All horse sense goes out the betting window with this dirty dozen PREAKNESS '93 118TH PREAKNESS

JOHN EISENBERG

May 15, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

This is the year to bet your birthday in the Preakness.

The year to call up your 91-year-old grandmother, ask her to pick out her favorite name and bet that sucker until it cries.

The 20th anniversary of Secretariat's Preakness has been unofficially proclaimed as the Year of the Stupid Bet.

Don't waste any time handicapping. You're better off asking your 3-year-old to pick the winner's name out of his bowl of alphabet soup.

Coming to Pimlico today: stupid bet tricks.

You want a smart bet? Here's a smart bet: Ben McDonald will give up a 400-foot home run the next time he pitches.

You want another smart bet? Some infield blotto-head with an "Elvis Rules" tattoo will yell something obscene at Miss Preakness in the winner's circle.

But as far as the race itself goes, there isn't a smart bet this year. A lucky bet? Sure. No problem. There's always one of those. But no smart bet.

It's going to be tough going to the window knowing that the clerk might burst out laughing. But don't worry, it's not your fault. (Unless you bet on Rockamundo, the only outpatient in the field.) It's just that the race is a mess this year.

There are a dozen horses scheduled for the starting gate, and you can shoot holes in the argument for every one. No exceptions. A dozen up, bam, a dozen down. Not a single entry makes much sense.

Let's say you're thinking about Sea Hero, the Kentucky Derby winner. (What a gambler you are.) Did you know that only two of the last 11 Derby winners have won the Preakness? Winning the Derby virtually guarantees a Baltimore bust.

Or maybe you put your money on Personal Hope, the California horse that ran such a game Derby. Not a bad pick. Probably the smartest pick. Except that the horse drew the No. 1 post, and the Preakness winner hasn't come from there since Eisenhower was president. Oops.

Prairie Bayou is the other top contender, a solid horse and the morning-line favorite. But he swung wide on the turns at Churchill Downs, and if he was wide there he'll be angling down the stretch from Sinai Hospital after negotiating Pimlico's tight turns. It doesn't figure.

And the thing is, those are the three horses that make the most sense as possible winners. The others are here strictly as disciples of the Dirty Harry ("You should ask yourself, 'Am I

feeling lucky?' ") Prayerful Approach to Triple Crown Racing.

You have to love Rockamundo, huh? What are the chances that he's going to rock the Casbah today after undergoing throat surgery last week? The horse would still be wearing a hospital gown if he were human, and he's going to run a race and win? You should get to cash a ticket if his staples don't burst.

You have to love Hegar, too. As the old axiom goes: There's no better way to groom a horse for a big performance than to stick him on a hot, cramped van for 22 hours the day before the race, drive up I-95 from Florida to Baltimore and throw the poor thing in the starting gate. Beautiful. It won't bother him a bit.

lot of people think Wild Gale is the "now" horse since he ran third in the Derby, but there's this small flaw in the logic: He hasn't won since Thanksgiving.

Cherokee Run is a handsome horse with this many wins in races longer than a mile: none.

Wayne Lukas was convinced that his horse, Union City, was going to win the Derby. He finished 15th. Said Lukas yesterday: "I was this horse's cheerleader for three weeks before the Derby. He went in the tank. The hell with him. He's gonna have to do it himself now."

From there it just starts to get downright weird. El Bakan was 18th in the Derby, 27 1/2 lengths back, and has never won a race outside Panama. As his countryman Roberto Duran said, "No mas."

Too Wild's career stats are as follows: 16 starts, one win.

Woods of Windsor is a manly horse named after a perfume.

It's your money.

Last but not least, is Koluctoo Jimmy Al. Do we need to say it?

OK, so there's your entire field, your dirty dozen, without anything close to a seamless bet in sight.

So, you are saying, what do I do when I'm standing at the window?

Here's what you do: Write down all the names on little scraps of paper. Put them in the cup of your beverage of choice. Leave them there. Pull some money out of your wallet and put it on Cherokee Run. It's a stupid pick. And it's a stupid year.

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