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At what cost a Triple Crown?

Posted Thursday, June 5, 2008, at 8:10 PM

Ahh the power that money has over the human psyche.

All apologies to jockey Kent Desormeaux and his quest to quash the memories of a failed bid for the 1998 Triple Crown aboard Real Quiet, but I just can't get behind this Saturday's chance aboard Big Brown.

Yes, all experts believe that it's practically a lock, and Big Brown is a shoe-in if you will, but at what possible cost.

A horse with a history of foot problems has a cracked hoof last week and every talking head expert on TV has gone out of their way to assure the viewing public that Big Brown is completely fine.

But with all apologies to Shakespeare, the trainers doth protest too much, methinks..

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner had an abscess in the sole of his front foot late last year that caused a wall separation last year and then had the same injury in January.

Both injuries kept the colt out for a month-and-a-half.

Now the hoof injury.

Though the previous injuries I'm sure have absolutely no relevance to the current problem, I can't help but see some red flags here.

I think that Saturday's run for the Triple Crown might sit on the verge of a possible PR nightmare should any sort of serious injury occur to Big Brown after the publicity wave leading up to the Belmont.

The public will tune in in droves, at least compared to the viewership of any single horse racing event. Any time you have a chance to witness history, the average TV sports watcher will likely try and catch either the live event or at least the highlights on Sportscenter.

But when you consider the niche sport that is horse racing and the chance that Saturday's race will boost the sport into mainstream houses. There is risk involved.

Even if Big Brown runs well, but still loses in a bid for history, the sport will quietly resume its spot in the subconscious of Americans.

But God forbid if something tragic happens to this horse that has captured the attention of the country, than the outcry will be outrageous.

Big Brown's owners obviously know what they are doing, because they've told us so every time they've had a TV camera in his face.

But you can't tell me that the lure of the multi-millions of being able to stud a Triple Crown champion horse isn't intoxicating.

But at what cost?

Big Brown, if he wins on Saturday, would be the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 30 years, owner Michael Iavarone, could virtually name his price to any potential suitor for his colt's stud fees.

Recently it came to light in a New York Post article that Iavarone was fined and suspended by securities regulators for unauthorized trades back in 1999 when he sold penny stocks for four different brokerage firms during a seven-year Wall Street career. That fact hasn't gotten much play on sports networks all lobbying for footage of the horse that could make history. However, as the co-chief executive officer of International Equine Acquistions Holdings Inc. (IEAH), you have to wonder where Iavarone's interests really lie.

The almighty payday, or the animal that promises to potentially rain cash down upon IEAH with a Belmont victory.

The company owns Big Brown and approximately 80 other race horses.

So who will be there to accept the blame if further injury occurs in this weekend's race?

At what price is it okay to potentially risk harm to an animal that can't say "no?"

Trainers and owners alike plead that there is no ill effects from the hoof crack, but only time will really tell.



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