05/14/2008 12:00AM

Preakness Analysis and Selections - Byron King

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1. Big Brown

2. Gayego

3. Kentucky Bear

4. Racecar Rhapsody

Big Brown will likely bounce in the Preakness off a lifetime best in the Derby. But he'll bounce and still win.

The reason? There is little to face him. Only one Kentucky Derby starter, Gayego, is returning to take him on in the Preakness, and the rest are horses one might normally expect to find in Grade 2 races.

Big Brown simply has them running scared, or running toward the Belmont, with the hope of catching a Triple Crown-weary Big Brown there.

This horse has overcome much in his career - quarter cracks, inexperience, terrible posts, and in the case of the Derby, an extremely wide trip - that it is difficult to foresee him not handling the opposition in the Preakness.

As for racing on two weeks' rest, it seems relatively insignificant. He won the Derby easily, and he has not missed a beat in his subsequent training. He has jogged more than trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. would have preferred, due to wet tracks at Churchill Downs for much of the past week, but otherwise his preparation for the Preakness has gone without a hitch.

Gayego finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby, beaten 36 3/4 lengths, but trainer Paulo Lobo confidently ships him from California to try the Preakness, a signal that the horse came out of the race in top condition.

His Derby is a toss-out. Off slowly, he never got comfortably when racing in midpack, and was essentially deprived of using his best asset, his early speed.

Look for him to be more forwardly placed in the Preakness - and rebound, running back to the talent he displayed in winning the Arkansas Derby.

Kentucky Bear lacked the graded entries to gain entry in the Kentucky Derby, but being so lightly raced, that might be to his long-term benefit. He worked exceptionally well at Churchill Downs Derby Week, and has continued to train forwardly since. He jumped up to run third in the Grade 1 Bluegrass, but is not simply a Polytrack performer, having won his debut on dirt at Gulfstream.

Racecar Rhapsody has underachieved in two starts this year, but showed promise as a 2-year-old and might produce a peak performance in what will be the third start of his form cycle. He has breezed nicely in recent weeks at Churchill Downs, and is confidently sent here by trainer Ken McPeek, though the colt remains eligible for a first-level allowance race.