Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown nibbles on groom Herasmo Gonzalez' hand as he stands in his stall at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Big Brown gobbled up a few peppermints and did some leisurely laps around his barn Sunday while camera-snapping admirers gawked at the dominant winner of the Kentucky Derby.
What they saw was a colt who defied Derby history with his 4¾-length victory a day earlier. Big Brown became the first horse since the filly Regret in 1915 to win the Derby off just three career starts and the second to win from post position No. 20.
"I don't know who's going to beat him," said Graham Motion, who trained 19th-place Adriano. "To win off three starts ... even Curlin could not do that."
Next is the Preakness on May 17 against a slew of well-rested competitors since Big Brown has scared off virtually all of his 19 Derby rivals.
"He'll go to the Preakness as one of the most overwhelming favorites," said trainer Nick Zito, whose Derby horses finished seventh and 15th, respectively. "You can't say enough good things. He was tremendous."
Big Brown accelerated to the lead at the top of the stretch and was never challenged while putting away the rest of the field with an explosive finishing kick under jockey Kent Desormeaux.
Big Brown trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was overwhelmed by 48 text messages and 29 voicemails congratulating him on his first Derby victory. "I don't return any of them," he said, smiling.
Things were somber over at Larry Jones' barn less than 24 hours after filly Eight Belles finished second and then broke both front ankles while galloping out a quarter of a mile past the wire. She was euthanized on the track.
"I keep looking and she ain't in there, so I know she ain't coming back," he said, nodding toward his barn.
After an autopsy, the dark gray filly will be cremated. Jones was unsure of owner Rick Porter's plans to inter her ashes, although he said Churchill Downs had offered a spot at the track.
Jones accepted condolences from passers-by while still mystified about what caused Eight Belles' breakdown.
"If she'd have broke one leg, she could have definitely had a shot at trying to be saved," he said. "But with both of them going, there was no chance in the world. She was on the ground, she was never going to get up."
Dutrow sympathized with Jones' loss, having been through similar situations.
"So much goes into being around them all the time and knowing them and seeing how they go out there and perform for you," he said. "It hurts."
Dutrow had pretty much guaranteed Big Brown's Derby win, but he was subdued a day later while considering the two-week gap between the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
"I can't stand it, but it doesn't matter because we got to do it," he said outside the Churchill Downs barn where Big Brown will train until shipping to Baltimore's Pimlico on May 14.
"I'm kind of worried. You've got to come right back off that huge, huge race. I know it looks like he's the best horse, but Pimlico's a different game."
Told that Dutrow doesn't like Pimlico's track, Zito joked, "If he hates it so much, tell him to stay home and I'll take his place."
Big Brown is 4-0 in his brief career, winning by a total of 33¾ lengths. But Dutrow was cautious in assessing his colt's potential to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont and give racing its first Triple Crown winner in 30 years.
"I don't see that he beat a great Derby field, so I wouldn't know how to judge things," he said. "Like Secretariat (in 1973), that was best crop I've ever seen in my life, and he beat 'em -- he took 'em to the cleaners every time he ran against them. I'm not one to compare him against past horses. It just wasn't a strong Derby field other than our horse."
Eight rested horses likely await Big Brown in Baltimore, including Lexington Stakes winner Behindatthebar, trained by Todd Pletcher, and San Rafael winner El Gato Malo.
Zito plans to send Stevil, fourth in the Blue Grass. He'll be joined by Kentucky Bear, third in the Blue Grass; Count Fleet winner Giant Moon; Withers winner Harlem Rocker; California Derby winner Yankee Bravo; and Tres Borrachos, third in the Arkansas Derby.
The only Derby holdover may be Recapturetheglory, who was fifth Saturday, although trainer Louie Rousell II was leaning toward giving his colt a 30-day vacation.
Dutrow ticked off the reasons why he considers the Preakness to be different.
"Maybe there's going to be some hotshot speed horse in there, maybe it will rain, it will be sloppy, maybe some other horse will really like it," he said.
The Derby winner has finished first in the 1 1-16-mile Preakness six times in the last 11 runnings.
In his own way, Jones will be rooting for Big Brown to win the Triple Crown.
"It would let our filly go out in a blaze of glory," he said.