Big Brown’s Racing Career Ends with Aqueduct Foot Injury

October 13, 2008

Big Brown's Thoroughbred Horse Racing Career Ends with Foot Injury at Aqueduct, NY Race TrackThoroughbred race horse Big Brown’s racing career is over. The end came abruptly today, during a six-furlong workout at the Aqueduct Race Course in New York. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner injured his right front foot, tearing a three-inch piece of flesh from it, while on Aqueduct’s turf course. Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables, co-owner of Big Brown and speaking to CTV, described the injury as “a complete fluke,” adding that the three-year-old colt “hadn’t had issues with his feet for awhile and to have him come up just like this was a shock to all of us. ….I expect the next few days to be pretty rough on him. We’ve got to take care of him.”

Big Brown Bay Colt with Co-Owner Michael Iavarone in August

Big Brown’s final race was to have been the Breeders’ Cup Classic at the Santa Anita, California race track on 25 October. But the injury will take about two months to heal, precluding another race for the bay, who will retire at stud to Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky by the end of the year. While Big Brown has earned $3.6 million and won seven times in eight starts, it’s not the first time that he’s experienced foot problems. He was the first race horse eligible to win the Triple Crown since 1978, but made a strange finish in the Belmont Stakes when jockey Kent Desormeaux eased up on the horse, which trotted across the finish line well behind the field. Trainer Rick Dutrow had taken the big bay off of Winstrol, an anabolic steroid, for the Belmont but claimed that withdrawing Winstrol was unrelated to the unusual performance. At about that time, Big Brown also had a quarter crack in his left front hoof.

Filly Eight Belles on the Day of Her Death at the 2008 Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky

Big Brown’s Derby win in Louisville, Kentucky on 3 May 2008 was marred by the death of the filly Eight Belles, who suffered compound fractures of both front legs at the end of the race, leading to her immediate euthanization where she fell on the track. This followed the death of Barbaro a year earlier, after Barbaro fractured three bones in the ankle of his right hind leg and underwent a prolonged and unsuccessful rehabilitation. Thoroughbreds are bred for speed rather than durability, and many race fans and animal rights activists began to believe that the horses had bones too lightweight to support their strength. Inbreeding, especially from the legendary Northern Dancer, was also cited as a possible cause of so many notable breakdowns. The series of events prompted many to criticize the horse racing industry, with Washington Post sportswriter Sally Jenkins notably commenting that Eight Belles “ran with the heart of a locomotive, on champagne-glass ankles.” Blaming breeders and investors for Eight Belles’ death, Jenkins wrote that “thoroughbred racing is in a moral crisis, and everyone now knows it.”

Read about the death of the beloved Barbaro.

Photo credit: David Stephenson / Lexington Herald Leader via ZUMA and Getty Images

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