Handicapping the Preakness is much simpler than the Derby or Belmont Stakes. In the Derby, horses are coming from all over the country and, presumably, are geared for their best race. So by the time the Preakness rolls around, the chief contenders seem rther obvious.

This year's Preakness appears to follow the pattern. The horses closest to the lead in midstretch in the Derby are the chief contenders today.

In Kentucky, Spectacular Bid held the lead by more than a lenght in midstretch, with General Assembly second. Golden Act, which had been jostled somewhat at the start, was third, but five lengths behind General Assembly. And that's where the action points - to Spectacular Bid and General Assembly.*tNeedles beat Fabius with a late run in the 1956 Derby. At Pimlico, however, the shorter distance and sharper turns helped reverse that order of finish. Needles was the heavy favorite in the Preakness.

In 1957, Iron Liege beat Bold Ruler in the Derby but lost in the Preakness. Eddie Arcaro put Bold Ruler on the lead in that one and never looked back.

The 1958 races followed the same pattern. Tim Tam and Lincoln Road were one-two in the Derby stretch and ran that way in the Preakness.

The only horses able to come from far back to win the Preakness in recent memory were Carry Back in 1961 and Little Current in 1974. Both of those stretch runners had to be far superior to their rivals to accomplish that feat.*tSot eh Preakness should see General Assembly in front with Spectacular Bid being urged to stay close, then drawing off at the end.