Arkansas horse in $1 million Breeders’ Cup race


LITTLE ROCK — Only a 63-second workout, Kent Desormeaux’s introduction to Brown Almighty was enlightening.

In Lexington, Ky., last week, the Hall of Fame jockey dismounted and told trainer Tim Ice, “Now I know why he’s going” to California for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Owned by Tri-Star Racing and others, the 2-year-old son of Big Brown has won two of four races, but could be perfect.

Richard Robertson of Camden, a partner in Tri-Star, won’t criticize Mark Guidry for gunning from the gate in a September race in Louisiana, but the too-fast first quarter is in the past performances. At the end of the mile race, Brown Almighty was beaten a neck.

A month later in Kentucky, with Francisco Torres aboard, the colt came from far back to finish third after Robertson had said publicly that the colt had to be first or second to earn a trip to the Breeders’ Cup.

The second-place finisher was disqualified and Brown Almighty was moved to second. “I said, ‘It’s just meant to be,’” Robertson said.

“If we get a clean trip (on Saturday), I’ll take my chances against the Europeans,” he said.

Often, the European runners dominate grass races at the Breeders’ Cup and the lukewarm favorite is from across the pond, but the turf at Santa Anita will be firmer than the usual going in Europe.

Also in play is a first-time ban on a medication widely used to combat lung hemorrhaging in thoroughbreds in the U.S. This week, Lasix is not allowed in the five Breeders’ Cup races for 2-year-olds. Next year, the ban will include all 15 Breeders’ Cup races.

For a race, Brown Almighty gets a dose much less than the norm and none for his workouts. Lasix is prohibited on race days in Europe.

The coveted Triple Crown races for 3-year-olds are on dirt, but Brown Almighty has run exclusively on grass, including passing a richer race on the polytrack in Chiago for the grass in Louisiana. “I say, ‘make your plan and work your plan,’” Robertson said, admitting he has caved to pressure to enter a particular race and paid the price.

The son of 2008 Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner Big Brown, Brown Almighty was one of about 3,000 horses in a March sale in Ocala, Fla. Robertson couldn’t make the trip, but he wanted a Big Brown offspring and told Ice he would text him the I-D numbers of some horses of interest.

“I went through the book and sent him six hip numbers,” Robertson said. His first choice, based on pedigree and a work he watched on a computer, was a charcoal colt.

When Ice did not immediately return the text, Robertson figured his idea had been kicked to the curb. Finally, Ice responded: “I didn’t look at your text. I had a triple star on that particular horse. What do you want to do?”

Robertson’s ceiling was $50,000. The colt was among Big Brown’s first crop of foals and they got him for $22,000. Now, you can’t touch his babies for that.

The first time Ice worked the horse, he called Robertson and said, “Rich, you’ve got a race horse. He does more things right than Summer Bird did.”

That remark “tapped me on the shoulder,” Robertson said, an understandable reaction since Ice won the 2009 Belmont with Summer Bird. Always on the lookout for a 2-year-old with potential, people began trying to buy the colt after his first race. Not for sale, said Robertson, who has been in racing since 1995.

Robertson’s 21-year-old autistic son, Pryce, named the colt, abiding by the guideline that Brown be in there somewhere.

The name begs for an enthusiastic call from Oaklawn announcer Frank Mirahmadi at the finish of a Kentucky Derby prep race.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is hking@arkansasnews.com.