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‘Brown’ falls short of Triple Crown

They waited. The crowd of 94,476 who packed Belmont Park on a sultry Saturday waited for Big Brown, the unbeaten colt who had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes by a combined 10 lengths, to make his move.

It never happened.

The horse that trainer Rick Dutrow said was a “forgone conclusion” to win the Belmont Stakes, was pulled up down the stretch. The crowd that had waited, hoping to catch a glimpse of history, did just that — Big Brown became the first horse to finish dead last after winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

And now horse racing will wait even longer for another Triple Crown winner.

Da’Tara, who didn’t run in the first two legs of racing’s Triple Crown, captured the Belmont Stakes in a stunning gate-to-wire win that paid those brave enough to toss down $2 on the 38-1 longshot to win $79.

It was the second Belmont win for trainer Nick Zito, who grew up in Ozone Park and skipped classes at John Adams High because of his infatuation with Aqueduct Racetrack. The Hall of Fame trainer also won with Birdstone, a 36-1 longshot that ended Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid in 2004.

That day, Zito was apologetic about winning, about ruining yet another Triple Crown bid. On Saturday, Zito was just ecstatic.

“I just kept jumping up and down — I had a good feeling,” Zito said when Da’Tara started to separate from the field. “Believe me, I was in some other orbit. Trust me, it was a great feeling.”

But what happened to Big Brown? That was the big question in the hours and days following the Belmont. Was it the quarter crack in his left front foot? Or that Big Brown wasn’t given his monthly supply of the steroid Winstrol, which is legal in 28 of the 38 horse-racing states? Maybe it was the heat, the track or just a bad day.

After extensive tests found nothing wrong with Big Brown, Dutrow turned his attention to Kent Desormeaux’s ride.

“I don’t see the horse with a problem, so I have to direct my attention toward the ride,” Dutrow told reporters at Aqueduct Tuesday.

Desormeaux, who also lost a Triple Crown bid aboard Real Quiet in 1998, said Big Brown didn’t respond when he tried to engage him.

“I had no horse,” he said.

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at dbutler@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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