ESPN Horse Racing

Preakness picks
By Ed McNamara
Special to

BALTIMORE- - Well, can you beat Smarty Jones? As a longtime alleged expert, I have to try. After running three consecutive career tops, maybe he'll regress, and at even money or so, don't bet him unless you cashed on the beloved Pennsylvania-bred in the Derby. The problem is, where do I find his first conqueror?

Forget Little Matth Man, Song of the Sword, Sir Shackleton and Water Cannon, who don't belong in Saturday's 129th Preakness Stakes. I also have no interest in Imperialism, who outran expectations in the Derby because he disliked the slop less than the other also-rans and because somebody had to be third. Borrego is a plodding sort who hasn't won a graded stakes in four tries and has lost five of his last six races. Too bad that foot problems forced trainer Nick Zito to scratch The Cliff's Edge, because, like Zito, I thought "Cliffie" would have had a chance to win.

That leaves Lion Heart, Eddington and Rock Hard Ten, all of whom have holes that can't be ignored. The farther Lion Heart goes, the more he loses by, which leads me to believe he'll lead again to midstretch, get hooked, battle back gamely while losing ground for six or eight strides and drop back. Rock Hard Ten is a magnificent physical specimen and very gifted, but trying to win a classic after only three career starts seems like an almost impossible assignment. Gary Stevens likes him enough to fly from France to ride him, but unless Rock Hard Ten is at least 7-1, and he won't be, he's a bad bet.

Which leads me, by process of elimination, to Eddington, an erratic and still immature sort. He does have a terrific distance pedigree (Unbridled out of a Chief's Crown mare) and looks the past of a Grade I winner. Like Rock Hard Ten, he also hasn't won a stakes, though he missed in the Wood Memorial by only half a length. Another negative is that in the past 20 Preaknesses, only one winner, Red Bullet in 2000, skipped the Derby.

On the plus side, Eddington gets The Great Pathfinder, Jerry Bailey, and has the tactical speed to track Lion Heart, Smarty Jones and Rock Hard Ten, who should comprise the top three on the backstretch. Eddington has been working well at Belmont Park and, like Rock Hard Ten, is one of the few in the race with the license to make significant improvement.

So, with no great confidence, I'm picking Eddington, hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

1. Eddington. 2. Smarty Jones. 3. Lion Heart.

Finley: Preakness picks

McNamara: The Preakness horse-by-horse