No keeping up when `Jones' turns on jets

Overpowering colt takes off on flight path toward winning Crown


Preakness Stakes

May 16, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Smarty Jones was breathtaking.

At the finish of his resounding victory in the 129th Preakness, the chestnut colt looked like he wanted to take on another mile or two.

"He galloped out strong," said jockey Stewart Elliott, who gave America's latest equine sensation a precision-like ride. "He wasn't even blowing that hard."

Now it's off to the Belmont Stakes - where many others have failed - for their opportunity to make history.

"A mile and a half, I don't think that'll be a problem. He'll do whatever I want him to," Elliott said.

Like Funny Cide's lopsided win last year, this race did not lend itself to deep analysis. It was an old-fashioned country whipping by a vastly superior animal.

America may finally have its first super horse since Affirmed in 1978 and there isn't much new competition remaining to challenge him.

As the race unfolded, Smarty Jones broke alertly just behind the speedy Lion Heart, who had the inside post.

The first time through the stretch and entering the first turn, Lion Heart sprinted clear of the rest, but began drifting out from the rail - approximately to the path usually occupied by the No. 4 horse.

"My horse struggled from the word go," said Lion Heart's rider, Mike Smith. "He kept trying to get out. I stayed after him and kept him in as best I could."

Elliott was unfazed, biding his time behind the leader and keeping Smarty Jones under wraps. Leaving the three-eighths pole, Elliott roused him, then shrewdly angled inside Lion Heart on the final turn, took charge and romped away.

The jockey looked back for the closers and found none. There simply wasn't anybody good enough to even threaten to wreck Smarty's party.

Elliott tapped his horse with the whip several times in mid-stretch just to keep him about his business.

Rock Hard Ten, an imposing physical specimen, rallied for place money and the other new shooter, Eddington, also closed to edge the tiring Lion Heart for third.

But, essentially, after the eighth pole, it was a one-horse race.

Smarty Jones was not even fazed when Imperialism returned to the paddock for a new shoe and Rock Hard Ten balked at the gate, delaying the start for several minutes. In the post parade, he was relaxed and confident.

"He might have been the calmest horse in the paddock," trainer John Servis said. "While some other horses were on their toes, he was walking along like he was going on shed row."

The race was unaffected by traffic problems and bumping. Long shot Little Matth Man was pinched back at the start and Borrego steadied briefly, but the incidents had no effect on the outcome.

Smarty Jones won by 11 1/2 lengths, the largest margin ever in the Preakness, and even topped Funny Cide's impressive 2003 show.

Servis believed he was "a little vulnerable" coming back after running two weeks ago in Kentucky's slop.

"This horse had to come with his best game," the trainer said. "Once again, everything I've asked of him, he's stepped up to the plate."

Yesterday, he hit a grand slam.

Lucky 6

Smarty Jones is the 15th horse to win the Preakness from Post 6, the most of any post position. Preakness winners by post position since 1909 (in 1918, the race was run in two divisions):

PP No. Last winner Year

1 9 Tabasco Cat 1994

2 11 Snow Chief 1986

3 11 Prairie Bayou 1993

4 12 Red Bullet 2000

5 10 Elocutionist 1976

6 15 Smarty Jones 2004

7 11 Silver Charm 1997

8 9 War Emblem 2002

9 3 Funny Cide 2003

10 2 Real Quiet 1998

11 2 Point Given 2001

12 2 Pleasant Colony 1981

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