I couldn’t figure out what was worse about the Belmont Stakes broadcast yesterday — the constant focus on the heavily favored Big Brown, the lack of celebration coverage after Da’ Tara upset him before the final turn or the shots of the very sweaty trainer Rick Dutrow.
I know that winning the Triple Crown, which Big Brown was expected to do, was a big deal. I know it hasn’t happened since the colt Affirmed won it in 1978. But seriously, does this much attention need to be focused on him?
Yes, I know that he was undefeated, entering yesterday’s race having won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, convincingly.
I know there was much concern about the quarter crack in his hoof, and I know that Dutrow guaranteed a win before the race.
I know that Dutrow used to live in a barn in New York before he was successful. And I know that jockey Kent Desormeaux has been going through a lot with his family because his son was diagnosed with Usher’s disease and will eventually lose his eye sight.
But, can we at least see the horse that won get some attention? I feel like Da’ Tara was robbed of his 15 minutes of fame because there was so much focus on Big Brown.
Almost all three hours of pre-race coverage was dedicated to videos of everyone with a connection to Big Brown. Much of the post-race coverage was, too.
He got more coverage than Eight Belles did when she was euthanized on the track at the Derby.
After Da’ Tara won nearly five lengths ahead of the pack, there were no shots of his celebration. Cameras and focus immediately went to find Big Brown to see what happened. They scrambled to find Dutrow and he reportedly shied off reporters telling them to not even think about asking him questions right now.
Remember all the celebration shots from previous wins? How happy everyone was? Da’ Tara didn’t get any of that until the media got their Big Brown fix.
Eventually, when Big Brown got back to his stall and after Dutrow repeatedly brushed off of the camera, we finally saw Alan Garcia get off of Da’ Tara.
Only then did we see trainer Nick Zito and owner Robert LaPenta. And LaPenta at least kept his jacket on so we couldn’t’ see him sweat. It was 93 degrees there in New York and I know it’s hot in those suits, but at least we didn’t see his shirt drenched like Dutrow’s.
It does make you wonder why Big Brown finished last instead of first. It could be that the pressure or all the media attention finally got to the usually calm colt, or it could’ve been that Big Brown just didn’t feel like racing yesterday.
Or it could have been that Big Brown was off the anabolic steroids Dutrow used to give him during training. Yup, there are steroids in horse racing, too.
After Dutrow publicly admitted to the use of Winstrol, saying he injected him about once a month, and after there was such scrutiny over it, Dutrow all of a sudden decided not to give Big Brown his shot.
He said, he’d been doing so well during his training sessions that Big Brown didn’t need it. It’s a little strange, though, don’t you think, that because he’s been asked about it so much, he decides not to give him a shot and he ends up losing the race that he was very much expected to win.
So did Big Brown really need those steroids? And was that the reason he won the previous two big races?
All this attention to Big Brown’s loss reminds me of the coverage given to Hawai‘i’s Michelle Wie.
The once-golfing phenom is always in the press when she finishes last or close to it. More ink is given to her and how her wrist felt while playing, than the woman who actually wins the championship.
As nice as it would have been to see a horse win the Triple Crown, it’s not the end of the world. Upsets happen.
“Upsets are a part of this game,” said Zito. “That’s the way the business is. I’m sure we’ll see another Triple Crown.”
By the next big race, I hope the network will give credit where it’s due and give the winner the face time it deserves.