Overwhelming favorite to start on outside
by Associated Press
BENSALEM, Pa. -- Smarty Jones arrived at Belmont Park before noon Wednesday, bounding down the ramp from his van and taking a quick right turn into Barn 5.
His every move was captured by clicking cameras, and a throng followed as Smarty walked into his stall. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner stood looking out at all the commotion.
Smarty Jones left Philadelphia Park early Wednesday with a police escort and three television helicopters hovering above.
The horse galloped for 1½ miles before the trip.
"Smarty thought it was just another day, but by the time we loaded him on the van, he had his game face on," assistant trainer Maureen Donnelly said.
Smarty Jones was made the overwhelming 2-5 favorite to win the Belmont Stakes in Wednesday's draw. He will face eight rivals in the 1½-mile race , and leave from the outside No. 9 post.
The undefeated colt is the shortest priced morning-line favorite since Spectacular Bid, who was 1-5 before finishing third in the 1979 Belmont in his failed bid to win the Triple Crown.
More than 120,000 fans are expected to pack Belmont Park's grandstand Saturday to watch Smarty Jones' attempt at becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed in 1978. It likely won't be the last chance to see the colt. The horse that has rejuvenated the racing industry will race again after the Belmont, win or lose.
Servis said Tuesday that owners Pat and Roy Chapman are leaning toward letting the colt run at least the rest of this year and delaying his possible entry into retirement.
"I think the chances of him being run are very good as long as he remains healthy and there are no problems," said Servis, who downplayed the risks of extending Smarty's career. "Mr. and Mrs. Chapman love the business and they want to race, so I don't think it will be a problem."
With a victory at Saturday's Belmont Stakes, the colt would drive up the price to send him to the breeding farm. The Chapmans could add to the millions already earned from Smarty Jones by selling his breeding rights.
Still, Servis said the Chapmans have indicated to him that they'd like Smarty Jones to keep running. Servis has talked about having Smarty Jones run in the Pennsylvania Derby on Labor Day on the colt's home turf, Philadelphia Park. It would be a record handle for the park, which has seen nearly 15,000 fans turn out for two public workouts.
"As long as it's financially feasible for them to race the horse, they're going to do it," Servis said. "The feedback I'm getting from them is, I think that's the way they're going to go."
Money hardly seems to be an issue for Team Smarty. By winning the Belmont, Smarty Jones would become North America's richest horse with more than $13 million in earnings.
The colt has earned $7,413,155 in his career, which includes an 8-0 record. He received a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn Park for winning the Kentucky Derby, Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes.
The Belmont purse is $1 million, and Visa would award a $5 million bonus to Smarty's owners for sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
Going into Saturday's race, Smarty Jones is fourth on the career money list of North American horses. The leader, Cigar, earned $9,999,815.
Just days before the Belmont, Servis is still trying to take it all in.
"It's a trainer's responsibility to look after your horse, and that's been keeping me busy," Servis said. "I haven't had a chance to think about everything, but I'm looking forward to doing that once this all over."