BALTIMORE - Clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right, there he is, stuck in the middle.
Big Brown, the Kentucky Derby winner, landed smack dab in the middle of the field, in post 7, when posts were drawn Wednesday evening for the 13 3-year-olds entered to run in the 133rd Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.
Bettors are expected to make Big Brown a heavy favorite against a field of horses who, with one exception, were not accomplished enough even to challenge him in the Derby.
Both Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, and Frank Carulli, the linemaker at Pimlico, have Big Brown a prohibitive favorite. Watchmaker has him at 3-5, while Carulli pegged Big Brown even shorter, at 1-2.
Behindatthebar, the Lexington Stakes winner, is the second choice on Watchmaker's morning line, at 10-1, with Gayego, the Arkansas Derby winner, next at 12-1. Carulli has Gayego the second choice at 8-1, with Behindatthebar the third choice at 10-1.
Big Brown broke from the outside in a 20-horse field in the Derby, and from the outside in a 12-horse field in the Florida Derby. He won those races by 4 3/4 and five lengths, respectively.
"He gets to save some ground for the first time," Michael Iavarone, whose IEAH Stables is a co-owner of Big Brown, said at the draw, which was held at the ESPN Zone in downtown Baltimore. Iavarone added, joking, "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing."
Big Brown is unbeaten in four starts. He has been favored in his last three races, and will be again on Saturday, but the Preakness will be the first time he has been an odds-on favorite.
The draw was a traditional double-blind draw, with an entry card pertaining to each horse being pulled concurrent with a numbered pill deposited from a bottle.
Behindatthebar wound up in post 5, while Gayego landed post 12, meaning Gayego will be one spot from the outside, just as he was in the Derby.
Gayego "had a terrible trip" in the Derby when he broke from post 19, according to his jockey, Mike Smith.
"He didn't break and then he ducked in from the crowd," Smith said. "I was never in it - never in the race."
The field, from the rail out, is Macho Again (Julien Leparoux the rider), Tres Borrachos (Tyler Baze), Icabad Crane (Jeremy Rose), Yankee Bravo (Alex Solis), Behindatthebar (David Flores), Racecar Rhapsody (Robby Albarado), Big Brown (Kent Desormeaux), Macho Again (Jamie Theriot), Stevil (John Velazquez), Riley Tucker (Edgar Prado), Giant Moon (Ramon Dominguez), Gayego (Smith), and Hey Byrn (Chuck Lopez).
Icabad Crane is the only horse who has ever raced previously at Pimlico. He won last month's Federico Tesio Stakes here.
The Preakness, the shortest of the Triple Crown races at 1 3/16 miles, is the 12th race on a 13-race Pimlico card that begins at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday. The Preakness will be televised live by NBC, with a 6:15 p.m. post time.
The purse for the Preakness is $1 million, with $600,000 going to the winner. For Big Brown, though, the stakes are higher, because he will be seeking to keep his hopes alive of becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years.
Big Brown faced 19 rivals in the Derby. Of the 12 horses entered against him in the Preakness, only one, Gayego, ran in the Derby, finishing 17th. The other 11 horses all skipped the Derby, either intentionally or - in the case of Kentucky Bear - because of insufficient earnings in graded stakes races.
The Preakness is capped at 14 runners, so no horses were excluded from the race. Still, the number of runners was far more than anyone would have expected immediately following the Derby, in which Big Brown was an overpowering winner. Most trainers concede their horses are likely running for second-place money of $200,000 on Saturday.
"If you take Big Brown out of the equation, I think it's a pretty wide-open race," Eddie Plesa, the trainer of Hey Byrn, said Wednesday. "Big Brown is absolutely the horse to beat."
One trainer, though, believes Big Brown can be beaten.
"He beat all of those horses at Churchill Downs, but he didn't beat us," said Reade Baker, the trainer of Kentucky Bear.
This is the first time since 1980, when Jaklin Klugman faced Derby winner Genuine Risk, that only one horse exiting the Derby has signed up for a rematch with the Derby winner in the Preakness. Two Derby also-rans challenged Derby winner Barbaro in 2006. Citation, in 1948, is the last Derby winner who scared away all Derby challengers in the Preakness. Citation went off at 1-10 in that Preakness. He and Spectacular Bid, in 1979, are the shortest-priced favorites in Preakness history.
Only two of the Preakness runners - Hey Byrn and Kentucky Bear - were at Pimlico on Wednesday morning, but several horses arrived later in the day.
Stevil came by van from Kentucky, and Riley Tucker came by van from New York. Later in the afternoon, Gayego and Yankee Bravo arrived from California, along with Macho Again, who joined their flight after it stopped in Kentucky.
The cargo plane then returned to Kentucky to bring Big Brown, Racecar Rhapsody, and Tres Borrachos. That flight was scheduled to arrive at Baltimore-Washington International Airport after 7 p.m. Wednesday, meaning Big Brown was not expected to arrive at the Pimlico stakes barn until about 8:30. His trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr., flew on the cargo plane with Big Brown.
Giant Moon is scheduled to be transported by van from New York on Friday.
Behindatthebar is scheduled to be sent by van from New York on Saturday morning. Icabad Crane, who is based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, is also scheduled to arrive at Pimlico on Saturday morning.
The weather was delightful in Baltimore on Tuesday and Wednesday, with highs in the mid-70s, but it is expected to be unsettled later in the week. According to Weather.com, there is a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms on Friday, with a high temperature of 63 degrees. Saturday's forecast is for a high of 73 degrees, and a 20 percent chance of rain.
- additional reporting by Marty McGee