Looks like Big Brown's resounding Kentucky Derby victory has scared away a lot of the competition.
Almost none of his 19 Derby rivals want to run against the undefeated colt again, so at least eight new horses will try to derail Big Brown's shot at the Triple Crown with a victory in the Preakness in two weeks.
The only Derby holdover may be Recapturetheglory, who was fifth Saturday, although trainer Louie Rousell II was leaning toward giving his colt a 30-day vacation.
The fresh horses worry trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., who is leery about such a quick turnaround for Big Brown.
"You've got to come right back off that huge, huge race. I know it looks like he's the best horse, but Pimlico's a different game," he said Sunday. "Maybe there's going to be some hotshot speed horse in there, maybe it will rain, it will be sloppy, maybe some other horse will really like it."
Big Brown defied Derby history with a 4 3/4-length victory that made him the first horse since the filly Regret in 1915 to win off just three career starts and the second to win from post position No. 20.
Dutrow plans to stay at Churchill Downs and train Big Brown until shipping to Baltimore on May 14.
"He'll go to the Preakness as one of the most overwhelming favorites," said trainer Nick Zito, whose Derby horses finished seventh and 15th, respectively. "You can't say enough good things. He was tremendous."
Big Brown accelerated to the lead at the top of the stretch and was never challenged while putting away the rest of the field with an explosive finishing kick under jockey Kent Desormeaux.
"I don't know who's going to beat him," said Graham Motion, who trained 19th-place Adriano. "To win off three starts ... even Curlin could not do that."
Dutrow had pretty much guaranteed Big Brown's Derby win, but he was subdued a day later while considering the new challenge.
"I said on paper before the race it looks like a mismatch to me, but Pimlico is a different game," he said. "I really liked him in this race because everything was perfect; now things start to change."
Told that Dutrow doesn't like Pimlico's track, Zito joked, "If he hates it so much, tell him to stay home and I'll take his place."
Big Brown is 4-0 in his brief career, winning by a total of 33 3/4 lengths. But Dutrow was cautious in assessing his colt's potential to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont and give racing its first Triple Crown winner in 30 years.
"I don't see that he beat a great Derby field, so I wouldn't know how to judge things," he said. "Like Secretariat (in 1973), that was best crop I've ever seen in my life, and he beat 'em _ he took 'em to the cleaners every time he ran against them. I'm not one to compare him against past horses. It just wasn't a strong Derby field other than our horse."
Big Brown's likely challengers in the Preakness include Lexington Stakes winner Behindatthebar, trained by Todd Pletcher, and San Rafael winner El Gato Malo.
Zito plans to send Stevil, fourth in the Blue Grass. He'll be joined by Kentucky Bear, third in the Blue Grass; Count Fleet winner Giant Moon; Withers winner Harlem Rocker; California Derby winner Yankee Bravo; and Tres Borrachos, third in the Arkansas Derby.
Dutrow was overwhelmed by 48 text messages and 29 voicemails congratulating him on his first Derby victory. "I don't return any of them," he said, smiling.
There were few smiles over at Larry Jones' barn less than 24 hours after filly Eight Belles finished second and then broke both front ankles while galloping out a quarter of a mile past the wire. She was euthanized on the track.
"I keep looking and she ain't in there, so I know she ain't coming back," the trainer said, nodding toward his barn.
After an autopsy, the dark gray filly will be cremated. Jones was unsure of owner Rick Porter's plans to inter her ashes, although he said Churchill Downs had offered a spot at the track.
Jones accepted condolences from passers-by while still mystified about what caused Eight Belles' breakdown.
"If she'd have broke one leg, she could have definitely had a shot at trying to be saved," he said. "But with both of them going, there was no chance in the world. She was on the ground, she was never going to get up."
Dutrow sympathized with Jones' loss, having been through similar situations.
"So much goes into being around them all the time and knowing them and seeing how they go out there and perform for you," he said. "It hurts."
In his own way, Jones will be rooting for Big Brown to win the Triple Crown.
"It would let our filly go out in a blaze of glory," he said.