It's All Big Brown in a Cast of 13 at Pimlico
by Greg Melikov - 05/15/2008
There are 13 horses going in the 133rd Preakness, but Big Brown is the Big Dog. The son of Boundary was installed as the 1-2 early choice for Saturday's Big Race.
He will break from post seven, which has produced five winners in the past 19 years. He's much closer to the rail than he was in the Kentucky Derby when he started from the outside 20th post.
He and Gayego are the only two from this year's Run for the Roses. And it's the sixth time since Derby horses began running in the Preakness nine decades ago that two starters at Churchill Downs raced at Pimlico. The last year was '80 when Codex beat the Derby-winning filly Genuine Risk by 4 ¾ lengths.
The undefeated 3-year-old has taken it easy, jogging over an off track at Churchill Downs several times because of wet weather. "He's good," trainer Rick Dutrow said. "He came out of the race good and he's been training good."
With undefeated Big Brown in a class by himself, averaging 107 Beyers in three victories this year, I've put the dozen challengers in three categories: pretenders, maybes and contenders.
Pretenders: Many in this gang have several things in common, but share one negative - they are too slow.
Stevil, 30-1, post 9: Finished fourth in the Blue Grass, has no stakes victories and is slowest of the bunch.
Yankee Bravo, 15-1, No. 4: Won California Derby, ran fourth in Santa Anita Derby and finished third in Louisiana Derby, but comes off a six-week layoff and his career best Beyer speed figure is 89.
Giant Moon, 30-1, No. 11: Has a stakes win back in January and ran fourth in Wood, but also is coming off six-weeks rest. His highest Beyer is 93.
Kentucky Bear, 15-1, No. 8: Third in the Blue Grass, he lacks a stakes triumph this year, hasn't raced in five weeks and also has a Beyer of 93.
Riley Tucker, 30-1, No. 10: Ran third in the Lexington, his fourth start this year, but lacks a stakes victory during career despite a 96 Beyer.
Maybes: These three could hit the board depending on how the race develops:
Racecar Rhapsody, 30-1, No. 6: Must get a fast pace. Although fourth in his last four starts, he has a late kick and made up a dozen lengths in the final quarter-mile of the Lexington. Never ran a bad race and the odds look enticing.
Icabad Crane, 30-1, No. 3: Broke maiden in his only '07 start and scored in 3-year-old debut. After finishing third in Rushaway at Turfway Park, he captured Pimlico's Federico Tesio at 1 1/8 miles on April 19. Colt possesses tactical speed and is close enough turning for home to hit the board.
Macho Again, 20-1, No. 1: Coming off April 26 Derby Trial triumph with a 99 Beyer in his fourth start of the year, this tough horse comes home fast and doesn't back down when eyeballing rivals. However, he hasn't won beyond 7 ½ furlongs.
Contenders: This trio has the best chance of hitting the board.
Hey Byrn, 20-1, post 13: Colt won an allowance contest in February at Gulfstream Park with a 97 Beyer in the first of three triumphs in four starts this year, including the Holy Bull on April 12 at 1 3/16 miles. He and Big Brown are the only two to win beyond 1 1/8 miles. Ah, but the son of Put It Back was way back in fourth behind Big Brown in the Florida Derby.
Gayego, 8-1, post 12: The son of Gilded Time finished 17th in the Derby, but trainer Paulo Lobo pointed out he didn't overexert himself after a sluggish start from the 19th post. He was steadied in traffic during the first quarter-mile and a bit rank behind Big Brown on the first turn. Blinkers go on. And he won the Arkansas Derby posting his second triple-digit Beyer - 103.
Behindatthebar, 10-1, post 5: Son of Forest Wildcat comes off two consecutive victories. He bypassed the Derby for this race after posting a 99 Beyer winning the Lexington. Mostly running on synthetic services, he must improve from fifth place on the dirt in the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows. He has worked well at Belmont.