NEW YORK -- The Triple Crown trail is littered with colts whose feet failed them along the way.
Less than 24 hours before the biggest horse race in three decades, favorite Big Brown and his Japanese challenger, Casino Drive, took steps in opposite directions.
The cracked hoof that stood between trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.'s big bay colt and the sport's first Triple Crown since 1978 was covered with an acrylic patch Friday, ending a weeklong drama.
No sooner had the glue dried on Big Brown when Casino Drive turned up with a suspect foot that could knock the early second choice out of the Belmont Stakes.
If he's scratched from today's punishing 1½-mile race, it would eliminate Big Brown's chief rival, the only other undefeated colt in the field and send Dutrow's brimming confidence over the top.
"I don't think Casino Drive has any chance at all," he said. "I think the horse has got his issues."
Of course, that would leave eight other horses to take a shot at Big Brown, the early 2-5 favorite. Dutrow seemed even less worried about them, saying, "They're going to have to run the race of their life to win."
At 2-0, Japan-based Casino Drive is coming off a 5¾-length victory in the Peter Pan Stakes nearly a month ago on the same Belmont track.
"Right now, we are in. We expect him to run," said Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto and trainer Kazuo Fujisawa.
Big Brown is seeking to join Seattle Slew (9-0 in 1977) as the only undefeated Triple Crown winners. He has won his five races by a combined 39 lengths.