LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (AFP) — Big Brown defied history to win the 134th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, but the race finished under a pall as runner-up Eight Belles broke down and was euthanized.
Big Brown more than justified the faith of trainer Rick Dutrow and gave jockey Kent Desormeaux his third triumph in the Kentucky Derby, the first jewel in US flat racing's Triple Crown.
Looking ahead to the next Triple Crown race, the Preakness in Baltimore in two weeks, Dutrow said: "Can't wait to get there!"
Although he went off as the favorite, Big Brown had history against him.
Big Brown became the first Derby winner from post 20 since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929, taking the lead at the top of the stretch and roaring home.
He was also the first Derby winner since filly Regret in 1915 with just three prior career starts.
Dutrow had said that if Big Brown ran his race, he felt his horse couldn't be beaten.
"What you saw today, that's what made me so confident," Dutrow said. "I can't explain it."
Big Brown broke clean under Desormeaux, settled in and was fourth on the outside after the first quarter and at the half-mile.
When Desormeaux eventually asked his horse for more, Big Brown responded and drew off in the stretch to win by nearly five lengths.
"He just started adding power to the stride he has, and he's got some power," said Desormeaux, who won the Derby aboard Real Qiet in 1998 and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.
The performance recalled Big Brown's previous three starts, which he won by a combined 29 lengths.
He was coming off a five-length triumph in the Florida Derby in which he left from the outside 12th post.
Now Dutrow will take aim at the Triple Crown of the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, last completed by Affirmed in 1978.
"We're ready to roll," Dutrow said.
Eight Belles, trained by Larry Jones and ridden by 20-year-old Gabriel Saez, was trying to become just the fourth filly to win the Derby.
But minutes after the race the filly fell to the ground and Saez jumped off. She was found to have broken both front ankles and was humanely detroyed on the track.
"When we passed the wire I stood up. She started galloping funny. I tried to pull her up. That's when she went down," an obviously upset Saez said.
"She didn't have a front leg to stand on to be splinted and hauled off in the ambulance, so she was euthanized," said Larry Bramlage, the Derby's on-call veterinarian.
On Friday Jones won the Kentucky Oaks for fillies with Proud Spell, and was bidding to become the first trainer to pull off the Oaks-Derby double since Alan King in 1952.
Denis of Cork, trained by David Carroll and ridden by Calvin Borel, was third.
Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John, who went off as the second choice, was never a factor and finished a disappointing sixth.
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher fell to 0-for-21 in the Kentucky Derby after Cowboy Cal ran ninth and Monba finished last.
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