Preakness could look a lot like Kentucky Derby

May 09, 2004|by LARRY YANOS

If you enjoyed the running of the Kentucky Derby last weekend, you should also like the scenario Saturday at the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. The second leg of the Visa Triple Crown Series will look like a rerun.

I see the identical racing scene unfolding at Pimlico that happened last week. The only difference is that this is a shorter race - 1 3/16 miles, not 1 1/4 miles.

Jockey Mike Smith will gun Lion Heart to the lead and play "catch me if you can," with the remainder of the field - including Kentucky Derby champion Smarty Jones - coming from behind.

Lion Heart broke from the No. 3 post at the Kentucky Derby and Smarty Jones left from No. 15.

With fewer horses, post positions should not be a factor in the Preakness.

"I would like to be outside of him again," said Smarty Jones trainer John Servis, a Charles Town, W.Va., native. "Pimlico is a completely different situation, though, than Churchill Downs. It's a speed favoring track with tight turns."


Servis knows one thing for sure - somebody will have to keep company with the front-runner to stop him from stealing the race.

A day before the Kentucky Derby, Smarty Jones jockey Stewart Elliott said he and Servis were well aware of Lion Heart's early kick and respected the strategy.

"I'll have him in my sights. We won't let him get away to a big lead," Elliott said.

While the jockey was getting good position in the early stages of the Run for the Roses, Lion Heart was feeling a little pressure before shaking loose and gaining a clear advantage.

It was just a matter of time before the patient Elliott put Smarty Jones into another gear and drew off for a convincing win.

Look for the same thing to happen Saturday.

It will be the "same 'ol, same 'ol," but Elliott won't have to worry about any traffic problems. The only problem will be catching the front-runner before the wire.

Servis and Elliott entered the Kentucky Derby very confident and nothing has changed.

"The horse continues to train well and we enter the Preakness with optimism," Servis said from Philadelphia Park. "And anyone who questioned the decision to use Elliott got some answers in the Derby. He rode a masterful race. It was great watching such a performance."

Servis said he will ship Smarty Jones to Pimlico either Wednesday or Thursday.

As for his plans leading up to the second jewel of the Triple Crown Series, Servis said: "He's not going to work. He's run five times since Feb. 28. My main concern with him right now is he just ran a mile and a quarter. He's a dead fit horse. Right now I want to keep him happy."

I agree with the confidence expressed by Servis and Elliott.

We'll have yet another horse winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown before getting a severe challenge from rested competition in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes in New York on June 5.

The Preakness field is starting to shape up and it will be quality, not quantity.

Seven horses are definitely being pointed to the Grade I, $1,000,000 race: Smarty Jones, Lion Heart, The Cliff's Edge, Borrego, Rock Hard Ten, Eddington and Water Cannon.

The Cliff's Edge and Borrego also competed in the Kentucky Derby.

Two other 3-year-olds have also entered the Preakness picture: Imperialism, the third-place finisher in the Derby, and Little Matth Man.

Little Matth Man finished seventh in the Wood Memorial in his last start. Trainer Martin Ciresa said he is 80-20 in favor of running the son of Matty G at Pimlico.

Do you remember years ago, before the days of co-mingling?

At one time, racetracks had their own individual betting pools and bettors would do some "shopping" in hopes of finding bargains.

For example, Smarty Jones would be bet heavier at Oaklawn Park (scene of three triumphs) and Philadelphia Park (the home to Servis and Elliott) than he would be at Calder or Santa Anita.

The same holds true for Lion Heart. He would command more attention from the West Coast bettors than someone at Suffolk Downs in Boston.

All that "work" changed years ago when co-mingling was introduced. Now, all wagers from racetracks and simulcasting hubs are placed into one pool.

The Associated Press reported that the much-beloved Smarty Jones caused some chaos and confusion at Oaklawn Park (Ark.).

Not only did the Oaklawn Park gathering rejoice as its adopted hero rolled to victory in the Kentucky Derby, it also made lots of money at the wagering windows.

The end result: Oaklawn did not have enough cash on hand to pay all of its winners in cash.

After the Kentucky Derby, Oaklawn Park had $691,000 on hand to pay off the winners, but the winners held tickets worth $2,619,000.

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