In what was described as a change in its marketing strategy for Thoroughbred racing, Visa USA announced Monday it would not renew its 10-year sponsorship of the Visa Triple Crown series, but would focus on a "new partnership with the sport's most venerable race, the grade I Kentucky Derby."
"NTRA Super Saturday," five shows of horse racing coverage airing on ABC and ESPN, will make its debut Saturday on ESPN with a two-hour telecast (4:00-6:00 p.m. ET) featuring five graded stakes from four different race tracks with reporters stationed at each venue.
Even though Smarty Jones just failed to win the Visa Triple Crown Challenge June 5 at Belmont Park, the Philly faithful were down, but not out. In fact, many of them said the colt based at Philly Park remains a champion even in defeat.
Moderate rain didn't dampen the enthusiasm of fans at Philadelphia Park, the home of Smarty Jones, the morning of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). People began gathering at the gates to the picnic area at the Bensalem, Pa., racetrack at 5:30 a.m. EDT -- and remember, they can only watch the third leg of the Visa Triple Crown Challenge on television.
Two former jockeys who traveled to Belmont Park for the June 5 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) are fast becoming the talk of Philadelphia Park and quite popular with some members of the general public in the Delaware Valley, thanks to "The Legend of Smarty Jones."
With Visa Triple Crown Challenge contender Smarty Jones biding his time at Philadelphia Park until mid-week, three colts who will attempt to pull an upset in Saturday's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) worked five-eighths of a mile at Belmont Park Monday.
In his final workout in preparation for a sweep of the Visa Triple Crown Challenge in the June 5 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Someday Farms' Smarty Jones breezed seven furlongs at Philadelphia Park on Friday.
Smarty Jones and just about anyone or anything connected to him have proven hot commodities in anticipation of a Visa Triple Crown Challenge bid June 5 at Belmont Park.
If Smarty Jones wins the June 5 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and the Visa Triple Crown Challenge, it may be because he has had a little extra help from the "Man upstairs."
Trainer John Servis revealed at a press conference at Philadelphia Park Wednesday that Someday Farm's undefeated Smarty Jones suffered a foot bruise before the May 1 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), but it quickly cleared up and the colt was able to maintain a normal training schedule.
Meadowlands, where Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds have raced on the same program, will link the two breeds together June 5 when it offers a special daily double on the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and the first race of its evening harness card.
Undefeated Visa Triple Crown Challenge hopeful Smarty Jones galloped at Philadelphia Park the morning of May 25 and was pronounced by trainer John Servis as ready for his May 28 work.
Dogwood Stable's Limehouse, fourth in the May 1 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), isn't likely to compete in the May 15 Preakness Stakes (gr. ) after all, Dogwood president Cot Campbell said May 3.
When trainer Michael Dickinson shipped Winchell Thoroughbred's Tapit from his Tapeta Farm in Maryland to Churchill Downs on Wednesday for Saturday's Kentucky Derby (gr. I), the conditioner brought a little bit of his farm with him.
- By Dan Liebman
By Dan Liebman -- If Smarty Jones wins the Kentucky Derby it will be a great story...but it should not be allowed to distort Smarty Jones' earnings as a racehorse or his sire's place on the list of 2004 leading sires.
With the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) only three weeks away, NBC Sports kicks off coverage of horseracing's 3-year-old picture on Saturday, with the 90-minute telecast of "NTRA Road to the Kentucky Derby."
Capac, strong winner of a Feb. 4 allowance race at Laurel Park, is scheduled to make his stakes debut in the $40,000 Miracle Wood Stakes Feb. 28 at the Maryland racetrack.
Tapit worked in-between races Wednesday afternoon at Laurel Park, drilling seven-furlongs under jockey Ramon Dominguez in 1:29.70.
- By Ray Paulick
By Ray Paulick -- It's only mid-February, but it's never too early to start talking about the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and the Visa Triple Crown Challenge.
A total of 434 3-year-olds remained eligible for this year's classics following completion of the Visa Triple Crown Challenge early nomination period Jan. 17.
Seven 3-year-olds, including three horses that ran in Oaklawn Park's Rebel Stakes (gr. III), were nominated to the Visa Triple Crown and $5-million Visa Triple Crown Challenge before the March 31 late deadline. As a result of the new nominees, the total nominated to this year's series was 447, just short of the record 452 nominees to the three-race series in 1986.
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