Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown's racing career is over after injuring his right front foot during a workout at Aqueduct on Monday.
Trainer Rick Dutrow said the 3-year-old colt, who was preparing for the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25, appeared to kick himself while working on the turf course at Aqueduct with stablemate Kip Deville. Big Brown was able to complete the six-furlong work when Dutrow noticed blood coming out of the foot.
"It looks like he grabbed himself in a bad spot," Dutrow said.
Though the extent of the injury is unknown, Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables, co-owners of Big Brown, said the horse who captivated the racing world during his Triple Crown bid will not race again.
"It's in the best interest of the horse to let him recover and move on to his breeding career," Iavarone said.
It means there will be no showdown in the BC Classic between Big Brown and 4-year-old star Curlin. The race was expected to be Big Brown's last before retiring to stud at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky.
"This is devastating. He had a great work this morning, and we were very excited about going to Breeders' Cup," Iavarone said. "This is not only devastating to us, but to all of his fans who won't get to see him run in the Classic."
The injury caps a brilliant but somewhat controversial career for Big Brown, who won seven times in eight starts including dominant runs in the Derby and the Preakness.
His bid to become the first Triple Crown champion since 1978 ended during a bizarre Belmont Stakes in which he was eased by jockey Kent Desormeaux at the turn and he trotted across the finish line far behind the rest of the field.
The Belmont came after Dutrow admitted he took Big Brown off the anabolic steroid Winstrol, though Dutrow claimed the decision had nothing to do with Big Brown's poor performance. The horse was also dealing with a painful quarter crack in his left front hoof. That injury is unrelated to the one he sustained Monday.
Big Brown bounced back from the Belmont with wins in the Haskell Invitational and the Monmouth Stakes and was poised for a shot at Curlin, horse racing's all-time leading money winner. Not anymore. Dutrow expressed disappointment but said the horse's health is the highest priority.
"The best case scenario is he lives a real good life," Dutrow said.
Case Clay, president of Three Chimneys, said he's saddened by the news and isn't sure when Big Brown would arrive at the farm.
"We're just going to let the horse kind of dictate that, let him heal from his foot injury and whenever he's healed and ready, he'll come," Clay said.
The injury could also affect Big Brown's stud fee. The farm negotiated a breeding deal reportedly worth $50 million. A win in the BC Classic could have upped the asking price, though Clay is sure Big Brown will still command a high-dollar fee.
"He's the best of his generation," Clay said. "I think his stud fee will be different if he won the Classic, what that'll be, I'm not sure."
Big Brown isn't the first star 3-year-old to miss the BC Classic due to injury. Smarty Jones, who won the Derby and Preakness in 2004, missed the Classic that year with a bruised foot and retired to Three Chimneys. Also, Mineshaft missed the 2003 Classic as a 4-year-old due to a minor ankle injury.
Racing officials were hoping a duel between Big Brown and Curlin would provide the sport with a little public relations boost right in the middle of football season. The sport has struggled along with the economic downturn, with both wagering and purses down during the third quarter according to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
NTRA president Alex Waldrop, however, said Big Brown's injury won't necessarily take away from racing's biggest two days.
"I'm thinking of the Ryder Cup when everyone said not having Tiger Woods would kill the Ryder Cup when the opposite happened," he said. "New stars were able to step up and there will be plenty of great horses at Santa Anita."
Big Brown's retirement leaves the spotlight squarely on Curlin, who became the first North American horse to eclipse $10 million in earnings with a victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park last month.
Curlin is already at Santa Anita. He was scheduled to have a five-furlong work over the track's artificial surface Monday.