Monday, May 17, 2004
Trainer says Jones better than ever
In 'terrific' shape after Preakness
By JENNIE REES
The Louisville Courier-Journal
BALTIMORE - As he sat on a stool awaiting an appearance on NBC's Today Show Sunday morning, horse trainer John Servis glanced behind him to see unbeaten Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones in the front of his stall, shaking his head up and down and rubbing noses with the adjacent pony.
"What did I did I tell you?" he said with obvious relish.
Nineteen days from now, Smarty Jones is scheduled to try to close the deal as racing's 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978 by winning the Belmont Stakes in New York. And the morning after Smarty Jones' record 11 1/2-length victory in the Preakness, Servis definitely liked what he saw.
Smarty Jones settles in with some hay at his Philadelphia Park stall Sunday after returning from his victory in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday in Baltimore.
"He came out of the race terrific," Servis said. "There was not one oat in that feed tub this morning. Mario (groom Mario Ariagas) pulled the tub out and showed it to me. And as I'm looking at it, he comes from the back of the stall and dives into the tub like he was looking for more. That's good.
"It's incredible. I was shocked how he came out of the Derby. I thought it would really take a lot out of him, and it didn't. He's just as good, if not better, today."
Only two Derby and Preakness winners have entered the 1 1/2-mile Belmont unbeaten: Seattle Slew, who won, in 1977, and Majestic Prince, who lost, in 1969.
"This is the first time I've been on this road, and I realize now why there's only a handful of horses to win the Triple Crown," Servis said in the brief Today Show interview. "It's a very grueling road, and we've been on it since January. I've got a good horse, and he's doing really well, and I was really happy with him this morning... As long as he continues to do how he is, we'll go on to the Belmont and we'll be coming with a loaded gun."
Smarty Jones, who began his career at Philadelphia Park, now ranks fourth on the all-time earnings list at $7,413,155 after only eight races.
He has won three $1 million races and collected a $5 million bonus for sweeping Oaklawn's Rebel and Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby.
Smarty traveled by van back to Philadelphia Park Sunday morning, but Servis indicated he'll ship the colt to Belmont Park in about 10 days. His main competition figures to be Preakness runner-up Rock Hard Ten, who was making only his fourth career start.
"Rock Hard Ten is a very nice horse, and I'm sure he's going to get better," Servis said. "...He's done everything, plus. The owners of Rock Hard Ten congratulated me (Saturday) night in the hotel, and I congratulated them for their horse running so well. I said, 'You know, you really should take him back to California. He's probably not going to like the New York track.' They got a kick out of that."
Servis was thrilled to see jockey Stewart Elliott ease up on Smarty Jones the last sixteenth-mile when victory was more than assured.
"When he did that, inside I gave a little, 'Yes!' " he said.
"In the press conference, I asked Stew, 'Did we save a little bit for the next dance?' He said, 'He couldn't have done it any easier.' "
Elliott said Saturday evening that the Belmont's distance should be no problem.
"First, he handled this race very easily, galloped out strong, and he wasn't even really blowing that hard after the race," he said. "It didn't seem like it took much out of him at all. And the mile and a half, I think he'll do whatever I want him to."
Triple Crown champions
The 11 thoroughbreds to sweep the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes):
1978 - Affirmed
1977 - Seattle Slew
1973 - Secretariat
1948 - Citation
1946 - Assault
1943 - Count Fleet
1941 - Whirlaway
1937 - War Admiral
1935 - Omaha
1930 - Gallant Fox
1919 - Sir Barton
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AAA: Louisville 5, Toledo 2
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Trainer says Jones better than ever
Daugherty: Smarty convinces Cauthen
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