Some people are looking for a foothold, anything they can cling to that will give them confidence to go against Big Brown. Some are choosing to rely on the precocious brilliance of Casino Drive and the spectacular record of his dam in the Belmont. Others point to the fact that his Preakness was not a fast race at all and that it could be a sign of mortality.
It is the latter point that I wish to address here. There are many things to discuss about Beyer numbers that go well beyond the actual figure given. Big Brown has hardly ridden at all and seemed to just run for a few steps before wrapping it up against and coasting home. It was hardly more than a workout. But assume for a moment that the 100 Beyer Speed Figure given to Big Brown in the Preakness is an accurate reflection of the speed he showed that day. Would it be a negative sign?
I decided to take a look at all the horses in the Belmont who came into the race off of a career high Beyer earned in a Triple Crown race. Many horses come into the TC off career highs but in most cases they are horses trying to prove they belong. Horses who have already run in the TC have often shown the ability to run well, the big question is whether or not they're in good form. I think most would agree that this describes Big Brown well, he does not need to prove anything beyond the fact that he is able to get back to his lifetime best form.
I only have complete Belmont data from 2000 to the present but here are the figures.
New Career High in Last Race (TC races only) prior to the Belmont: 18-2-5-1
Such horses went a paltry 2 for 18 in 8 runnings. Point Given and Afleet Alex were the two who won the Belmont coming off a career high earned in another TC race. The record may look good to some but 6 of these 18 horses were favored and just 4 of them were more than 10/1. The public backs horses who earned career tops in TC races last out. Virtually all of them aside from Point Given regressed in the Belmont Beyer wise even if they ran a good race.
On the flip side consider the horses who came to the Belmont directly out of a TC race but did run a career top Beyer. Their cumulative record is 20-3-3-2. It looks pretty much equal to the statistic above but you have to consider that only 10 of these horses were less than 10/1 in the Belmont. Horses like Commendable, Birdstone, Medaglia D'Oro and Andromeda's Hero all offered huge value. Many more of the 20 horses were hopeless longshots like Scrimshaw.
I excluded Jazil from both statistics because he made an equal career high in the Kentucky Derby which was his last race prior to the Belmont. You could likely make a case for him being added to either stat.
In any event the stats definitely suggest that a regression last time out in a TC race is certainly not a negative. If anything it creates a bit of value. Not that I think Big Brown will really be "value" but statistically speaking his lower number in the Preakness is not worrisome in the least. You may also consider using a horse like Macho Again and Tale of Ekati instead of Denis of Cork and Icabad Crane for value purposes. Anak Nakal made an equal career high in the Derby.