05/14/2008 12:00AM

Preakness Analysis and Selections - Steve Klein


1. Big Brown

2. Gayego

3. Macho Again

4. Riley Tucker

Unbeaten and untested, Big Brown has scared away nearly all of the horses who challenged him in the Kentucky Derby. His new opponents will either have to improve significantly to upset him, or must hope he runs a dull race. The two-week turnaround from the Kentucky Derby is an issue, but he has enjoyed enough time between his races up to this point that he should be able to handle it without undue stress. Most of my bets will key him on top in the exotics.

If there is an upset, Gayego is the horse most likely to pull it off. He was quite consistent prior to the Kentucky Derby with 3 wins, and 2 close second-place finishes from 5 starts. His Arkansas Derby victory suggested that he would be a major player in the Kentucky Derby, but he was taken out of his game by a slow start that day and was unable to recover. His consistency suggests there is a good chance he will run a more typical race Saturday, and improvement is possible with the addition of blinkers. He will be a strong partner with Big Brown in the exacta. Make sure to include Gayego on top on the smaller portion of that bet.

Macho Again is an interesting possibility at 20-1 morning line odds. He has made it clear that he dislikes Polytrack. Throw out his two races on that surface and he has won his last two starts on dirt. He stayed within striking distance of the quick pace in the Derby Trial, then won that race gamely with a 99 Beyer that would make him a serious threat here if he can repeat it. Don’t overlook him.

Riley Tucker raced wide early from post 10, and worked harder than deep closers Behindatthebar and Racecar Rhapsody while staying closer to the fast fractions than they did in the Grade 2 Coolmore Lexington. He finished just 1 1/2 lengths behind Behindatthebar that day, and beat Racecar Rhapsody by a half-length. Riley Tucker can turn the tables on Behindatthebar if he is able to reproduce that form.

Although Racecar Rhapsody was helped by the fast pace in the Lexington, he still deserves consideration for a share. The added distance will help.

Behindatthebar has won three of his last four races, but all of those wins were on synthetic surfaces. The only bad race he has run is a fifth-place finish in the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows, his lone previous race on dirt. He could be vulnerable at underlaid odds in the exotic pools.