Leading up to the Belmont, there were some that believed that Big Brown's impressive victories at The Derby and The Preakness were due in part to his monthly injections of the anabolic steroid Winstrol. Prior to the race, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. made it known that Big Brown had skipped his monthly injection in May, and would be running the race steroid free. However, according to Florida veterinarian and throroughbred owner, Richard Alker, that could be what ultimately caused the horse to finish last.
Alker is the veterinarian at the Panama City Animal Hospital and Equine Center and a thoroughbred owner. He believes that Big Brown was a healthy horse during the Belmont. He thinks, however, that skipping a scheduled monthly injection of the anabolic steroid Winstrol combined with excessive heat and fatigue produced Big Brown's disappointing finish.
"They took him off of steroids and that caused the problem," Alker said. "If you get a horse used to those for their recovery, the benefits that provides for muscles and the things that steroids do for them, and you take it off of it there is a letdown.
"And even though the horse wasn't on an abusive dose of steroids, it could have still caused an effect that was certainly detrimental to them."
So, could Dutrow's decision, possibly fueled by outspoken critics, really have had that much of an effect? Alker believes so because of the short amount of time in which the decision was made and carried out.
Big Brown's trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. did not give the colt his scheduled monthly dose of Winstrol on May 15, reportedly to quiet critics who said Big Brown couldn't win without steroids. Winstrol, Alker said, helps horses' muscles recover.
Alker said there's typically a six- to eight-week letdown time frame after a horse is taken off steroids. Saturday's race was seven-and-a-half weeks since Big Brown's last injection on April 15.
"If it had been on a year, then off for six, seven months, his body would have been used to not having them," Alker said. "But because he quit them in that time frame there's this kind of letdown then, I think, that's certainly possible it was a mistake."
Obviously, we'll never know just how much skipping that monthly injection hindered Big Brown in his quest for the Triple Crown. However, it had to have played at least some part in his extremely disappointing last place finish. Ironically, the man who was most responsible for putting Big Brown in position to win it all was also the one responsible for making the decision that might have cost him it all.