Sunday, June 08, 2008
Big Brown's Owner Says Loose Hind Shoe "Not An Issue"
The Blood-Horse is quoting one of Big Brown's owners, Michael Iavarone of IEAH, this morning:
"His feet are ice cold, quarter crack not an issue. He had a very loose hind left shoe, but that’s not an issue."
The jockey complained that the horse was not handling the track well. Various reports from the media describe the track as loose and deep and suggest that the track was not watered because of the water pressure problems at the track yesterday (which left almost 100,000 racegoers without toilets).
(CORRECTION: This turned out to not be the case, according to one eye-witness. The track was watered. The grandstand had no water or toilets, but the track did! Other comments suggest that the holding barn did not have water, either.)
Much has been written about Big Brown's problem-packed front feet, but not much about his hinds. He won the Derby with turndowns on his hinds; turndowns are popular at Churchill Downs, according to crack specialist Tom Curl, who worked on Big Brown's right front foot. My guess is that all or most of the runners in the Derby also had them.
A turndown is the practice of turning the heels of the hind raceplate down so they become, in effect, like mud calks. They are believed to help with traction.
Big Brown's hind shoes were pulled after the Derby and he exercised and lived barefoot behind for a couple of days until Todd Boston, a shoer at Churchill, re-did his hinds.
I don't know what he had on behind for the Preakness but I do know that turndowns are illegal in New York. They do allow a small bend, but no sharp angles, that's for sure. Fred Sellerberg is NYRA's man in the paddock; his job is looking at the shoes. The guy has some sort of x-ray vision and seems to be able to spot an illegal shoe before the horse leaves the holding barn. Or at least he says he can. He just nods his head and says, "Believe me, Fran, I can tell". He is roughly my age and does not wear glasses, so I'm impressed.
Fred also would have seen a loose hind shoe. A paddock shoer, in addition to Fred, is on hand for exactly that reason and occasionally a race is held up in the paddock while a shoe is re-nailed.
So a loose shoe was probably a function of another horse stepping on it during the race or the horse stumbling and grabbing, or just normal wear and tear in the course of the race. Big Brown hit serious traffic problems in the first mile of the race and one ABC commentator suggested that he may even have been kicked by Da'Tara as he came up too close and had to be pulled back.
Watch the replay on slow-motion mode; at times it looks like Big Brown is a carousel horse, going up in the air, although still making forward progress.
Even more likely is that it was pulled loose when Big Brown was yanked up by the jockey. There are some dismal photos of the horse in biomechanical disarray as the rest of the horses charge past him. I wonder how his mouth feels today.
Tale of Ekati received a tough gash in the race and has a pretty serious wound on his leg, according to trainer Barclay Tagg.
When Rags to Riches didn't come back after the Belmont last year, she was sent to New Bolton Center for a complete medical and orthopedic analysis, from head to toe. Coolmore (her owners) insisted. They didn't find anything wrong that was ever made public but the filly spent the summer hanging out in her stall.
IEAH is the midst of building a new equine hospital next door to Belmont Park. Let's hope that they put their future staff to work checking out Big Brown so he can run again. If they are going to be in the equine health business this fall anyway, they can get a head start and protect the horse from further injury or illness if there is any doubt.