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Big Brown out, Casino Drive in

We horse lovers who have worried about Big Brown continuing to race on that problematical hoof can now breathe easy. The other day, the colt was pulled from preparation for the Breeders Cup Classic and officially retired to stud. The reason: a flukey new injury during a work, when a hind hoof clipped the back of a front hoof-- he has a very long stride. The injury is not serious, but it will take 2-3 months to heal, and the stallion deal with Three Chimneys Farms calls for BB to be delivered in December. So the decision to retire him was clear. Hopefully he has a long and good life, rolling in clover and doing what stallions love to do.

Meanwhile, this early scratch leaves the $5 million Breeders Cup Classic without the long-hyped duel between Big Brown and Curlin. The meet needed a shot in the arm. Like everything else, the racing game has been kicked hard by the market crisis, showing a decline in bets and purses. But Curlin may well face another threat on October 25. The Japanese-owned colt Casino Drive has come to town for the Classic, and he's on a roll. He may not have Curlin's experience, but he's got a blazing turn of foot. -- Patricia Nell Warren