05/14/2003 11:00PM

Brad Free's Preakness Analysis


This race is virtually assured to unfold with a severely contested pace, because five of the 10 entrants have the same up-front running style. This year's Preakness sniffs of a pace meltdown, and plays into the hands of closers Senor Swinger and Kissin Saint.

Here is the speed, plenty of it. Funny Cide has raced within two lengths of the lead in all seven starts; Peace Rules has been positioned first or second each of his last seven. There are others. Cherokee's Boy has raced within three lengths of the lead in nine of his 10 starts. He drew post 1, and must come out firing. New York Hero has been positioned first or second his last six starts. Even Scrimshaw has been forwardly placed in every start of his career, and from post 2 he must utilize his speed. Wager on a front-runner against a host of other front-runners? No thanks.

Since most entrants race close to the lead, the assumption is the pace will destruct. But who can take advantage? Senor Swinger looked like a $1 million bust his first start for Bob Baffert, but the trainer knew what he was doing. Senor Swinger switched to grass and returned to form with an impressive turn of late speed to win a Grade 3. So was his form reversal the result product of surface switch - he was sired by top turf stallion El Prado - or is Senor Swinger simply improving for his new trainer? In a race sure to develop with rapid fractions, the gamble is Senor Swinger is improving. He has won on dirt. The race is begging to be won by a closer. He can mow them down.

Otherwise, Kissin Saint may be the goofball spoiler. He finished in front of Senor Swinger in the Wood Memorial, and his off-the-pace running style suits the likely Preakness shape. In the Wood, the one-two finishers raced up front all the way, with little movement from the back of the pack. An opposite scenario figures to transpire in the Preakness. Given five weeks between starts, and in a speed-filled race that suits his style, Kissin Saint will motor late at a fat price.

Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby with a perfect trip and a terrific ride by Jose Santos. His quality is not the issue - he is a good horse. Also, recent history is on his side. Four of the last six Derby winners came right back and won the Preakness. The pace scenario, however, suggests Funny Cide will not have an easy time on the front end. This time, he is drawn outside every other speed horse.

Peace Rules faces a similar situation. A front-runner, Peace Rules has outrun his sprint-laden pedigree this spring, but you have to wonder how much he was flattered by speed-favoring tracks at Keeneland and Fair Grounds, and a modest pace in the Derby. The flip side is that he is just a good horse who can shrug off the heat.

Foufa's Warrior will rally late at a huge price. Midway Road is unproven. Ten Cents a Shine will finish. All three must be used in the vertical exotics. As for the speed horses, including the favorites, they will be underlaid in a race likely to be won from behind.