Big Brown’s Big Day At The Roses

By Kathy Gonzalez
Updated: May 7, 2008

LEXINGTON, Kty. — They say that if you don’t like the weather in Kentucky, wait five minutes and it will change. Early Derby week weather forecasters predicted possible showers for the weekend, with hope for a dry Derby.

Though the predictions changed each day, then hour by hour, the original predictions were correct.

Torrential rains on Friday at Churchill Downs in Louisville led to rain throughout the early mornings on Saturday. By the time fans flocked to the windows to bet the first race, the sun broke through.

Clouds early in the day and a cool breeze, coupled with the efforts of Churchill Downs’ track crew, the soaked surface dried from race to race, going from a sloppy track to a fast track — setting up for an honest contest for the 134th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.

The bettors stayed strong throughout the day with Big Brown and Colonel John the early favorites. Pyro, from post No. 9 wasn’t ignored, but the rest of the field were double-digits odds. The lowest of those double digits was Eight Belles.

As is the tradition, participants put on their Derby hats, stiletto heals and entertaining outfits. Celebrities entertained fans with appearances in the saddling paddock after attending the many parties.

Excitement built up to the 10th race. As the horses began the walk-over from the barn area, parading in front of over two million fans, fans, horsemen and the horses themselves felt the pure size of this special event.

20 entrants for the greatest race in the world were saddled, then the paddock judge called “Riders up!” and the parade post began to the music of the bugler.

Fans began a deafening roar as the three-year-old contenders emerged upon the track. The sound was electric and the horses and riders were on their game.

The horses began to load into the gate and 20 horses passed before the finish line for the first time in the mile and one-quarter race. First past the finish post was No.13, Bob Black Jack, followed closely by #20 Big Brown and Cool Coal Man.

Hot on their heals were most of the field, with No. 20 Eight Belles who would finish second. Denis of Cork, No.16 was behind the leaders.

Again, the fans roared and tried to follow the race via the infield Jumboron screen, television monitors, or, for the lucky ones, a view from above.

As the field rounded the turn for home, fans jumped up in anticipation and watched as Big Brown drew off in the final furlong to finish by nearly five lengths over the only filly in the race, Eight Belles.

Many fans had picked the winner and they erupted in cheers as Big Brown, jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard, returned to greet trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr. and a large gathering of the horse’s owners, family and friends.

Most fans and horsemen didn’t know that the brave Eight Belles, according to jockey Gabriel Saez, started to move badly easing up. A tragic incident occurred as rider tried, in vain, to pull up the fast filly, fighting her courage and the powerful momentum of a half-ton animal.

It was sad news to horsemen and fans to hear later, she had suffered an insurmountable injury and had to be humanely euthanized.

Big Brown returned to his barn later on the backstretch and appeared to have come out of the race in good order.

The crowd, second highest in the history of the Kentucky Derby, then faced the long, slow exit, faithful ones staying for the final two races on the card.

The next stop for Big Brown’s attempt to secure the Triple Crown, will take place at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland on May 17.