News & Politics

Preakness Picks: Trying to Bet Against Big Brown Isn’t Easy

Preakness history is loaded with examples of Kentucky Derby winners who couldn’t lose two weeks later at Pimlico. Remember Barbaro? He was 1-2 in the Preakness after an awesome Derby victory but broke down just a few hundred yards after leaving the starting gate.

Before Barbaro there was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. He was an awesome Derby winner and he went off at 3-10 but only attracted seven challengers. Fusaichi was beaten that day by Red Bullet, a 6-1 shot who didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby and who was never heard from again. Last year, impressive Derby winner and Preakness favorite Street Sense lost a stirring photo finish to Curlin.
That brings us to #7 Big Brown. His Kentucky Derby win was very impressive—he won from a bad post position and had a wide trip. He ran on an atypical Derby day when all the front-runners seemed to hold on. His Beyer Speed Figure, 109, is mundane for Derby champions, who frequently score between 112 and 117. There are indications that the Beyer figure would have been higher if he had not run so wide. On the other hand, the Derby field was unusually weak.Big Brown comes into the Preakness with the same liabilities that led me to pick against him in the Derby. He has an admittedly scruffy trainer, bad feet, a so-so pedigree, not enough races or experience, and his corporate ownership lacks the romance necessary for real horse lovers. Furthermore, when a horse runs a race and looks that great, he is likely to “bounce” and run a lesser race the next time out.

The problem in the Preakness is what to do if, like me, you want to bet against #7 Big Brown. There are 12 horses in the Preakness. Do any of the 11 others have a chance? Is there one good enough to step up if Big Brown does the Big Bounce?

Here are the ones I would consider boxing in the exacta with Big Brown if you want to stick with him. The exacta requires the horses you bet to finish first and second. If you box the exacta, they can finish in either order.

#12 Gayego. The only other Preakness horse to run in the Kentucky Derby, Gayego looks a lot like Snow Chief, who won the Preakness in 1986. Both are from California, both are humbly bred, and both ran horribly at Churchill Downs. Snow Chief bounced back two weeks later to win the Preakness by four lengths. Gayego, who won the Arkansas Derby, is really the only horse with the credentials on paper to beat Big Brown. Box the 7-12 exacta and you might cash big if Big Brown falters a little bit and it comes in 12-7.

#10 Riley Tucker. Here’s a horse with the name that sounds like a jockey. The horse isn’t all that great, but Edgar Prado, the jockey, knows this track as well as anyone except perhaps for Big Brown’s jock, Kent Desormeaux. Prado and Desormeaux dominated Maryland racing in the 1980s and 1990s before becoming national stars. The horse did sell for $375,000 and is trained by Hall-of-Famer Bill Mott. Worth a stab.

#1 Macho Again. On the surface it doesn’t appear that he would relish the mile and 3/16 distance of the Preakness. He has never won a race at more than a mile. But I wanted to pick three possible alternatives and I’m running out of possibilities.

The other ten are even worse. This whole effort—trying to bet against Big Brown—isn’t working.

Take Big Brown and put him over the 12 and the 10 in the exactas. You should cash. Forget the rest of them. I’m putting my hopes of beating Big Brown on Gayego, but I’m not optimistic.

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