05/13/2008 11:00PM

Preakness Analysis and Selections - Mike Watchmaker

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1. Big Brown

2. Racecar Rhapsody

3. Gayego

4. Kentucky Bear

After crushing a stronger field in the Kentucky Derby, the only possible reason to think Big Brown won’t still be undefeated after the Preakness is that he will be unable to produce a representative performance having to race back in just two weeks. As a colt who has had breaks of six months, 24 days, and five weeks between starts, he is accustomed to more time between races.

That said, it is just about impossible logically to pick against Big Brown in this spot, even at the miniscule odds he promises to be – for that is how vastly superior he looks in comparison to the competition. Not one of his opponents has managed to finish first or second in a Grade 1 race, and only one – Gayego – has been able to crack the triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure barrier. Big Brown has Beyered 106 or better in all three of his starts this year, and will be going for his third straight Grade 1 victory.

Moreover, the fact that Big Brown romped in the Derby after sitting off a moderate early pace, one race after he romped in the Florida Derby after setting very quick fractions, proves he can dominate no matter what pace scenario he encounters. Barring the bizarre, everyone else in this Preakness is running for second money.

In an attempt to do a little better than a $9 exacta, I’ll go with Racecar Rhapsody for second. Although the pace set up nicely for him, Racecar Rhapsody still finished well when fourth in the Lexington Stakes, and he galloped out well after the finish. He should be set for his best now, third start off a layoff – and going from Polytrack to dirt is not a concern, as he had reasonably good form on dirt late last year.

Gayego’s race in the Kentucky Derby is a throw-out. He was not nearly as well-equipped to cope with an extreme outside post as Big Brown, and the race was virtually over for him when he missed the break. Gayego did, however, run well when he won the Arkansas Derby two starts back, gamely prevailing after pressing a fast early pace.

With his third in the Blue Grass, Kentucky Bear is the only member of this field other than Big Brown to have even hit the board in a Grade 1 race. The Blue Grass might not have been a strong race – the first and second finishers, Monba and Cowboy Cal, both followed with poor efforts in the Derby – but it was only the third start of Kentucky Bear’s career, and he has a license to improve.