05/15/2003 12:00AM

Preakness Profiles: Cherokee's Boy


STRENGTHS: He enters the Preakness with a 3-for-3 record over the Pimlico surface, including a win in the Tesio Stakes, the final Triple Crown prep on the local circuit. The big two in the race - Funny Cide and Peace Rules - have yet to race here. Cherokee's Boy also has tactical speed, which should help keep him on or near the pace over a track that seriously favors front-runners. Other positive factors are that he comes in fresh with quick recent works at Bowie, the local training center, and that he was on the sidelines pointing for this while the main contenders fully exerted themselves in the Derby.

WEAKNESSES: He hasn't beaten anyone of consequence. The only top-quality horses he has faced, Ten Most Wanted in the Illinois Derby and Toccet in last year's Laurel Futurity, each defeated him convincingly. His Beyer Figures are low compared to what it usually takes to win a Grade 1 like the Preakness. The Beyers in his 12-race career say he's about 8-10 lengths slower than those around at the finish of the Derby. It would be wishful thinking to believe there's room for the kind of improvement he will need to win the Preakness. He has also been in training for more than 10 months, without more than a 35-day gap between races, so a strenuous schedule is bound to take its toll.

STRATEGY: He's got speed and this race is at Pimlico. Enough said? He should aim for the front with Ryan Fogelsonger instructed to use his judgment from there. It may not be wise to try outrunning Peace Rules for the lead, especially if Jose Santos feels the need to send Funny Cide in order to keep Peace Rules honest. Perhaps Cherokee's Boy can work out a golden trip, like to the one Funny Cide had in the Derby - but he will need more still to get a piece of the Preakness purse.

VALUE: He could go off at 50-1, which would be an underlay considering his true chance of winning the Preakness is at least 100-1. He's not likely to take serious money at the windows - for good reason.