Big Brown lures 12 rivals into Triple Crown lair for 2008 Preakness Stakes
by Kenneth Strong, Chief Horse Racing Handicapper, Predictem.com
Preakness superfecta looks like the only way to make a score
Only 12 rivals will dare to enter Big Browns Triple Crown lair for the 2008 Preakness Stakes, and a serious look at the field makes you wonder if theyve entered only for second-place money of $200,000. The heavily favored Big Brown could care less about that he wants to be the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 30 years. And it looks like the only way to make a score on this race is in the Preakness superfecta.
Affirmed won the Triple Crown in a hard fought battle over Alydar in 1978. Seattle Slew won it in 1977 with less difficult opposition, and the mighty Secretariat accomplished the feat in 1973 by breaking the heart of a game and talented Sham. Its difficult at this point to think of Big Brown as belonging in the company of the three horses above, but his opposition in this years Triple Crown races simply appears to be a cut below. For that reason alone we have little choice but to use him on top on almost all our Preakness superfecta tickets.
Big Brown has won all four of his starts by a combined margin of 33 -lengths. The Beyer Speed Figures for his last three races were 106-106-109. And he earned the 109 in the Kentucky Derby from Post 20 after a wide trip. None of his rivals can warm him up IF he runs his race. He doesnt need the lead to win and he has an excellent pedigree to rely on should his class be called into question. His trainer Richard Dutrow has a win clip of 32 percent with horses that have won their previous starts. And favorites win the Preakness at a 45 percent rate, which is much higher than the overall national win percentage of 30-33 percent for favorites.
There are just no chinks in the armor that we can see.
Preakness favorites finish in top three positions 85 percent of the time and Preakness superfecta players should also note that the favorite in this race has finished out of the top four positions only once twice in the last 22 renditions.
When looking for a Preakness upsetter we like to start with Kentucky Derby also rans. Theyre generally fitter than the horses that have skipped the Preakness and if theyve had an excuse in the Kentucky Derby they can often improve considerably. The 2008 Preakness has only one Derby also ran, Gayego. We liked him as an upsetter in the Derby off an excellent Arkansas Derby win, but he got caught wide in the Derby and then strangely threw in the towel when the running started. He just has to be a better horse than that but whether hes good enough to beat even a subpar Big Brown is doubtful. Gayego certainly deserves another chance in the Preakness and we will have him on all our Preakness Superfecta tickets including a few with him in the win spot.
The other horse that really intrigues us is Kentucky Bear. He broke his maiden impressively at Gulfstream Park on January 21 going a mile with a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. He was then thrown to the wolves in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb 21 and ran a dull seventh beaten 13 -lenghts by Cool Coal Man. The surprising thing was that he was bet down to 4-1 in that race. Obviously somebody thought he had some talent. In his next start, the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 9 at Keeneland, he redeemed himself with an excellent third-place finish after a 9-wide rally and received a Beyer Speed Figure of 90. Having started only three times, hes fresh and appears to be coming into the Preakness as an improving horse.
Besides Big Brown, the speed of the race appears to be Tres Borrachos and Giant Moon, with Gayego sitting just off of those two. While horses rarely wire the Preakness field, we still have to figure out who the speed is. Tres Borrachos gets a vote for the front end after setting a fast pace in the Arkansas Derby and holding on well for third, beaten 4 -lengths by Gayego.
Giant Moon is another who appears to be able to stay close to a fast pace and still finish. He started off his career with three front-running victories in a row before coming from just off the pace to win the Count Fleet on January 5 at Aqueduct. The wheels fell off in his next start when he finished last beaten 47 lengths in the muddy Gotham Stakes on March 8 at Aqueduct at just $3.70-1. He did rebound nicely in the Wood Memorial on April 5 however, finishing fourth beaten only two lengths by Tale of Ekati, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Giant Moon received a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort and will have to improve again to finish second to Big Brown in this years Preakness.
Every once in awhile a local horse pops up and runs a monster in the Preakness and this year there is one horse who fits that bill. Icabad Crane won the Fredrico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico in his last start on April 19 and he does have the preferred running style to win this race. Hell have to improve on numbers but he will come from just off the pace and the price will be right.
On pure company lines youd have to give Yankee Bravo a shot to improve. He finished fourth to Colonel John in the Santa Anita Derby and third behind Pyro in the Louisiana Derby. He probably hasnt run his best race yet, but he looks like he will need a pace battle up front to set up his late rally. Hey Byrn, Behindatthebar, Macho Again and Stevil could all finish in the money, and well be playing them in the third and fourth spots along with a few tickets taking all in the third and fourth sports.
The majority of our Preakness superfecta tickets will have Big Brown on top, but we will be taking a few shots with Gayego and Kentucky Bear in the first and second positions tied up with Big Brown in both the second and third positions, with all in both the third and fourth slots.
How else do you make a score when a 1-2 shot looks too good? The Preakness superfecta looks like the best bet in 2008.