With the Aug. 8 Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) eliminated from his plans, Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Smarty Jones now sets his sights on the Sept. 6 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II), the purse for which could be raised from $750,000 to $1 million.
"The Haskell was very doubtful anyway," trainer John Servis said July 9. "But we're right on schedule for the Pennsylvania Derby. He's probably going to breeze in a week to 10 days. We've just been jogging him and galloping him a little bit. I'm going to start bearing down on him (July 10) as a matter of fact.
"I'm very happy with the way he's doing. I just want to make sure he has a long enough break, because he has had a long year. I gave him three weeks in the shed, and then we jogged him for two weeks, and now he's really ready to start cranking up. And he's telling me he's ready. He starting to get a little too rambunctious, so it's time to start striking up the band."
Meanwhile, as Smarty gears up for his big return in front of the hometown fans, Philly Park also is gearing up for what promises to be its biggest day ever.
"We have a meeting (July 13) to discuss everything," director of racing Sal Sinatra said. "In all likelihood, the purse will go to $1 million. Right now, I'm trying to negotiate my horsemen's contract, so I'd like to make a double announcement that we're raising purses as well. (Management) is giving me $20 million to put in purses before the slots get here, so we have a couple of announcements coming.
"John is going to work the horse (the week of July 12), then the second work will probably be between races one day. We're just trying to get everything organized. We've got the bleachers, and the third floor getting renovated, and we're trying to figure out how many people we can squeeze in here, and whether or not we're going to pre-sell tickets."
The last time Philly Park opened its doors for Smarty Jones, nearly 10,000 people showed up just to watch him gallop. Though the son of Elusive Quality
was defeated for the first time in his career in the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) by a length to Birdstone, he remains as popular as ever. Servis continues to receive bags of fan mail for the colt.