05/13/2008 11:00PM

Preakness Analysis and Selections - Mike Welsch

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1. Big Brown

2. Kentucky Bear

3. Tres Borrachos

4. Behindatthebar

Big Brown proved his superiority and then some with his scintillating performance in the Kentucky Derby, overcoming both his relative inexperience and a seemingly impossible post position to dominate what granted may not have been the strongest Derby field we have seen this decade. While he will take on a lineup consisting predominantly of new shooters in the Preakness, it certainly does not appear any of this group is good enough to handle the reigning division leader, who probably won’t have to be at his very best to take the second jewel of this year’s Triple Crown.

Obviously, you must be a bit concerned about the short turnaround for a horse who had been nursing some sore feet earlier this season but that does not seem to be an issue at this point and therefore, it’s once again strictly his race to lose.

Kentucky Bear has shown tons of promise in just three previous starts and while his inexperience is obviously of more than a little concern entering an event of this magnitude he might just be talented enough to prove best of the others with any racing luck. He ran by Coolmore Lexington runner-up Samba Rooster with little effort winning his career debut at Gulfstream and I liked the way he overcame trouble and a very wide trip to finish third when trying Polytrack for the first time in the Blue Grass. And nobody worked or galloped out any better than he did Derby Week at Churchill Downs, his 59.60-second bullet drill in the mud on April 26 a thing of beauty and far more impressive than the pre-Derby workout turned in over the same track earlier that morning by Arkansas Derby winner Gayego.

Speaking of the Arkansas Derby, Tres Boraches turned in a career-best performance finishing third after setting a contested pace while trying dirt for only the second time at Oaklawn, fighting back gamely to re-claim third money in late stretch. He has trained forwardly since that outing and looks like a young horse whose form is heading in the right direction.

Behindatthebar passed the Derby to await Big Brown in Baltimore and the extra time between starts figures to serve him well especially if he’s able to transfer his good form on artificial surfaces back to dirt.