After Rebounding from Lyme Disease
Of all the things that can happen to a racehorse, here’s one that trainer Tom Proctor had never before experienced, and you could say it ticked him off: Union Rags Racing’s Big Bend, winner of last year’s Dueling Grounds Derby, contracted Lyme disease.
Big Bend will try to follow Oscar Nominated last year as a Dueling Grounds Derby winner to return the next year to win the Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Downs, now worth $750,000.
Big Bend, who after the Dueling Grounds Derby beat older horses in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Sycamore, had been off form over the winter and into the spring. Proctor said the Lyme disease was diagnosed after a "bloody tick" was found on the colt, who is part of the trainer’s stable at Fairhill training center in Maryland.
The disease was detected after Big Bend sustained his fourth off-the-board finish since the Sycamore, though that seventh-place finish in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Elkhorn wasn’t horrible, certainly not like his pair of defeats by double-digit margins prior to that.
Proctor says that Big Bend’s close fourth in a $75,000 stakes at Delaware was actually a very good and encouraging effort.
“This winter, he didn’t run up to snuff,” Proctor said. “When I brought him back, I didn’t think he’d run that bad at Keeneland. I didn’t like the way the race was run. And then after that race, he got Lyme disease on us. He ran a high temperature, all swollen in all four legs. We put him on antibiotics, and then a day or two later, we found an old bloody tick on him. So we switched our antibiotic to what you do for Lyme disease. We caught it pretty quick. The thing with Lyme disease is it takes a little while for them to get over it. I thought his race, considering how little I had into him at Delaware, was really a good race.
“We’ll see. I look for him to run well.”
And as far as his early races this year? “It could be a 4-year-old deal, too,” Proctor said of the adjustment horses make from their 3-year-old season. “But he did beat older horses in the Sycamore last year.”
Big Bend also is 2 for 2 with Drayden Van Dyke, his rider Sunday and who is coming in off his first Del Mar riding title. Van Dyke already has won a stakes at the meet, aboard Next Shares in Thursday’s $250,000 Old Friends Stakes.
“He hasn’t won since Drayden’s been on him,” said Proctor, who along with Churchill Downs-based trainer Jimmy Baker was a mentor to the jockey when Van Dyke was a kid growing up in Louisville. Van Dyke turns 24 in a few days.
“You know what? I kind of enjoyed being out there watching it,” Proctor said of Van Dyke’s run to the Del Mar title. “I was glad I was out there the day he won seven races. First thing I told him, ‘Call Jimmy Baker.’ Jimmy treated him like he was a nephew or something. Jimmy took him to water parks, took him fishing, to play golf.
“You’ve got to say he’s one of the top handful of riders in the country now. You’ve got to start thinking about that. I saw some things that I liked: being a little more aggressive, putting them in position better, instead of just letting them fall out of there and then dealing with the cards you’re dealt. I think a little bit of that is riding for Bob Baffert. They’ll put you in that position, meaning they leave there running. But I thought Drayden was a lot more aggressive toward the end of the meet. Maybe even to where he made a few mistakes being aggressive because he’d never been aggressive before.”
Asked if he thought that could translate somehow into how Van Dyke rides Big Bend for the first time in 11 months, Proctor said with a laugh, “I hope it translates into a win. I like Kentucky Downs’ money.”