Some ''safe bets'' for summer concerts -- We ask an expert to handicap the field

We asked a friend who knows a lot about touring, and who spends time at the track, to handicap the summer’s touring field. The select groups below are broken into safe bets ($5), long shots ($2), and slow nags ($0).

GARTH BROOKS (Tour begins June 2, McNichols Sports Arena, Denver) A winner on all the out-of-the-way tracks. No sure thing, but could pay big. ($5)

RINGO STARR (June 2, Sunrise Music Theatre, Fort Lauderdale) Time to be put out to pasture? ($0)

GN’R/METALLICA/FAITH NO MORE (July 17, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.) So fast you might think they’re on steroids. Might need sellouts to pay for the room-service bills and broken TVs. ($5)

LOLLAPALOOZA II (July 18, Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, Calif.) Odds-on favorite, led by red-hot Red Hot Chili Peppers. ($5)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (North American tour begins July 23, Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, N.J.) The opposite of Garth: Born to run in major races — New York, L.A., Philadelphia — but will they turn out in Peoria? ($5)

NEIL DIAMOND (Aug. 6, Capital Centre, Landover, Md.) Huge. Oldest horse out there who can still run with the 3-year-olds. Big stud fees. ($5)

U2 (Aug. 11, Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.) Fastest on the track, leaving even Bruce in the dust. Proof that training in Ireland pays off. ($5)

GENESIS (Currently touring) Lost a step, but still tough to beat. ($5)

GRATEFUL DEAD (Currently touring) Not ready for the glue factory. ($5)

THE CURE (Currently touring) They have to find an opening in the pack. ($2)

HAMMER (Currently touring) Saddled with too much weight. His entourage is so huge he needs sell-outs just to break even. Could be the Arazi of pop. ($0)

CHICAGO/MOODY BLUES (Currently touring) Old and stiff, but you never know who’ll win in the amphitheaters. A long shot. ($0)

WILSON PHILLIPS (No dates available) Will they run? And if they do, will they pull up lame? ($0)

ELTON JOHN/ERIC CLAPTON (No dates available) Clapton is stronger than ever. They freeze out the rest of the field in the adult heats. ($5)

DEF LEPPARD (No dates available) Haven’t run in four years. Could go either way. ($2)