Smarty Strong in First Solo Gallop

Smarty Strong in First Solo Gallop
Photo: AP/Equi-Photo/Bill Denver
Smarty Jones, in strong gallop at Philadelphia Park on Friday.
Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Smarty Jones had his first solo gallop at Philadelphia Park Friday morning, and from all indications, the colt has bounced out of the Derby in great shape and is ready for another big effort in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

Once again with the track all to himself, and backstretch workers gathered at the different gaps to watch the daily 8:30 show, Smarty Jones grabbed hold of the bit and took exercise rider Pete Van Trump on his usual merry ride, galloping a strong mile and a half. The previous day, he had galloped with trainer John Servis alongside on the pony, and the trainer could feel the power that would emerge full-blast on Friday.

Van Trump jogged the son of Elusive Quality   to almost the five-eighths pole, then turned around and broke the colt off in a light gallop. Smarty Jones immediately got into it and began building up momentum. After a quarter mile, he already had Van Trump standing straight up in the irons, all 170 pounds of him. Coming by the second time, Smarty was going along powerfully and smoothly, with his neck arched and head down into the bit. This colt generates so much power without fighting the rider, he's almost machine-like, as if putting on a demonstration of what the perfect gallop should look like. You just don't see horses galloping this strongly while floating over the ground and taking so little out of themselves.

As he walked back to the barn, Servis said simply, "Man, it don't get much better than that."

This was the same Smarty Jones who put on a show every morning at Churchill Downs, and it seemed evident from this gallop that the Derby hasn't taken much out of him. Servis has been looking for any sign of that being the case, and has said all along that if he feels the colt is not 110%, he won't run in the Preakness.

"He's gonna tail off at some point," Servis said. "When, I can't tell you. But, it's gonna happen. I mean, you just can't keep going at that pace. Hopefully, he'll show us when the time's coming and we'll know to give him a breather. I thought he looked super this morning. Usually, he'll give Pete a breather somewhere in the gallop, but Peter said he never got a breather today.

"Once he gets to the racetrack he knows he's supposed to do something and he gets his game face on. And then as soon as he's done, he mellows right out and walks home. And that's the maturity that makes him the horse he is today."

Servis, who will not give Smarty Jones a work before the Preakness, said the colt will train at Philly Park Wednesday morning, then ship to Pimlico that afternoon in time for entries.

He will gallop in front of the public Saturday at the usual time of 8:30. Coffee and donuts will be served, and the mayor of Bensalem will be on hand. Then on Sunday, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell will issue a proclamation to Smarty Jones at 1 p.m. in the winner's circle following festivities in the Cotillion Room at noon.

Smarty Jones will not be the only Philly Park-based horse in the Preakness. Trainer Marty Ciresa said Friday that Whirlaway Stakes winner Little Matth Man, who displaced his palate in the Wood Memorial (gr. I), also will be in the field. The colt, who had been suffering from sore feet, has been fitted with glue-on shoes, and Ciresa will remove the blinkers for the Preakness.

The son of Matty G. also has finished a fast-closing second in the Battaglia at Turfway Park and a fast-closing third in the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II). With jockey Jose Santos having commitments at Belmont Park next Saturday, Ciresa is still in search of a rider.

The other probables for the Preakness are Lion Heart, The Cliff's Edge, Imperialism, Borrego, Rock Hard Ten, Eddington, Sir Shackleton, and Water Cannon.

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