dutrow said.
Here in the Preakness, he seemed to know he wasn't supposed to use any more energy than necessary, responding to jockey Kent Desormeaux's urging to run just enough to gain a healthy separation from the field before letting up and easily galloping to the finish.
Horsemen who saw the horse in the winner's circle Saturday were amazed he showed no signs of having just run the 1 3/16 miles.
"There wasn't even a vein in his neck or rear end bulging," said Steve Crist, publisher of The Daily Racing Form.
Performances like that make Rick Dutrow a happy trainer.
"I have to believe that this race the other day was just an absolute super pre-race for the Belmont," said Dutrow, whose horse now advances to the Belmont Stakes, where he will take a shot on June 7 at becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years and the 12th in history.
"He wasn't under any pressure at any time in the race," Dutrow said of the Preakness. "It looks like the jock asked him to run for maybe a 16th of a mile just to separate him from the field to put the race away. After that point, he just glided to the wire. We were really hoping for a race like that, and we got it. We can't complain about anything."
Dutrow talks easily about his horse and what his plans are for the weeks leading up to the Belmont. He'll jog him a few days at Belmont and then gallop him five or six. Some days after that, he'll probably throw in a breeze.
"Very light training," Dutrow said. "We're going to keep it cut and dry. Simple.
"There will be no pressure in the mornings. I just want to glide him into the race. I am feeling pretty confident about things. I can see that he is sharp.[Sunday,] he was bouncing and [yesterday] the same thing. He is doing good, and that makes everything so much easier. I don't have to worry about a lot of things."
It was left to Chip Dutrow to try to express the amazing nature of what his brother and Big Brown have accomplished.
"To have a horse like this in our care, it's a feeling you can't imagine," said the younger Dutrow, 47, who allowed sons Blake and Ryan to miss morning classes at Old Mill High School to see Big Brown off to New York. "This horse is just amazing, and what my brother has accomplished -- oh boy, it's incredible."
Chip Dutrow said the possibility of a Triple Crown for the Dutrow family, whose father, Dick Dutrow, trained in the Pimlico barns, is just starting to sink in.
"We have a great horse," he said. "I can't imagine ever getting our hands on a horse as great as this again. Just being around him, watching him. ...
"Just the way he handles himself. He acts like an old horse. Nothing bothers him. It's like all of a sudden in a race you ask him to do something and then he does it and then the race is over once he does that little spurt. Like effortlessly."
Rick Dutrow, 48, has rankled the competition with his bold statements about Big Brown's ability, but his brother said he doesn't know what else the trainer can do.
"You can't even kind of say, 'Let's worry about this [other] horse,'" Chip Dutrow said. "You don't worry about none of them. There's not one out there to worry about that can touch this horse. We don't have a rival."
Rick Dutrow almost sounds low-key in comparison.
"As long as we can keep him well within himself, we'll have a chance," Dutrow said. "Everybody is very excited about him, and how can you not be? It looks like he has a chance at being one of the best ever."