John Servis, trainer of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victor Smarty Jones, said Thursday that "All systems are go right now" for a start in the Preakness May 15. During an NTRA teleconference, Servis added, "I believe he's ready. He trained well with a pony today, and we'll turn him loose tomorrow on his own for a gallop."
Servis said he was reserving the right to play things by ear, and if Smarty Jones was "not 110%, he won't run" in the second leg of the Triple Crown. "There is concern over what the Triple Crown races take out of a horse, but he's been sound and keeping his weight. I'm watching him with a microscope. It would be great to win the Triple Crown, but if he's not right he won't run."
Servis added Smarty Jones would not work before the Preakness, saying he was "dead fit" right now. "My main concern is keeping him happy," said the trainer.
Servis said he was surprised at the tremendous attention lavished upon himself and his horse since Saturday. "We were under the radar for a long time, and I think he was more a sentimental favorite in the Derby than anything else. I didn't realize his popularity until we got back to Philly. Every house in my development had blue and white balloons on the mailboxes, and there was a sign in my yard. The support has been amazing, exciting, and I hope we can carry it on."
Patrick Biancone, trainer of Derby runner-up Lion Heart, noted that, "the horse that recovers the best from the Kentucky Derby will be in good position to win the Preakness." As far as new shooters Eddington and Rock Hard Ten, Biancone said, "All we can do is take off our hats and say, 'welcome.' " Biancone, when asked about Lion Heart's front-running style and whether he might try to change things up, said, "If we do decide to do something different, we will keep it a surprise. We will try our best to reverse our (Derby) situation, but it will be difficult."
Jason Orman, trainer of Rock Hard Ten, said his charge is athletic and agile for his size, and that he hopes the horse's lack of experience will be overcome by the fact he's doing well right now. Rock Hard Ten breezed seven furlongs on Tuesday at Churchill Downs, and will work there again early next week before shipping to Pimlico Wednesday of Preakness week. He said the presence of Gary Stevens, who has won the Preakness, would be a big help for his horse. Rock Hard Ten has only three starts in his career.