Yesterday, as most of you know, Big Brown went for horse racing immortality. His attempt to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 30 years captivated the nation. But like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones before him, he fell short at the Belmont Stakes.
I missed the race yesterday because I was at church. When I came home, they were interviewing Kent Desomourx, Big Brown's jockey. Desomourx actually sounded like he was from Jockey Land. Anyway, Desomourx simply said, "I had no horse." This feeling caused Desomourx to pull Big Brown out part-way through the race and just jog the horse in.
Some people out there probably feel that Big Brown should have been pushed all the way in, regardless of how he felt. Well as a runner, I know that is not possible. In the replay, Big Brown comes out of the gates pretty powerful, but after a few moments, it is clear that he is totally flat. That is the worst feeling ever as a runner coming off of the start. You feel like you cannot go any faster than how you are already running, which is not that fast. This feeling usually comes from not working hard enough the week before in practice or not warming up enough before the race starts. Big Brown was not able to get as much work in as his trainers had hoped for him in the weeks before the Belmont. This lack of work had an adverse affect on Big Brown, causing him to come out of the blocks totally fast.
Because being flat comes from not training enough in the weeks before a race or not warming up enough, your muscles are not in racing condition. Pushing yourself through the flat feeling in a race is not the best idea. When you push through the flat feeling, you risk injury. Stress fractures, hamstring pulls, and knee problems can result from pushing too hard when your body is not ready for it. Desomourx did not want to risk serious injury to Big Brown, and even said that he wanted to save his horse. Pulling Big Brown up and jogging him in was a good idea.
I am not saying that you should not pull up in every race you feel flat in, as there are always parts of races you will feel flat in. In the 800m, you hit the 400m wall. At the 400 mark, you are supposed to start your kick and you start to feel like you are flying. However, at the 500m mark, the realization that there are 300m to go kicks in and immediately saps all the energy out of your legs. The flat feeling returns, but the fact it comes so late in the race and it comes where you are supposed to be tired is no reason to pull up and jog it in. Feeling flat in the first 100m is a type of situation that can call for pulling up in a race. I have seen teammates do it before. It is rather embarrassing, but you know it is for your own health.
I do feel sorry that Big Brown did not win the Triple Crown. It could have provided the boost that the horse racing industry needs, but I feel the industry will continue to struggle if incidents like the ones surrounding Barbaro and Eight Belles continue. Desomourx was right to save Big Brown, although it seems like he passed up a chance at eternal glory, but it was for Big Brown's