Horse power to spareSMARTY JONES ROMPS TO EASY PREAKNESS VICTORY
By ROB LONGLEY, TORONTO SUN
Now Stewart Elliott knows what his childhood hero Ron Turcotte must have felt 31 years ago. If he can extend the feeling for another three weeks, the Toronto-born jockey will join his Canadian compatriot in one of sport's rarest clubs -- that of a Triple Crown winner.
With Elliott cool and in command yesterday at Baltimore's steamy Pimlico Racecourse, Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones scorched the competition in the 129th Preakness Stakes.
Even with Elliott easing his mount 40 yards before the finish, he was a race record 11 1/2 lengths in front of runner-up Rock Hard Ten when he cruised under the wire.
That preservation may serve him well when he travels to New York for the Belmont Stakes attempting to become the 12th Crown winner and the first since Affirmed 26 years ago.
Not that there appears to be a three-year-old anywhere who is capable of getting by him, however.
Smarty Jones will be the sixth horse in the past eight years to head to the final jewel with a chance at the sweep. A perfect 8-for-8 in his career, the Philadelphia-based horse is also the first undefeated colt to win the Derby and Preakness since Seattle Slew in 1977.
From one Canadian jockey to another, Elliott talked by phone with Turcotte earlier in the week. The ease with which Smarty Jones is winning brings natural comparisons to Turcotte's 1973 Crown winner, Secretariat.
"He told me, 'He sure looks good on paper, I think he'll go all the way,' " Elliott said of his talk with New Brunswicker Turcotte. "He said, 'You've got your Derby under your belt. Just go for it. Be confident and I'll be rooting for you.'"
By the time the 1 1/2-mile Belmont is run, it may seem like the whole world is behind him, not just the Preakness record crowd of 112,668 on hand yesterday. They eagerly pounded Smarty at the windows, leading to a skimpy $3.40 return on a $2 bet.
The champ impressed the competition as well as it became abundantly clear this was a one-horse race.
"I knew I had another gear but the other horse had about four more," said jockey Gary Stevens, who rode Rock Hard Ten. "I got goosebumps. My horse is a nice horse, it just looks like he was born in the wrong year."
Though he was never a threat to run down the winner, Rock Hard Ten triggered an all-Canadian exactor. The runner-up is trained by Jason Orman, a Calgary native who learned the racing ropes at Stampede Park.
Much like he did in the Derby, Elliott rode Smarty with poise belying his humble existence at Philly Park, a second-tier track far from racing's limelight.
Early pacesetter Lion Heart tried to force Smarty Jones to go wide by hogging the middle of the track. But moving into the final turn, Elliott ducked to the inside giving Smarty Jones the clear path to destroy his opposition.
"I didn't want to get caught in a jackpot," said Elliott, the son of a jockey father and a mother who is an assistant trainer at Woodbine. "I just wanted to get clear sailing for the horse. I had plenty of horse."
Clear sailing indeed. In fact, the ease with which he won was frightening. The horse actually pricked his ears coming to the end of the 13/16-mile race in 1:55.59.
So what are his prospects in New York, where a $5 million US bonus awaits with a victory?
"I think there's some room for improvement," trainer John Servis said.
"I haven't been able to get him tired yet."