Looking over the field for the Preakness, there is only one big question: Will Eternal Prince run his best race? If he does, it will be no contest.

The race Eternal Prince ran in the Gotham Stakes makes him an easy winner. Even his race in the Wood Memorial, his second-best race, would win this Preakness.

The only remaining question is: Why did he not run at any stage of the Kentucky Derby? Did he simply not feel well? Did he go further off form from his two previous races, when his speed ratings dropped slightly? Or was his problem, as his owners believe, simply that jockey Richard Migliore was not prepared for the start in the Derby.

The answer, it would seem, should come from the horse himself. He worked six furlongs at Pimlico in 1:11 1/5 last Sunday, a nice, but not overly impressive move under jockey Chris McCarron, who flew in from California. Thursday, Eternal Prince came back with exercise rider Richard Hale for his final blowout before the race. Eternal Prince snapped off solid fractions while clocking :33 4/5 for the three furlongs, but the way he did it was convincing.

He'll have to be equally convincing Saturday because Crown's Chief, while not a brilliant perfomer like Spend a Buck and Eternal Prince, is very professional in everything he does. His last workout at Pimlico on Wednesday showed he is ready.

Expect McCarron to gun Eternal Prince to the lead before they reach the clubhouse turn. He should just widen out from there. Chief's Crown and Tank's Prospect will be close together for second money.