- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

BALTIMORE — Smarty Jones could be the second heaviest Preakness Stakes favorite in 15 years. The Philadelphia runner’s fans are expected to back the unbeaten colt in Saturday’s 129th running.

Smarty Jones was installed as the 8-5 morning line choice yesterday after winning the Kentucky Derby as the lukewarm 4-1 favorite. However, a large Philadelphia following is coming to Pimlico to possibly drop the odds to less than even money, meaning more than half of the win wagering in the field of 11 would be on Smarty Jones. Since 1989, only 2000 runner-up Fusaichi Pegasus (3-10) was rated lower.

“Clearly, his price will be driven down by our neighbors from Pennsylvania,” said Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli, “but maybe it will be offset by others looking for value in a competitive field.”

Derby runner-up Lion Heart (3-1) was the second choice while Imperialism (5-1) was third with a third in the Derby. Rock Hard Ten (6-1), The Cliff’s Edge (8-1) and Eddington (8-1) were the only others given a chance. Borrego tops the long shots at 15-1, followed by Sir Shackleton, Song of the Sword and Water Cannon at 30-1 each and Little Matth Man at 50-1.

Smarty Jones drew the No.7 post while expected front-runner Lion Heart took No.1. Trainer John Servis wanted early speedsters inside Smarty Jones to let the latter lay third by the first turn.

“I don’t know if it sets up a lot different than the Derby,” Servis said. “We tried to put some speed inside us.”

Servis was reluctant to run Smarty Jones off only a two-week layoff. He has to win the Preakness in order to attempt the Belmont Stakes on June5.

“If he gets beat in the Preakness, I guarantee he won’t run in the Belmont,” Servis said.

Eddington and Rock Hard Ten enter the Triple Crown after being denied Derby slots because of not having enough graded stakes earnings. Two horses were later scratched from the Derby because of injuries. Trainer Mark Hennig hopes the five-week layoff won’t dull Eddington’s chances.

“It shouldn’t hurt to have over a month between starts,” he said. “You never know if something like that will help your chances or not, but the Derby runners had to handle sloppy conditions down there.”

Water Cannon seeks to become the first local to take the Preakness since Deputed Testamony in 1983. The Bowie-based gelding has won five straight since gaining blinkers, including the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on April17.

“When you have a horse performing like this and the race is at your home track, I think you take your best shot,” trainer Linda Albert said. “He’s going to need his very best effort, but the way he has been coming along, I think he could take things up another notch.”

‘Cliff’ iffy

Trainer Nick Zito will decide today whether The Cliff’s Edge will enter after discovering a swelling in the colt’s right front hoof.

The Cliff’s Edge was stiff when he left his stall for a morning gallop. The colt walked the barn for more than 75 minutes before being sent to the track for a light jog.

“It just took him a long time to warm up,” Zito said. “It could be that something is jamming him. He looked all right on the track, but he was walking gingerly when he came back to the barn. Maybe everything related to the shoes has caught up to him.”

The Cliff’s Edge lost both front shoes during his Derby fifth-place finish after rallying past 12 horses on the final turn. The colt’s hooves were stinging from direct contact with the track, but recent workouts didn’t indicate a problem.

“His shoes were back on last Wednesday, he worked well on Sunday and he looked great jogging here [Tuesday],” Zito said. “Then this morning something’s wrong. My first thought is, why couldn’t this happen in June [after the Triple Crown]?”

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