NEW YORK (AP) - Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown is responding well to treatment and could return to the track Wednesday.
Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay was optimistic after a brief examination Monday. Big Brown has a crack on the inside of his left front hoof and has not been out of his Belmont Park barn since Saturday.
McKinlay told The Associated Press that plans were to "put a stitch in it and lace it up" Monday and then continue treatment.
"On Wednesday or Thursday we will stabilize it with a new stitch and a fiberglass reinforced patch that is probably stronger than the hoof wall," he said.
Big Brown, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion, will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 when he runs in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
McKinlay has repaired injuries much more severe before big races, allowing Touch Gold to fight off a leg injury from the 1997 Preakness and go on to win the Belmont and spoil Silver Charm's Triple try.
Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said Sunday that Big Brown continues to be taken for walks inside his barn twice a day, and is feeling no pain.
A quarter crack is a vertical crack in the hoof wall between the toe and heel of the hoof, usually extending into the coronary band, where the hoof meets the skin of the leg.
For the most part, the injury is fairly common and not considered serious. Healing time can range from a few days to a few months, depending on the severity of the crack.
Foot woes are nothing new to Big Brown. When he first arrived at Dutrow's barn in Aqueduct late last year, he sustained an abscess in the sole of his left front foot, which caused a wall separation and sidelined him 45 days. In January, he suffered the same injury to his right front foot and missed another 45 days.
Dutrow first noticed something was amiss this time when one of his grooms approached him Friday after a morning gallop. Dutrow didn't want to take chances and called McKinlay.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)