Big Brown Trainer Dutrow Coming Home

By Grupp, John | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 16, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Big Brown Trainer Dutrow Coming Home

Grupp, John, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

BALTIMORE - Rick Dutrow's cherubic smile said it all.

In a moment of levity Thursday morning, the trainer for Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown was asked about the craziest scene he ever witnessed during the Preakness's legendary infield party.

"I was probably the one doing it," Dutrow said with a chuckle.

Dutrow is back at the Preakness Stakes, and this time his destination is the winner's circle.

Dutrow, the son of former Maryland training legend Dick Dutrow, will saddle Big Brown on Saturday for the 133rd Preakness -- his first starter in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown -- and add another chapter to a welcome homecoming.

Post time for the 1 {3-16}-mile race is 6:15 p.m. on NBC. Big Brown, undefeated in four starts, is the 1-2 morning-line favorite in the 13-horse race.

"It's fun to see some of my family and my friends," said Dutrow, who hasn't started a horse at Pimlico since going 0 for 2 at the track in 2006. "But I am more interested in the horse and the race. That's why we came."

Dutrow was born in Hagerstown, Md., and attended high school 20 miles away in Columbia.

But he has traveled much further on his return trip to Old Hilltop.

On the way to becoming trainer of the world's best 3-year-old horse, he overcame a bitter dispute with his late father, who expected more from his gifted son. There also was drug and alcohol abuse, the murder of a former girlfriend and multiple suspensions from racing authorities for doping issues. For a while, broke, he lived in a small room at Aqueduct in New York.

"What I've done, I don't have any problems talking about it," he said. "It happened so long ago. It doesn't bother me."

On Wednesday night, after arriving at Pimlico, Dutrow recalled making the short walk from his father Dickie Dutrow's barn during Preakness week. He would look wide-eyed at eventual Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Affirmed, standing in Stall 40, reserved for Kentucky Derby winners, in the Pimlico Stakes Barn.

Now, Big Brown calls the revered stall home.

"I used to come over here when all the big horses would come in and would always dream about having one in that stall," he said. "It's thrilling."

Maryland-based King T. Leatherbury, who battled Dutrow's father for many trainer titles over the years, sees similiarities in his former rival and his Kentucky Derby-winning son.

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