Preakness Big Brown's Race to Lose
by Trevor Whenham - 05/07/2008
We can learn a little bit about the second leg of the Triple Crown from re-watching the first leg, but not much. What we can see is that Big Brown is a total and utter freak who should have no trouble with the distance of the Preakness or the field (pretty much regardless of who is in it). What we can't see from the Derby, though, is how any of the other Preakness horses might perform. That's because, in a dismal development, it seems likely that Big Brown will be the only one of the 20 horses in the Derby field who is going on to the next race. The others have seen first hand what a monster he is, and they apparently don't want any part of him. They'll leave him to the next batch of attackers.
Unfortunately, Big Brown's win wasn't the big story of the Derby. That's fitting given the Eight Belles tragedy, but it robs the horse of the attention he deserves. He was as dominating as a horse can be in a 20-horse race, and if you took Eight Belles out of the picture he was entirely in a class of his own. The Derby winner is almost automatically the favorite in the Preakness, but it is impossible to conceive of a group of his peers in which Big Brown would not be a heavy favorite. The interesting thing won't be to see if he is favored, but whether he goes off at worse than even money. I sure wouldn't bet against it happening.
None of the Derby horses are likely to go forward, but that doesn't mean that Big Brown will have a walk-over. There are six more horses confirmed to be running, and at least four more that are considering it. Here's a quick look at the field (quick version - a bunch of decent horses, but none that Big Brown can't beat in his sleep if he has even a somewhat impressive day):
Behindatthebar - Todd Pletcher had a terrible Derby (again), but he could be back with two different horses, including this one, to try to win his first Preakness. He won the Lexington two weeks before the Derby, and he trained well at Keeneland instead of trying the Derby. He has only run in one other stakes race, and it was a disappointing fifth. He's also never run on dirt.
Giant Moon - He garnered a lot of attention when he won his first four races, but then he fell out of favor when he was ninth in the Gotham and then fourth in the Wood Memorial. His connections blamed the first race on the weather, but that argument lost steam when he was flat the second time, too.
Kentucky Bear - He was aimed at the Derby, but he didn't have enough graded earnings to get in so he will run here instead. He finished third in the bizarre Blue Grass won by Monba, but that was only his third career start. Big Brown looked much better in his fourth start than Kentucky Bear is likely to here.
Stevil - He's run in some good races, but he just hasn't been good enough. The Nick Zito trainee was fourth in the Blue Grass, and fifth in the Louisiana Derby that was won by Pyro. He has one win in six races.
Tres Borrachos - This gelding was last seen when he finished third in the Arkansas Derby, won by Gayego. Though he was never under serious consideration for the Derby he has been training at Churchill Downs since Arkansas, and will finish his preparations there before going to Baltimore.
Yankee Bravo - This horse, who raced in Europe as a two year old, is prepping in California. He'll have one more serious work before traveling east. He's another one that captured some imaginations by winning his first three races, but then disappointed with a third in the Louisiana Derby, and a fourth in the Santa Anita Derby.
Recapturetheglory - This is the only Derby starter currently even considering a run. The Illinois Derby winner was a solid fifth in the big race, but he certainly didn't threaten Big Brown in any way.
Macho Again - The son of Macho Uno won the 7.5-furlong Derby Trial Stakes the week before the Derby against an unusually solid field for that race. That race was a bit of a surprise for a horse that was previously seventh in the Lane's End and had never been particularly competitive in a stakes race. Now he has to endure a jump in both class and distance. He's probable in this race now that stablemate El Gato Malo is being pointed elsewhere.
Harlem Rocker - This is the other potential Pletcher horse. He won the Withers at Aqueduct at the end of April. He's another gray son of Macho Uno. Bred and owned by Frank Stronach, the horse didn't make his racing debut until Valentine's Day. He's shown some talent since then, and hasn't lost in his three starts.
Riley Tucker - The most recent horse to potentially enter the fray. He was third in the Lexington behind Behindatthebar. He has been in the money six times in seven races, but hasn't really dropped any jaws along the way. The most notable thing about him is that Edgar Prado would be on him if he did enter.