Bigger Than Big

A perfect trotter upstaged Big Brown's return
August 10, 2008

DID BIG BROWN'S victory in Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park prove that the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner is a superhorse after all? Not exactly. Making his first start since his shocking last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, the charismatic colt ran uneasily in second for most of the 1 1/8-mile distance, then lumbered through the homestretch, bearing out significantly, as tired horses often do, as he passed longshot Coal Play for a 1 3/4-length score. "Vindication," said jockey, Kent Desormeaux. But lead owner Michael Iavarone had to admit, "He really had to struggle."

Big Brown wasn't even the most impressive horse to win a race in New Jersey last weekend. That distinction went to the 3-year-old trotter Deweycheatumnhowe, who a day earlier at the Meadowlands took the $1.5 million Hambletonian, becoming the first undefeated winner in the 83-year history of harness racing's main event. "It don't matter if I die now," trainer, driver and co-owner Ray Schnittker said afterward. "I got it." Indeed, he had it from the start, leading the entire mile, timed in 1:52, four fifths of a second off the race record. "Dewey's the horse of a lifetime," said his breeder, Steve Jones, "a man among boys."

That hasn't always been the case. Orphaned at six weeks old, Dewey was skinny and pot-bellied until eight months, and Jones was so intent on selling him as a yearling that he named him after Johnny Carson's fictitious law firm hoping a prospective buyer who was an attorney would bid on him. (Schnittker ended up buying the horse for an unspectacular $80,000; Jones later rejoined the ownership group.) But Dewey filled out nicely and thrived under Schnittker's unusual training regimen—which includes riding him to saddle through the woods and taking him for the occasional swim—and is now 15 for 15. Schnittker, 50, has even come around to liking the horse's mouthful of a moniker. "At first I really thought the name was stupid," he says. "But I have to say that it's grown on me."

The Pop Culture Grid

PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (SABATHIA)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)