05/14/2003 11:00PM

Dave Litfin's Preakness Analysis

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When they met in the Louisiana Derby, Peace Rules stalked Funny Cide and surged past in the stretch. Their roles were reversed in the Kentucky Derby, and so was the order of finish. So, the rubber match shapes up as a game of cat and mouse between Jose Santos and Edgar Prado, each of whom will try to secure a garden spot stalking trip in a field where New York Hero and Cherokee's Boy also figure to jockey for early position. Prado's years of experience at Pimlico could be an advantage, however slight.

As for the horses themselves, it's uncertain what sort of energy level Funny Cide and Peace Rules bring to the table, because they are coming back on two weeks' rest for the first, and maybe the only, time in their careers. Peace Rules hasn't been quite as fast as Funny Cide in terms of Beyers, but he has been remarkably consistent under a wide variety of conditions, and it is reasonable to assume he will run his "A" race once again.

One of the only Derby entrants who was "over" in terms of Dosage index (4.50), Peace Rules should appreciate the turnback to a shorter distance, as well.

Funny Cide, meanwhile, is a "double advantage" proposition (last two Beyers higher than last two of any rival), but perhaps the gutsy gelding is now primed for a regression after two peak performances. Recall that he began as a juvenile with two big-figure efforts of 96 and 103 last September, then had to work much harder than expected to win the Sleepy Hollow by a neck at 1-5, with a figure that fell off to 89.

Beyond the first two betting choices, handicappers will have to use their imagination to come up with another legitimate contender. If there is another one, it might be Scrimshaw, even though he checked in some 10 lengths behind Funny Cide and Peace Rules in Louisville.

Scrimshaw is the only other entrant who has been able to run triple-digit Beyers, and history says it may pay to forgive his last race: Four of the past 11 renewals of the Preakness have been won by horses who finished off the board in the Derby - Point Given, Louis Quatorze, Tabasco Cat, and Pine Bluff.

Scrimshaw had a tough trip at Churchill Downs, racing wide from post 16, and may be capable of rebounding quickly in his third start back from throat surgery.

If you're considering a non-Derby starter, be advised that such prospects are a collective 1-for-79 during the last 16 runnings of the Preakness. They are listed in order of preference for exotic-wagering purposes:

Cherokee's Boy - This year's model of Magic Weisner, the local horse from Maryland who missed by less than a length at 45-1 vs. War Emblem.

Midway Road - Off the board in all three stakes starts. His two best races, by far, came at Keeneland.

Kissin Saint - Overachieving colt has risen from maiden claimers and is freshest of these, with five weeks off since the Wood.

New York Hero - Part of a screaming pace in the Withers. I believe we've already seen his best efforts in the Lane's End and Wood.