Rick Dutrow is still wondering what went wrong with Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes. He's also wondering why everyone seems to be ganging up on him.
In his first news conference since Big Brown's failed Triple Crown attempt three weeks ago, the trainer said Friday he's been inundated with calls about "negative stuff" and wishes it would stop.
During the Triple Crown, Dutrow was criticized for just about everything _ from dealing with Big Brown's quarter crack, to belittling his rivals, to giving his prized colt steroids.
The latest barrage came after Dutrow was given a 15-day suspension by Kentucky racing officials because a horse he trains _ Salute the Count _ was found to have an excessive amount of the legal drug Clenbuterol after finishing second in the Aegon Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on May 2, a day before Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby. The drug allows horses to breathe easier while exercising.
"It's my responsibility, but it's not my fault," Dutrow said outside barn 10 at Aqueduct Racetrack. "It's just a mistake that happened but it's not as big a deal as everyone is trying to make it out to be.
"I'm just getting flooded with everybody calling me all the time with negative stuff. I wish it would all stop."
Dutrow eventually will serve the suspension, he said, but by filing his appeal Friday he can continue preparing Big Brown and several other top horses for upcoming stake races.
"Since everyone is giving me the opportunity to appeal it, and postpone it, that's what I'm going to be doing until I can't postpone it any more," Dutrow said, adding that he hopes Big Brown could run in both the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 3 and the Travers Stakes on Aug. 23.
Dutrow isn't the only prominent trainer in trouble.
Steve Asmussen, who trains 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, faces a suspension after one his horses tested positive for an illegal raceday medication following a win at Lone Star Park in Texas on May 10
Dutrow's suspension didn't sit well with IEAH Stables, Big Brown's majority owner. IEAH co-president Michael Iavarone recently announced that all of his stables' horses will run drug-free beginning Oct. 1.
Dutrow apologized to Iavarone, and said IEAH is still behind him "1 million percent."
Michael Dubb, the owner of Salute the Count, was at Dutrow's barn to lend support.
"Rick Dutrow is all about his horses, he cares for his horses immensely," Dubb, who has about 25 horses with Dutrow, said. "Apparently what happened with Salute the Count is that he was administered a legal _ and I reiterate legal _ amount of medication too close to race day. It was during Big Brown mania. Rick is a phenomenal trainer, but a poor administrator."
Dutrow was his usual chatty self for the first time since the day before the Belmont. He also said he supports a uniform national medication policy and explained why he didn't go to Washington D.C., for a recent hearing on horse safety.
"If every state would have the same rules, I would love it. If everything is the same playing field, we're going to do as good, if not better, than everybody."
"I know they wanted me to go down to Washington to ask me a bunch of questions. I wasn't feeling on top of my game. If I had a gun to my head, I would have went. But no one put a gun to my head.
"Now, they wanted to talk about breakdowns," he continued. "Now everyone looks at me as I'm a drug kind of guy. If you're a drug kind of guy, you're going to go out there and watch your horses break down. I want anybody here to tell the last time they've seen one of my horses break down in the afternoon.
"You're not going to be able to find it because I'm safe, I'm sound. I protect my horses. I remember Lake Pontchartrain broke down in Boston eight or nine years ago and I can't remember another time one of my horses broke down in the afternoon and that has to count for something."
Big Brown is set for a gallop Saturday _ his first since his last-place finish in the Belmont. A timed workout could come Tuesday.
"I'm not sure about Tuesday, but he's ready," Dutrow said. "He got his little break. He's jogging every day, so he's ready to roll."
Dutrow added he's still under the impression something was wrong with Big Brown in the Belmont. The colt was eased by jockey Kent Desormeaux with a half-mile to go in the 1 1/2-mile race.
"When you pull a horse up in a race, something is supposed to be wrong," he said. "So I'm still looking for that. Once we gallop him, if Michelle (Nevin) tells me he's great, I'll be feeling good. Once we breeze him and she says he's the same horse, I'll be feeling very good. He still has these tests to pass."
As for the Belmont race, Dutrow remained baffled.
"I think the first half mile of the race, the trip that he got, was just one of the worst trips you would ever want to see in a horse," he said. "After that, I cannot explain anything."
He also said he didn't believe a loose right rear shoe was an issue.
"For it to be an issue, the jock has to feel it and I have to see it," Dutrow said. "The jock didn't feel it and I didn't see it. I know there other people believe that's what happened and, man, I hope they're right."
In a perfect world, Dutrow said he'd like to see Big Brown win the Haskell at Monmouth Park, come back 20 days later for the Travers at Saratoga, and then close out his career in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.
"But it's my world, and it's not perfect," Dutrow said.