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Yanks go Big on Crowning glory

The Americans love a wonder horse. Man O'War, Secretariat, Seabiscuit, Kelso and Seattle Slew are all legendary figures in stateside sporting culture and it appears that another flyer may be about to join them in the pantheon.

Eight days ago at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore, the three-year-old colt Big Brown won the nine-and-a-half furlong Preakness Stakes by five and a quarter lengths. The distance was impressive enough but even more so was the fact that winning rider Kent Desormeaux never went for the whip and led by eight lengths at one stage before letting the horse ease up.

The Preakness is the second leg of America's Triple Crown. The first, and most famous, is the one and a quarter mile Kentucky Derby which Big Brown won by four and three quarter lengths, the smallest winning margin of his career. The lightly raced colt has won his five races by a combined total of 39 lengths without ever having come under any real pressure.

Now all that's needed for confirmation of his status is a win on June 7 in the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown and, at a mile and half, the longest one. Big Brown, 1/5 in the Preakness, will start as a red-hot favourite but there are whispers that he could be pushed by the Japanese-owned Casino Drive, which comes from the same dam as the previous two winners of the race and has been aimed at the Belmont all season.

More worrying is that, since 1978 when Affirmed was the last Triple Crown winner, ten horses have failed at Belmont Park when trying to complete the treble. Should Big Brown, trained by Rick Dutrow Junior, son of one America's legendary trainers, win in New York, this will turn out to have been a very special year for horse racing. Dutrow is already declaring that Casino Drive won't get next nor near Big Brown.

It's a race well worth keeping an eye out for. That's if you don't want to wait for the movie.

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