Horse Racing

Chad Brown Trainer Profile: Brown Returns to Belmont Stakes with Sierra Leone

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
Chad Brown Trainer Profile: Brown Returns to Belmont Stakes with Sierra Leone

Trainer Chad Brown is one of the most prominent trainers in the United States. After serving as an assistant for the great Bobby Frankel, Brown hung his own shingle at the end of 2007 and has been on a meteoric rise ever since. In less than two decades, he has amassed over 2,600 wins and almost $286 million in purse earnings. He has won the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer four times, and won 18 Breeders’ Cup races.

The first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Chad Brown are turf routers, particularly fillies and mares. He has dominated graded stakes races for fillies mares on the lawn in recent years, and his stars have included Lady Eli, Sistercharlie, Rushing Fall, Uni, Newspaperofrecord, Stephanie’s Kitten, and In Italian. Of course, he has been able to train a top turf male as well: look no further than Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar, Big Blue Kitten, or the end of Flintshire’s career.

Of course, Brown isn’t just a turf conditioner. He can train a top dirt horse at any distance. Good Magic broke his maiden in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Early Voting and Cloud Computing both won the Preakness, and Goodnight Olive won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint two years in a row.

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Chad Brown in Triple Crown Races

Brown has been running horses in the Triple Crown since 2012. Though he has had horses run well in all three legs of the Triple Crown, he is best known for his success in the Preakness Stakes, a race he has won twice.

Kentucky Derby

Brown has run nine horses in the Kentucky Derby, stretching back to fourth-place Normandy Invasion in 2013. He has yet to win the Run for the Roses, though three of his horses have hit the board in Churchill Downs’ flagship race. The closest he has come to a Kentucky Derby win was 2024, when Sierra Leone missed by just a nose to Mystik Dan. He had another second-place finisher in 2018, when Good Magic chased home Justify to claim a silver medal. His one other horse to hit the board in the Kentucky Derby was Zandon, who ran on for third behind Rich Strike in 2022.

If there is one thing to learn from this pattern, it is that a Brown trainee who wins the Blue Grass (G1) has a good chance to run well in the Kentucky Derby. After all, he has won Keeneland’s top Derby prep three times: with Good Magic, Zandon, and Sierra Leone.

Preakness Stakes

In the Triple Crown series, Brown has had his best success in the Preakness Stakes. With seven starters so far, he has won the race twice. His very first Preakness starter, Cloud Computing, had enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby, but Brown instead readied him for the Preakness and took top honors. He took the same route of bypassing the Derby with a relatively inexperienced horse who had enough points in 2022 with Early Voting, and won the race again.

One other Chad Brown trainee has hit the board in the Preakness. Blazing Sevens, a Grade 1-winning juvenile who finished third in the Blue Grass, was pointed to the 2023 Preakness, where he missed by only a head to National Treasure.

Belmont Stakes

Despite the fact that Brown is such a fixture at Belmont Park, Aqueduct, and Saratoga Race Course, he has had significantly less presence in the Belmont Stakes compared to the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

Brown has started just three horses in the Belmont Stakes, with only one hitting the board. His one money finish in the race came with his most recent starter: Gronkowski in 2018. Brown got Gronkowski, who had begun his career in England, for his first American start. Despite a slow start, Gronkowski ran on well in the late stages of the demanding 1 ½-mile trip at Belmont Park, chasing on to finish a clear second behind Triple Crown winner Justify.

Chad Brown in the 2024 Belmont Stakes

For a while, it appeared that Brown was going to send two horses to the 2024 Belmont Stakes: Kentucky Derby second-place finisher Sierra Leone as well as Tuscan Gold, the less-experienced horse who had difficulty handling the wet track on Preakness Stakes day. However, Brown changed his mind about Tuscan Gold, and will only be sending out Sierra Leone for the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

Sierra Leone

Despite the presence of Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan and Preakness winner Seize the Grey, Sierra Leone has been tabbed as the morning-line favorite for the Belmont Stakes. It makes sense; in futures-book odds for the race, Sierra Leone held as a hot favorite even before Fierceness was taken out of consideration for the race.

Sierra Leone has many of the traits necessary to be a factor in the Belmont Stakes. With the distance dialed back to 1 ¼ miles due to the track configuration at Saratoga Race Course, Sierra Leone already showed in the Kentucky Derby that he can stay the distance of this race. His pedigree suggested it: after all, he is a son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Gun Runner out of Grade 1 winner Heavenly Love, a Malibu Moon mare who won at the top level at two turns at age two. And, his race performance has confirmed that stamina.

He also has a consistent race record at multiple tracks. After all, in five starts, Sierra Leone is two noses away from a perfect record: he missed to Dornoch in the Remsen (G2) last year, and then to Mystik Dan in the Kentucky Derby. His five races have come at four different tracks, and he has run over surfaces rated fast, sloppy, and muddy. Even though he can sometimes be a handful before the race, he has always gotten his mind on business when the gates opened and he has never run a bad race.

One question is Sierra Leone’s running style. He is a confirmed closer. The pace of the Belmont Stakes probably will not be sluggish, with Seize the Grey and Dornoch both likely to show pace and The Wine Steward and even Mindframe unlikely to be too far back. 1 ¼-mile races at Saratoga Race Course tend to play well to horses in a forward spot, which does play against Sierra Leone. However, he showed in the Risen Star (G2) that he could close well even when the pace was modest, and he showed in both the Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby that he could mount an early move and sustain his run in an impressive and unrelenting fashion.

To see 2024 Belmont Stakes post positions and individual horse odds, read more at FanDuel Research.

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