By Bill Finley
Special to ESPN.com
Like most, I agree that the 128th Preakness is a two-horse race between Funny Cide and Peace Rules. None among the other eight in the race appear to have the class or talent to come anywhere close to the top two, providing that Peace Rules and Funny Cide run their race. The only handicapping question involves the choice between the two favorites.
While horses may not be machines and there's no guarantee that either one will run back to their race in the Derby, off that race, I see no reason to pick against Funny Cide. A lot has been said and written about the perfect trip he enjoyed in the first leg of the Triple Crown. That's true, but Peace Rules did not, by any means, have a bad trip. Though the pace was a little fast, he was going comfortably down the backstretch while he chased longshot Brancusi and moved to the lead on his own efforts. He should have had something left in the stretch when Funny Cide came to him, but offered little fight when the eventual Derby winner went right by him.
Funny Cide's 1 3/4-length win was decisive. There's no precise why to predict how that race affected each horse, but Funny Cide worked brilliantly Tuesday morning at Belmont Park when gliding through a four-furlong workout in :47. 20. He gave every indication that he has remained sharp in the time between races and should run another strong race Saturday. Peace Rules fans will point to the Louisiana Derby, where he beat Funny Cide by 3 1/4 lengths that day. That's a legitimate handicapping factor, but Funny Cide has improved since that race and I'm not sure that Peace Rules has. With it appearing that these two almost have to run one-two in some order, maybe the thing to do is box them in the exacta. Though a Funny Cide-Peace Rules exacta may not pay more than $8 or so, playing the race that way should take any of the guesswork out of the equation and reward the player with a profit.
The trifecta and superfecta are much more difficult because there is no clear cut third choice and many of the rest in the field are hard horses to figure.
The third pick will be Kissin Saint. He hasn't run since the Wood Memorial, where he finished a distant third behind Empire Maker and Funny Cide, but that race is better than it looks. The horse had some problems at the start that compromised his chances and the Wood was clearly the best prep race of the pre-Derby season. It may also help that he's had five weeks rest while Peace Rules and Funny Cide are coming back in two weeks.
Cherokee's Boy got a dream trip when he won the Tesio, scoring a wire-to-wire win after setting slow fractions. That won't happen again, but he figures to save ground the entire way while racing on the rail from his inside post and might have enough ability to finish third of fourth.
Midway Road exploded last time out when winning a Keeneland allowance race by 11 3/4 lengths and comes from a sharp stable. This, however, looks like too tough a spot for such a relatively unproven horse.
Ten Cents A Shine was beaten 7 1/2 lengths when eighth in the Kentucky Derby, but it was a huge improvement on his previous three races. Wayne Lukas has said he's on the way to turning this horse around, and he may be right. Lukas has another longshot in
Scrimshaw, who didn't run particularly well in the Derby, but would have a chance to finish in the money if duplicating his effort in the Lexington. Senor Swinger probably belongs on the grass, New York Hero is not in good form and Foufa's Warrior is too slow.
Picks Summary: 1. Funny Cide 2. Peace Rules 3. Kissin Saint