NEW YORK Big Brown's perfect path has its first bump.
The unbeaten Triple Crown contender has a slight crack on his left front hoof, although trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was confident the injury won't keep his colt from running in the Belmont Stakes in less than two weeks.
However, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner has missed two days of training at Belmont Park, and will miss at least several more while being treated by hoof specialist Ian McKinlay for a five-eighths of an inch0long quarter crack on the inside of his left heel.
"We're all concerned because there's a big race coming up," Dutrow said outside his barn. "But Ian has us pretty well relaxed. He's telling me it's nothing and he'll be fine in a few days."
Unlike the two-week turnaround between the Derby and the Preakness, there's a three-week break before the Belmont on June 7. Good thing, too, especially if the injury heals by Thursday as Dutrow is hoping.
"If it was two weeks we would be nervous, but this way I'm as cool as we can be," Dutrow said. "It's bad that this happened, but it's good that it happened at this time."
McKinlay has repaired injuries much more severe before big races, allowing Touch Gold to fight off a leg injury from the 1997 Preakness and go on to win the Belmont and spoil Silver Charm's Triple try in 1997.
This will be a much simpler task, he said.
"This is a very, very minor crack," McKinlay assured. "We will put a set of wires in, stitch it up and then patch it."
Best case scenario, he says, could allow Big Brown to return to the track Thursday.