Commentary

Full-figured Preakness

Updated: May 14, 2009, 12:57 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

The highest Beyer number going into the Derby ran 11th.

The second-highest Beyer ran 18th.

The third-highest Beyer ran 10th.

The fourth-highest Beyer went to the only horse to run up to his number, Papa Clem, who finished an eager fourth, jostle included.

The point is that the Beyer numbers are but a piece of the handicapping pie, a fat piece of humble pie from the Derby menu.

The intent of the Beyer numbers is to give the handicapper a chance to compare, by combining common sense with science, a horse that just ran five furlongs at Evangeline with a horse just off a mile at Saratoga. Unfortunately for any system enthusiast, horse race handicapping is made up of equal parts of creativity, intellect, and intangibles. To get the full extent of any rating -- be it shrewd like a Beyer, or dopey like a power rating -- you have to go to the races a lot, wagering all the while; you have to wade through perfect maelstroms like the Derby. That's the good news: that over time, plans or programs based on high-quality experience, insight and reasonable math will out-pick most handicappers. But you know what they say about any given day. On any given day, a horse still can't talk.

It has been my experience to note that any rating number tends to become inflated under circumstances like rain. Or grass. Or a short field.

Rachel Alexandra ran Beyer numbers of 103, 101 and 108 against fields of 6, 4 and 5.

We don't need to get into the dynamics of thrust to conclude that a lesser Beyer in a full field could be the superior indicator of a star in the wings.

The payoff is in how you use Beyer numbers; sorry.

The field

1. Big Drama, 10-1: Quick enough to outrun the lousy post.

2. Mine That Bird, 6-1: Apt to be left in the mid-lurch.

3. Musket Man, 8-1: Right there in Kentucky despite rude ending.

4. Luv Gov, 50-1: Mr. Lukas is back; his horses aren't.

5. Friesan Fire, 6-1: If you liked him before and get off here, he'll probably win by 7.

6. Terrain, 30-1: Has personality.

7. Papa Clem, 12-1: Sleep-works.

8. General Quarters, 20-1: Seems to go looking for trouble.

9. Pioneerof the Nile, 5-1: Have to make up something to dislike.

10. Flying Private, 50-1: Could beat the other Lukas horse.

11. Take the Points, 30-1: Definite underdog.

12. Tone It Down, 50-1: Knows where the best crab cakes are.

13. Rachel Alexandra, 8-5: What are these guys doing here?

Picks

1. Pioneerof the Nile
2. Papa Clem
3. Musket Man
4. General Quarters

Speed Saver trifecta wheel

  • Rachel Alexandra, Big Drama.
  • Rachel Alexandra, Big Drama, Pioneerof the Nile.
  • Papa Clem, Musket Man, General Quarters.

    Best long shot: General Quarters.

    Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.