Big Brown arrived at Belmont Park on New York's Long Island yesterday. The Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown for three-year-old Thoroughbreds, will be run on June 7th.(Yahoo News linked photo)
The Blood-Horse reported yesterday that Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown was affected by run down problems on his hind legs and feet in the Preakness.
This prompted a rash of questions about this sort of injury. And "rash" is the right word. Rundowns are sort of like a bad road rash! And if you've ever fallen off a motorcycle, fallen on the street while rollerblading, or skiied over rough terrain in shorts in the spring, you know what I'm talking about. Ouch!
With horses, it is usually the back of the pastern and the heel bulbs that get rubbed or scraped, but it can go up the back on the cannon, too.
Rundown injuries usually clear up pretty easily but the question to be asked is why it happened in the Preakness, and if the horse changed his gait or running style. It could also have been the track. And it could have happened in other races, but the horse wasn't under such a microscope of scrutiny until the past few weeks.
Big Brown ran with front wraps in the Preakness because of Dutrow's desire to avoid hitting injuries (interference) although it is not clear if the interference was front left to right, front to hind, or diagonal. Horses have all sorts of hitting issues based on conformation, fatigue, pulling up sharply, accelerating out of the gate, clipping heels, etc. and this is probably not something to think of as a performance-limiting injury.
Horses only get rundown injuries on dirt tracks, although I don't know about artificial surfaces. It seems like they could be abrasive, too. The Dutrow team will just have to wrap his legs and pad his pasterns when he trains at Belmont, until this clears up. There are all sorts of wraps and boots and patches that can be used so he can train normally.
It's not likely that this will be a problem for Big Brown, but with any animal you don't want the possibility of an association between speed and pain, or going out on the track and pain. Big Brown seems like a tougher horse than that.
My fellow blogger Alex Brown, exercise rider for Steve Asmussen, has some more insight into rundowns in today's New York Times.