HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. --- Big Brown is Kentucky Derby bound, and he just might be the favorite, too.
The 3-year-old colt made it three big wins in a row with a dominating run in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Big Brown, ridden by Kent Desormeaux and trained by Rick Dutrow, left from the unfavorable No. 12 post position, but got off to a quick start and led throughout the 1 1/8-mile Grade I race.
Big Brown has been the "buzz" horse on the Derby trail for weeks, having won his only other two races by a combined 24 lengths. This time, Big Brown won by 5 lengths over Smooth Air, with Peruvian star Tomcito a surprising third.
"It's just unbelievable," Dutrow said. "I couldn't even have dreamt something like this."
Dutrow has been talking up Big Brown even before the colt arrived in his barn. How good can he be?
"We're going to find out," the trainer said.
Sent off as the 3-2 favorite, Big Brown also overcame the far outside post jinx at Gulfstream. Horses leaving from the No. 12 post were 0-for-11 in 1 1/8-mile races during this meet.
The winning time was 1:48.16.
Big Brown returned $5, $3.80 and $3.20. Smooth Air, ridden by Manoel Cruz, paid $12.60 and $7.60, and Tomcito returned $6.20 to show.
Big Brown needed a huge effort to earn graded stakes money needed to qualify for the Derby at Churchill Downs if more than 20 horses entered. The son of Boundary came into the race with no graded-stakes earnings, but collected $600,000 for owners IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr.
Big Brown isn't the only colt from the race headed to the Derby in five weeks. Smooth Air, who won the Hutcheson Stakes and finished second in the Sam F. Davis, collected $200,000 for finishing second. The result likely will give 70-year-old trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. his first Derby starter.
Tomcito, a Kentucky bred who won four of five races in Peru, earned $100,000 and may have enough earnings to compete in the Derby as well.
Hey Byrn was fourth, followed by Cool Gator, Majestic Warrior, Nistle's Crunch, Face the Cat, Da' Tara, Fierce Wind, Elysium Fields and B B Frank.
Dutrow enjoyed one of his richest days in racing. Earlier, his horses won two races at the Dubai World Cup -- Diamond Stripes won the $1 million Godolphin Mile and Benny the Bull won the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen.
DUBAI WORLD CUP: In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, all it took for Curlin to win over the world were a few powerful strides in the stretch of the $6 million Dubai World Cup.
The Horse of the Year rolled on from there to a record-setting 73/4-length victory in the world's richest race at Nad al Sheba racetrack, and now rules thoroughbred racing.
"What a horse," marveled winning rider Robby Albarado. "Curlin is like a limousine and I am just along for the ride."
Curlin's win comes five months after the sensational colt wrapped up a championship 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the richest race in North America. After a prep race in Dubai last month, Curlin looked better than ever in dispatching 11 rivals without exerting himself.
The winning margin topped the six-length win by Dubai Millennium in the 2000 World Cup.
The World Cup was the showcase event on the world's richest day of racing, with seven races worth $21.2 million.
After stalking the leaders into the stretch, Curlin, under little urging from Albarado, blew past Well Armed and Asiactic Boy and cruised to the win.
After Curlin crossed the finish line, Albarado raised an index finger to the sky.
The 4-year-old son of Smart Strike was the 2-5 favorite, and did not disappoint thousands of fans who wanted to get an up-close view of America's top-rated horse.
Curlin became the fourth horse to win the Breeders' Cup Classic and then take the World Cup the following year. The others were Cigar, Pleasantly Perfect and Invasor.