Monday, May 19, 2008


How do we measure greatness? The two most prominent abilities in measuring greatness are the ability to overcome adversity and the ability to prevail over powerful, worthy foes. While the ability to overcome adversity can result in great performances, think of Afleet Alex's stumble at the top of the stretch in the 2005 Preakness, I think true greatness can only be attained through proving one's mettle by repeatedly prevailing-not necessarily always- against worthy foes.
As dominating as Big Brown has been it is seeming more and more apparent that his crop is also just especially weak at this stage of their development. Perhaps I just want to see a hero tested under fire to earn his stripes. Up to this point Big Brown's superiority has proved so overwhelming that he hasn't faced a true test. You can't blame that on a horse, he doesn't pick his competition. But for me it detracts some from his accomplishments at this point. I'm sure I'm not alone in believing that the Belmont will be no more of test for him than the other jewels in the crown. Sure, there will be some fresher horses. I would expect Colonel John and a few of the old K.D. gang back. Yes, there will be Casino Drive. But isn't an upset by him an unrealistic expectation to place on a colt with just two races to his career? And if he is able to pull off, what would be the greatest upset since Upset put the word into the lexicon of sports by defeating Man O' War in the 1919 Sanford Memorial, what does that say about Big Brown's value?
With a new $50 million anchor dropped in Kentucky it seems likely that The Belmont Stakes will be Big Brown's swan song. I don't want to take anything away from Casino Drive but if he's Big Brown's most worthy foe it's possible that Secretariat's record 31 length victory is also at risk. After all there would be no reason not to let him run it out.
If this scenario does play out, if Big Brown does go on to win the triple crown and is retired it is another crime perpetrated upon the sport and it's fans. We want to know how good he is. Is he real? Affirmed had Alydar, Sunday Silence had Easy Goer, Real Quiet had Victory Gallop and the list can go on. It's not always just one foe often there's many but these comparisons develop a truer clarity of value. As amazing as he seems can a horse that has raced only six times, against suspect company, really be worth $5o million? I'm not saying he's not. I am saying prove it! I hope they let him run the remainder of the year. Likely that would mean only two more races. I think we might expect to see him in the Travers and of course the B.C. Classic. If we were lucky maybe one more prep in between those races. Though I think eight or nine races is still a minimal amount of races to gauge true value at least one of them would be against proven and / or older horses. If he would win the B.C. maybe then we can talk about all-time great. And if he lost to the likes of a horse such as Curlin that would not be a disgrace at all. Nor should it harm his value.

With all the talk of needed change in the industry in the wake of the Eight Belles tragedy I still expect that he will be retired. It will prove once again that nothing is going to change. Behavior will remain status quo in the industry. The talk of breeding better, stronger horses will give way again to dollar signs and caution. I'm sure "Big Brown 'Unbeaten Triple Crown Winner' $125k" advertisements are being designed as I write this. Maybe he is a great horse. Maybe he will add stamina and durability to the breed. All I'm saying is allow the horse to go out and run often enough and against a class of competition that will prove he truly is what we expect of our heroes and what we need to strengthen the breed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great minds think alike.
Well written.