In October 1994 a
daughter, Catherine, was born to Dutrow and his girlfriend, Denise Toyloy. In
March '97, after her relationship with the trainer had ended, Toyloy was
murdered in a drug-related break-in at a house in Schenectady, N.Y., while 2
1/2-year-old Catherine (Dutrow's family calls her Molly) was in an adjacent
room. Three men were convicted in Toyloy's death. Molly lived for 10 years in
Maryland with her paternal grandmother, Vicki, but now lives in East Norwich,
N.Y., with her father. Molly, 13, and Vicki sat with Dutrow in his box during
the Derby. "Oh ... my ... God.... We were all freaking out," said Molly
afterward, with the inflection of a duly thrilled eighth-grader.
Dick Dutrow died
of cancer in 1999 while Rick was still trying to beat back his demons and
restart his training career. He was living in a tack room at Aqueduct
Racetrack, largely estranged from his father, who had long been frustrated with
Rick's lack of discipline and direction. "I wish it had ended better with
me and Dad," says Dutrow. "But I still think we were O.K. He's why I'm
here. He knew I could do this."
IN 1999 Dutrow
was introduced to Wall Street trader Sandy Goldfarb, who became the first owner
with significant financial resources to send horses to Dutrow's barn. "The
first guy who believed in me," says the trainer. By 2005 Dutrow had more
than 100 horses, and he won two Breeders' Cup races that fall. His work is not
without blemish; he served a 60-day suspension in '05 when two of his horses
tested positive for banned substances and was assessed an additional 14-day
suspension and a $25,000 fine in '07 for attempting to train horses while on
suspension. He has also been hit with numerous minor sanctions.
Because he is one
of several big-name trainers to have served a suspension after horses tested
positive for banned drugs (Asmussen and Todd Pletcher are among the others), he
is often asked if his operation is clean. "People look at me like that
sometimes," Dutrow said before the Derby. "I don't care. I know what we
do. People who want to cheat to win a race—that's not us."
After the win at
Saratoga, Big Brown alternately charmed and frustrated Dutrow through the
winter. He was twice on the shelf for 45 days with cracks in his front hooves,
and Dutrow scarcely had time to ready his horse for the Derby. Finally healthy,
Big Brown on March 5 crushed the field in a mile allowance race at Gulfstream,
where bad weather had forced a switch from the turf to the dirt—a change that
helped ready him for Kentucky. Twenty-four days later he won the Florida Derby
from the highly disadvantageous post position 12, another harbinger of his
Florida Derby, I asked him to run hard to get the lead, and then I pulled on
the reins with my full body weight to bring him back to me," says
Desormeaux. "Sometimes that will finish a horse. But he relaxed right back
for me. Unbelievable."
previously won the Kentucky Derby on Real Quiet (1998) and Fusaichi Pegasus
(2000). "I remember the first time I sat on Pegasus," says the
38-year-old jockey. "He took about three steps, and I was like, Oh, my God.
Then this guy—I sat on him, and my mind flashed right back. Oh, my God, here we
go again. Only he's even better."
description, and with the fresh memory of a dominant win on hallowed ground, a
familiar chase begins. Racing is endlessly in search of transcendent greatness,
for the next Citation, the next Secretariat, the next Affirmed. The chase
routinely ends in disappointment. Now it is Big Brown's turn to try to make
history. To erase the memory of a fallen filly. To elevate the sport.