05/13/2008 11:00PM

Preakness Analysis and Selections - Brad Free

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1. Big Brown

2. Tres Borrachos

3. Giant Moon

4. Macho Again

Big Brown was a $6.80 overlay in the Kentucky Derby, and he will be an odds-on underlay in the Preakness Stakes. Big Brown is wheeling back on short rest for the first time, and the refreshing commentary from trainer Rick Dutrow suggests Big Brown will bounce. Does it matter?

It hardly makes sense to back a short price when regression is expected. Trouble is, the Preakness lacks a viable alternative. Except for California-to-Kentucky-to-California-to-Maryland shipper Gayego, most of Big Brown’s rivals are simply too slow. Big Brown should get a pressing trip similar to the Derby, and be long gone. Can’t bet on him, can’t bet against him. Perhaps value is in the exacta.

Improving Tres Borrachos finished third in fast-paced stakes in Arkansas and California, and from post 2 is likely to set the pace. Tres Borrachos does not quit, and even if the favorite runs past, he will battle to the finish and could hit the board at a price.

Giant Moon is rounding back into form. His campaign was derailed in the Gotham, but he improved finishing fourth in the fast-paced Wood. He will be forwardly placed. Macho Again has run just two subpar races, both on synthetic. Winner of the one-turn Derby Trial, he has 3 wins and 2 seconds from 5 starts on dirt. He will be saving ground, just off the pace.

Behindatthebar is compromised by surface and pace. Though he won a sprint pressing a 45-second half-mile, he is now a deep closer. But the pace might not be quick enough, and he may prefer synthetic. Behindatthebar is a good horse, but in a dirt race not likely to be run at a fast clip, he faces a tall order. At relatively low odds, I have to take a stand against.

It is the same with Gayego, murdered by a tough trip in the Derby. He returned to California, and then shipped cross-country again this week. Gayego is a good horse, but he is stuck outside and has done a lot of traveling. He is another to stand against at a short price.

Lightly raced Kentucky Bear ran well in the Blue Grass, and is still improving. Riley Tucker is usually forwardly placed. Icabad Crane is outclassed, but he has a win on the track and is a bulldog with two photo-finish victories. Stevil is too slow on paper. Hey Byrn wants mud and is stuck in post 13. Racecar Rhapsody will pick up the pieces. Yankee Bravo prefers turf or synthetic.