05/14/2008 12:00AM

Preakness Analysis and Selections - Dave Litfin


1. Big Brown

2. Racecar Rhapsody

3. Behindatthebar

4. Gayego

Coming back in two weeks, this might be the time to try and beat Big Brown, but pray tell with whom?

The Preakness is a mismatch on paper. Big Brown is a “triple fig” horse, with each of his three Beyer Speed Figures this year superior to anything recorded by the rest of the field, and by lopsided margins in many cases. Proponents of sheet-style theory, who award extra credit for loss of ground on the turns, will consider his Kentucky Derby performance even more dominant.

Is Big Brown susceptible to a regression? Sure. Will that be enough for someone else to jump up and beat him? That seems unlikely.

The good news is the race appears wide open underneath the choice, so the possibility still exists for worthwhile exotic payoffs.

Racecar Rhapsody may be coming up to a big race in his third start of the year, and could provide some value. The rail was not the place to be at Turfway, so his inside rally in the Lane’s End off a 105-day layoff – his first start in blinkers – was noteworthy. In the Lexington, he closed rapidly after angling out for room in deep stretch, and slightly surpassed his best juvenile Beyer from the Delta Jackpot – a figure pattern that often portends a forward move in the near future. He has ample graded stakes experience (for whatever that’s worth these days), beginning with a good try in the Kentucky Jockey Club last fall off a Polytrack-to-dirt switch.

Behindatthebar beat Racecar Rhapsody in the Lexington, and has the look of an up-and-coming colt after winning two routes in a span of 17 days last month. While he finished off the board in his only start on conventional dirt, the figure he earned for finishing fifth in the El Camino Real (behind a 62-1 winner) was right in line with his overall record.

Most Preakness winners raced in the Derby. Be that as it may, the only other horse who fits that historical profile, other than the Derby winner, is Gayego, who broke poorly, steadied early while rank behind the winner, and finished several area codes behind. If he can rebound from that non-effort in the manner of past Preakness winners like Snow Chief, Hansel, and Louis Quatorze, he is a logical alternative, and his prior consistency is reassuring. Blinkers may enable a quick return to form.