Lion Heart starts fast but fades at finish

2nd at Kentucky Derby, early leader ends up 4th

Preakness Stakes

May 16, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The impressive stretch from Preakness winner Smarty Jones is clearly what stood out at the 129th running of the race at Pimlico Race Course.

But what took place first, from the eyes of Lion Heart trainer Patrick Biancone, was equally impressive.

Just how great is Smarty Jones, against whom Lion Heart has battled and faltered twice down the stretch? Comparable to "The Greatest," according to the French-born trainer.

Starting on the rail, Lion Heart led through three-quarters of a mile before Smarty Jones "swallowed us in two jumps," said Biancone. While Smarty Jones went on to win by 11 1/2 lengths over second-place finisher Rock Hard Ten, Lion Heart was spent and came in fourth after taking second at the Kentucky Derby.

"My horse kept fighting a little bit, but it's like a boxing guy when they were fighting Muhammad Ali," Biancone said. "He was punishing him so much throughout. Today we were knocked down, but I'm very proud of my horse. It's no big deal to be beaten by a champion like that."

Lion Heart jockey Mike Smith expected his athletic colt to handle the track much better than he did yesterday.

"My horse struggled from the word go," Smith said. "He kept trying to get out. I stayed after him and kept him in as best I could, but Smarty Jones was just amazing today."

As has been the case both here yesterday and two weeks ago at the Kentucky Derby, conversation always came back to Smarty Jones.

"My hat's off to him," Smith said. "What can you say? He would have won over broken glass - it's amazing."

Biancone said Lion Heart ran a big race, but was up against "a freak" in Smarty Jones.

"[Lion Heart] seems to have a problem; I don't know yet," he said. "It's good for racing to have a great champion like Smarty Jones. We're going to have to see how our horse comes out of it. He's a pro."

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