First, let me begin by saying there are no sure things in horse racing. We'll all been around long enough to know this. The most overused phrase in handicapping is undoubtedly, "He's a lock." If somebody tells you this, walk the other way.
With that being said, if Big Brown should lose the Preakness, I would be shocked. He is just too fast and talented, and the others are a very average crop. If Big Brown had come out of the Kentucky Derby a little shaky, I would try to beat him. But based on observations of people who have seen him, he looks every bit as good as he did at Churchill.
In this case, I'm not buying the "bounce" theory. I just don't see him losing. But since he was installed as the 1-2 morning line favorite, this race isn't about finding the winner - it's about who to play underneath.
And that's where things get tricky. Earlier in the week I saw a quote from Hey Byrn's trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. that I thought was right on the money: "It looks to me that if you take out Big Brown than you could run the rest of those horses 10 times and probably have six different winners. It looks like most of the 3-year-olds are pretty equal."
In other words, Big Brown wins easily and take your guess who is going to slop up for second, third and fourth. With that being said, here's my best effort at filling out exotics.
Gayego: I think I'm one of the few who doesn't like this horse's chances. I guess I don't like his running style. He will probably be right off the pace in the early going, but guess who else is likely to be stalking? Big Brown. Post 12 doesn't help either.
Giant Moon: Beat up on New York-breds last year. Big deal.
Hey Byrn: Holy Bull field was very weak. All he has done besides that is win a couple allowances races. Post 13? No thanks.
Macho Again: Has never won over 7 ½ furlongs. Hasn't been close in two graded stakes efforts.
Stevil: Only has a maiden win to show for six starts. Ran his best race on Poly. Could he slop up for third or fourth? I guess. But I like others better.
Tres Borrachos: I guess he could improve off of Arkansas Derby. But he's not fast enough. Somehow I see him stopping at the top of the lane.
Contenders - For 2nd, 3rd and 4th
Behindatthebar: Seems to be getting better every race. I like that he can close ground late.
Icabad Crane: I always prefer horses that like the track. Bottom of exotics possible.
Kentucky Bear: Baker is talking a big game. Do you believe him? I'm going to play him just for the fact that Jamie "All I ride are longshot winners" Theriot, is aboard.
Riley Tucker: His best have come on Poly, but he always tries. I could see him making a late move. Zayat and Mott too. You can't toss him.
Racecar Rhapsody: Also could be flying late. He's the kind who closes out supers.
Yankee Bravo: If anyone can give Big Brown a scare, I think it's him. He has faced the stiffest competition of these and always seems to hang around. I'm convinced if he doesn't get stopped mid-stretch in Santa Anita Derby he at least gets second. Wasn't bad in the La. Derby either.
Here's how I'm going to play this race:
$2 trifecta 7/ 3,4,5,6,8,10/3,4,5,6,8,10 ($60)
$1 superfecta 7/ 3,4,5,6,8,10/3,4,5,6,8,10/3,4,5,6,8,10 ($100)
Also, keep an eye on the show pool. This race is likely to bring out the "bridge jumpers", and if Big Brown happens to run out of the money, you could clean up by putting a few bucks on your top horse to finish in the money. As I said, my top choice in this scenario is Yankee Bravo.