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From the barn to the Winner’s Circle?

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For a time, Aqueduct Racetrack wasn’t just Rick Dutrow’s home away from home. It literally was his home. Barn 1, to be exact.

That was 11 years ago, when Dutrow was penniless and dealing with substance abuse problems. Now he’s on the verge of horse racing history as the trainer of Big Brown, which is attempting to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown.

But the outspoken Dutrow isn’t interested in looking back.

“I don’t think about that I was doing bad because I was doing good. I was around horses, I was in a barn and I was OK,” he said. “To have a free place to live was a bonus for me. I don’t look back and say look at me then and look at me now because it’s almost the same. I was in a barn with horses and (now) I’m in a barn with horses. It’s all the same to me.”

Dutrow’s problems weren’t just with drugs. He was suspended for 60 days in 2005 when two of his horses tested positive for a banned substance. And he was sidelined an additional 14 days and fined $25,000 for violating terms of his previous suspension by having contact with his stable.

In total, Dutrow has been fined or suspended 72 times dating back to 1976. And he is the center of a steroids controversy, although he readily admits to giving his horses Winstrol, which is legal in 28 of the 38 states horses are raced.

But none of this is his concern at this moment. With the Belmont Stakes just days away, Dutrow is consumed by Big Brown.

“I don’t want to miss nothing,” Dutrow said. “I’ll never be able to do this again. I want to be around, I want to be around him.”

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

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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