Big Brown colt Brown Almighty begins his Kentucky Derby campaign in the LR Smarty Jones Stakes (1600m) at Oaklawn Park on Monday whilst in Japan Apollo Sonic takes on The Keisei Hai Gr.3 after winning his maiden over 1400m in November.
The flashy chestnut Brown Almighty heads Big Brown’s Triple Crown team – five years after the Vinery shuttler claimed the Kentucky Derby / Preakness Stakes double.
Brown Almighty (3c Big Brown – Gone Goodbye by Gone For Real) reeled off 600m in 36.40s in his final hit-out on Thursday. The $150,000 Smarty Jones will be his first foray off turf at Oaklawn’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day meeting.
“The plan was always to come here to see if he can run on dirt,” trainer Tim Ice said. “I think he can and it will legitimise his Triple Crown candidacy. A lot of horses change between their two and three year old seasons and I’m really hoping he steps it up.”
Brown Almighty had won on debut at Arlington in July before logging the first black-type victory for Big Brown in the LR Sunny’s Halo Stakes at Louisiana Downs. He was then narrowly beaten in the LR Sunday Silence Stakes at the same track prior to finishing second in a roughly run G3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland in October.
In the last of his five starts in 2012 – all on grass – Brown Almighty checked in ninth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on November 3. “His workouts on the dirt have been very good,” Ice added. “I’ve put him behind horses to let him get dirt in his face and he’s handled it like a professional.”
Ice trained Summer Bird to win the third leg of the 2009 Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes. He paid $22,000 for Brown Almighty at the 2012 Ocala April 2YO Sale and the colt races for owners Tri-Star Racing, Joe Denson and Brent Gasaway
Big Brown’s first Australian crop met with strong demand at last week’s Gold Coast Magic Millions and his yearlings will also sell at this weekend’s Inglis Classic Sale in Sydney.