This week's best sporiting bets

The middle jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown, the 125th running of the Preakness Stakes, will be Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Eight 3-year-old horses will be vying for a purse of $1 million over the distance of 1-3/16 miles, which is 1/16th shorter than the Kentucky Derby.

Two weeks ago, Fusaichi Pegasus, owned by Fusao Sekiguchi of Japan, won the Derby by 1 lengths and became the first favorite to do so since Spectacular Bid in 1979. The horse was bought for an astounding $4 million as a yearling, easily eclipsing the record $500,000 spent for the previous most expensive Derby winner. If "Fupeg," as people prefer to call him, manages to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes three weeks from now, the horse will win a $5 million bonus from Visa USA for winning the Triple Crown. The odds are against him, though, as only 11 horses have ever won the Triple Crown, with Affirmed being the last in 1978.

When picking the winner of the Preakness, keep in mind that speed horses rarely win the race, and only one horse has led wire-to-wire since 1982. True closers also rarely win at Pimlico, so pick a horse that comes from off the pace.

The last 16 Preakness winners also raced in the Derby, so forget any thoughts of a "fresh" horse coming in first. In fact, over 50 fresh horses have run in the 1990s along with zero winners.

From an odds standpoint, it is good to know that more than 40 percent of favorites and 16 out of the last 23 odds-on favorites have won the Preakness. Yes, the last three Preakness favorites were defeated, but all of those years the Derby winner went on to win the Preakness and, amazingly, none of those three received the respect of being the favorite at Pimlico.

Also, remember that horses can have a bad trip in the Derby and still do well at Pimlico. In 1996, Louis Quatorze finished 16th in Kentucky, yet he went on to win the Preakness.

Here are my predictions for the race:

Win- Fusaichi Pegasus. The favorite's behavior problems disappear when it matters most - during the race. Jockey Kent Desormeaux lost the Triple Crown by a nose in the 1998 Belmont with Real Quiet, so he has the experience and the desire to take another crack at the $5 million bonus.

Place - Red Bullet. It's been 17 years since a non-Derby starter won the Preakness, but that doesn't mean this horse can't come in second. Five weeks ago Red Bullett finished second to Fupeg in the Wood Memorial, so another place finish with extra rest is a definite possibility.

Show - High Yield. This horse finished 15th in the Derby, but the only two times he hasn't finished in the money were at Churchill Downs. This race is at Pimlico, and High Yield possesses the tactical speed I'm looking for.

Fourth - Impeachment. This closer was 22 lengths back and last in the Derby before storming to a third place finish. I feel that with the Preakness being a shorter race, it hurts this horse's chances.

Trifecta - I'm putting Fusaichi Pegasus to come in first and round-robining my other three horses to come in second and third.

Odds are also available in Cal-Neva sports books as to whether or not Fusaichi Pegasus will win the Triple Crown. I predict he will lose the Belmont.

NHL predictions:

Philadelphia vs. New Jersey - This series has been very physical as expected, yet there have been plenty of goals. I'm taking New Jersey and Over in each game until further notice.

Dallas vs. Colorado - I expect a split of games three and four, with Dallas eventually winning in seven. I'm taking Dallas and Over at Colorado, and Dallas and Under in Dallas.

NBA predictions:

Indiana vs. Philadelphia - If not for a suspension to Reggie Miller in Game 5, I feel this series would already be over. I'll try the Under in Game 6 and Indiana and Over if there is a Game 7.

New York vs. Miami- Miami's Alonzo Mourning was the first to tell us that a seven-game series is expected, so take New York in Game 6. New York has also won deciding games in Miami the last two years, so the Knicks win Game 7 in a mild upset.

Los Angeles vs. Portland - This series should be a war, and I expect the Lakers to win in seven. Defense is the key, so I like Under in these games.

oe Ellison is the Nevada Appeal betting columnist.

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