Will Big Brown end 3-decade Triple Crown drought today?

It's all over but for the coronation. Big Brown wraps up his Triple Crown campaign today in the $1 million Belmont Stakes and he's as close to a sure thing as a mortal horse can be.

"I still believe in my heart of hearts that as long as our horse doesn't run into trouble in the race, we're clearly the best horse in the race," said Michael Iavarone, managing partner in IEAH Stables, which owns Big Brown with Paul Pompa Jr.

Perhaps never before in modern times has a Triple Crown campaign gone so smoothly for the favorite, with only one minor blip when Big Brown's hoof cracked in the rear quarter May 23.

It is now healed to the point that hoof specialist Ian McKinlay said Friday before he applied an acrylic patch that the crack is a non-issue and won't cause the big bay horse to lose the Belmont Stakes.

The Triple Crown campaign has not always gone this smoothly — even for those horses that won.

Secretariat's campaign in 1973 had trainer Lucien Laurin a nervous wreck complaining of stomach pains. Seattle Slew's progression through the 1977 Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont saw his owners falling rapidly out of popularity with racing fans and the "Slew crew" beginning to fall apart. For years after Affirmed won the crown in 1978, trainer Laz Barrera would show the scars from his heart bypass surgery and insist that was what the Triple Crown series did to him.

In the Big Brown camp, serenity has ruled. The five weeks unfolding since Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby May 3 have seen nothing but confidence and calm surround the team that gets Big Brown to the track and back. The horse is in the zone as are his people, from trainer Rick Dutrow to Iavarone to Michelle Nevin, Big Brown's exercise rider.

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