NEW YORK -- There is nothing ailing Big Brown that a good pedicure won't fix. Think of that crack in his left front hoof as the equivalent of a hangnail for a human.
"It's a little confusing for people who don't understand it, but it is a very common situation," said Dr. Rick Arthur, a veterinarian and equine medical director to the California Horse Racing Board. "We deal with it on a daily basis."
Several veterinarians said racing in Saturday's grueling 1½-mile Belmont Stakes -- with the Triple Crown on the line -- shouldn't pose an additional risk to the strapping bay colt.
They characterized the quarter crack as an innocuous injury, and the minor irritation it causes as an occupational hazard of heavy training.
"It's all healed," trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said Thursday. "We could run him the way he is."
Not exactly. On Friday, hoof specialist Ian McKinlay will apply an acrylic and fiberglass patch to the cracked area. It sets in five minutes and is "stronger than the hoof itself," he said.
That's certainly encouraging news for a sport still on edge after the death of Eight Belles on the track moments after her second-place finish at the Kentucky Derby.
A quarter crack is a vertical crack in the hoof wall between the toe and heel, usually extending into the coronary band, where the hoof meets the skin of the leg. Healing time can range from a few days to a few months, depending on the severity of the crack.
Dr. Larry Bramlage, a veterinarian with Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., said the cracks are common in race horses because they quickly wear out their shoes and their hoofs need trimming more often than an average horse.
Bramlage said a colt typically doesn't even know anything is wrong with the hoof when there's a quarter crack.
"Hopefully this will be something we all talk about now and by Sunday we're taking about the Triple Crown," he said.