05/15/2003 12:00AM

Preakness Profiles: New York Hero

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STRENGTHS: Forgiving handicappers will note that New York Hero has excuses for his last two defeats, and will concentrate on his Grade 2 Lane's End win over Champali in March. In the Wood Memorial, arguably the strongest Kentucky Derby prep, he might have disliked the mud. He was bumped at the break in the Withers, and then rushed up inside to contest a hot pace. While several of his rivals are returning from the grueling 10 furlongs of the Derby, New York Hero is lightly raced with upside potential, and has been training swiftly for the Preakness.

WEAKNESSES: New York Hero has yet to reach 100 on the Beyer scale, and will need a drastic speed figure boost to compete with the big guns in the Preakness. Although some will argue that he had excuses in his last two races, others will state that he just wasn't that impressive. He failed to take advantage of a speed-favoring racetrack in the Wood, and was under the whip after five furlongs in the Withers. Even in his Lane's End score, New York Hero was drifting out badly in the final yards.

New York Hero is by the crack sprinter Partner's Hero, and it is questionable whether he can successfully navigate the Preakness distance against top horses. New York Hero does his best running on or near the lead. If the pace is hot, it would compromise his late kick.

STRATEGY: New York Hero has good early zip, and should be among the first flight in the run down the backstretch. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him on the front end, but since there seems to be a good deal of speed, he may rate just off the pacesetters in the hope of gaining first run on the closers.

VALUE: New York Hero's Beyer Speed Figures pale in comparison to those of the top contenders. Although a graded stakes winner in 2003, he still must prove that he can beat the division's best. Odds of 20-1 to 30-1 seem reasonable on the win end of things, but he might be best played on the bottom of exotic wagers.