Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. watches as Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown is
walked around the shed row by exercise rider Michelle Nevin at Belmont Park (AP).

Big Brown’s Connections Continue to Court Controversy

June 06, 2008 12:15 PM
by Denis Cummings
With a lead owner who engaged in shady practices on Wall Street, a trainer who injected his horses with illegal drugs, and a sponsorship by Hooters, Big Brown’s connections are a far cry from those of popular Triple Crown contenders in the past.

30-Second Summary

As recent Triple Crown hopefuls Funny Cide and Smarty Jones prepared to chase history in the Belmont Stakes, they carried the hopes and dreams of many Americans with them, due in part to their likable connections.

In sharp contrast, as Big Brown tries to complete the Triple Crown in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, his owner and trainer are fielding questions about their dubious pasts. A low-brow sponsorship with Hooters has infuriated many in the horse racing world and is only the latest controversy surrounding the horse’s connections.

Big Brown’s owner, Michael Iavarone, claimed to be a successful investment banker while raising money for IEAH Stables, a hedge fund that invests in racehorses. A recent disclosure of his past, however, reveals that he was actually a penny-stock trader who was fined and suspended for making unsanctioned trades while working for a “bucket shop” that was criminally prosecuted for defrauding investors. He also has been taken to court for failing to pay his incomes taxes and for horses he bought at auction.

Iavarone’s IEAH Stables was involved in an illegal bookmaking and horse doping scandal in 2003, but it was cleared of all wrongdoing.

Big Brown’s trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., has been suspended many times for deceiving bettors, using recreational drugs and injecting horses with illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.

At one point living in the tack room of his barn, Dutrow turned his career around after the murder of his daughter’s mother, and is now helping to raise the girl. Some observers demonize him, while others view his story as a tale of redemption.

He made headlines the day before the Preakness Stakes when he stated that he injects his horses once a month with the steroid Winstrol. Though the drug is legal in all three Triple Crown states, Dutrow received criticism for drugging his horses without understanding the potential damaging effects. He later denied that Big Brown is on Winstrol, saying that he hasn’t injected the colt since April 15.

Horse racing is in need of good publicity, especially following the death of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby. Triple Crown contenders have traditionally drawn a great amount of positive coverage.

Big Brown, however, may draw negative publicity as his connections represent, to some, the unseemly side of horse racing.

The dean of American racing writers, Andrew Beyer, sums it up by saying that if Big Brown wins, “the only admirable figure in the Belmont winner’s circle will be Big Brown.”

Headline Link: Hooters to sponsor Big Brown

Background: Iavarone and Dutrow

Michael Iavarone
Richard Dutrow Jr.

Opinion & Analysis: The stain on horse racing

Related Topics: Secretariat, Funny Cide and Smarty Jones

Reference: Horse Racing and Belmont guides


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