May 15, 2004

Smarty Jones Sets Preakness Record

BALTIMORE - Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones rolled to a record-setting 11 1/2-length victory at the Preakness Stakes Saturday and moved within a race of becoming U.S. racing's first Triple Crown champion in over 25 years.

A flaming chestnut colt bred in Pennsylvania, Smarty Jones bolted cleanly from the sixth gate and was content to sit in second and stalk race-leader Lion Heart through the backstretch.

With Lion Heart fading, Smarty Jones grabbed the lead at the top of the stretch with a move to the inside and blew away the rest of the field to claim the largest margin of victory in Preakness history.

"Once I got down the backside, my only concern was the closers," said winning jockey Stewart Elliott. "I just took him to the inside and he did the rest."

Rock Hard Ten, ridden by Gary Stevens, finished a distant second, while Eddington took third, two lengths behind the runner-up. Lion Heart weakened and claimed the fourth spot in the 10-horse field.

"I thought he might win, but I never thought he'd blow them away like he blew them away," said 78-year-old owner Roy Chapman, who is wheelchair-bound and suffers from severe emphysema.

Smarty Jones's winning time of 1:55 and 2/5 over the mile and 3/16 course was off the Preakness record of 1:53 2/5 set by Tank's Prospect in 1985 and equaled by Louis Quatorze in 1996.

The victory by the unbeaten son of Elusive Quality was his eighth straight and the $650,000 Preakness paycheck pushed the colt's career earnings to more than $7 million.

An overwhelming choice by the bettors at Pimlico Race Course, Smarty Jones, who won the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, paid $3.40, $3 and $2.60 for a $2 win ticket.

Rock Hard Ten returned $5 and $4 and Eddington, with Jerry Bailey in the saddle, paid $5.20.

"I knew he's have to come with his best game once again," said Smarty Jones trainer John Servis. "Everything I have asked him for, he's stepped right up to the plate."

Barring an injury, the next stop for Smarty Jones will be the Belmont Stakes on June 5 when the colt will try to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 and the 12th in all.

Smarty Jones's bid for racing immortality marks the sixth time in the last eight years a colt has traveled to Belmont Park in New York with a shot at the Triple Crown.

At a mile and a half, the Belmont is the toughest of the three Triple Crown races.

Elliott felt the colt should be in fine shape for the Belmont. "He wasn't blowing hard (at the end of the Preakness)," said the jockey. "I didn't think it took that much out of him."

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