Thursday, June 3, 2004

Smarty Jones 2-5 Belmont favorite

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Nick Zito stepped to the podium during the draw for the Belmont Stakes and all but conceded the race and Triple Crown to Smarty Jones.

"Where do I sign now for second?" the trainer asked.

Settle for second?

"To Smarty Jones? Why not? There's nothing wrong being second to a hero," Zito said.

The undefeated Smarty Jones arrived at Belmont on Wednesday, just after the little red chestnut colt was made the 2-5 morning-line favorite to defeat eight rivals and give racing its 12th Triple Crown champion and first since Affirmed in 1978.

"He's doing great, and I'm sure he'll run well," trainer John Servis said.

While the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was settling in for Saturday's race, rival trainers were explaining why they decided to run their horses.

Bobby Frankel, who played Triple spoiler last year when Empire Maker beat Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide in the Belmont, entered Master David, a 20-1 long shot. The trainer said jockey Jose Santos helped convince him Master David has a shot.

"He thinks he's got a chance. I don't, but he does," Frankel said.

Todd Pletcher decided to give Purge a shot at Smarty Jones. The son of Pulpit - 3-for-3 in races without Smarty Jones in the field - was the second choice at 5-1.

As if Smarty Jones needed an added advantage, the colt drew the outside No. 9 post, giving jockey Stewart Elliott a clear view to the first turn.

"It will give us a nice run to the first turn," Servis said. "He can sit out there and get comfortable."

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