Originally created 06/03/04

Smarty Jones odds-on favorite to sweep Triple Crown



NEW YORK -- Smarty Jones was made the overwhelming 2-5 favorite to win Saturday's Belmont Stakes and become the first Triple Crown winner in 26 years.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will face eight rivals in the 1 1/2 -mile Belmont, and leave from the outside No. 9 post.

The undefeated colt is the shortest priced morning-line favorite since Spectacular Bid, who was 1-5 before finishing third in the 1979 Belmont in his failed bid to win the Triple Crown.

Purge, winner of the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 22 but a two-time loser to Smarty Jones in Arkansas, was the second choice at 5-1. Purge, 3-for-3 in races without Smarty Jones in the field, drew the No. 2 gate at Wednesday's post position draw.

Also entered were Rock Hard Ten and Eddington, the second- and third-place finishers in the Preakness. Rock Hard Ten, with Alex Solis aboard, was 8-1; Eddington, with Jerry Bailey up, was 10-1.

The rest of the field includes Birdstone, at 15-1; Master David and Royal Assault, both 20-1; and Caiman and Tap Dancer, both 50-1. Nick Zito, with five runner-up finishes in the Belmont, trains Birdstone and Royal Assault.

Affirmed, the last Triple Crown winner in 1978, was also the last odds-on favorite to win the Belmont. Since then, five horses - all with a chance to win the Triple Crown - failed. Real Quiet was the most recent, finishing second by a nose in 1998 as the 4-5 choice.

Trainer John Servis said he was happy with the outside post. Smarty Jones left from the No. 13 post in the Derby and overcame a few bumps on the first turn to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

"We can sit outside of horses and he doesn't have to worry about what's going on outside him, just what's going on inside of him, and secure a position by the time he gets to the first turn." Servis said Wednesday.

As he was speaking, Smarty Jones was arriving by van at Belmont Park after his trip from Philadelphia Park.



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