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BELMONT NOTES

Bandwagon Is Quickly Filling Up

June 05, 2004|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

ELMONT, N.Y. — Usually conservative people are climbing out on a long limb in predicting that Smarty Jones will win the Belmont Stakes today.

"I'm not comparing Smarty Jones to Secretariat," said Ron Turcotte, who rode Secretariat to a 31-length win in the 1973 Belmont, "but I look for Smarty Jones to win in a gallop. I think he's 35 lengths better than anyone else."

Joe Hirsch, who covered the Belmont Stakes for the Daily Racing Form from the 1950s until his retirement last year, is another Smarty Jones booster.

"I think Smarty Jones could win the race by the length of the stretch," Hirsch said.

Penny Chenery, who raced Secretariat, points out the coincidences between her horse and Smarty Jones.

"They're both red horses [chestnuts]," Chenery said. "Secretariat raced in blue-and-white colors, and so does Smarty Jones."

Steve Cauthen, who rode Affirmed to the 1978 Triple Crown sweep, was reminded of his horse when he watched Smarty Jones blow away the field in the Preakness.

"When Smarty Jones pricked his ears and took off, that was Affirmed all over again," Cauthen said. "I admire the way [trainer] John Servis and [jockey] Stewart Elliott have handled themselves. The Triple Crown can do a lot of damage to your nerves, but they've got so much confidence in their horse, they just let it ride."

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Trainer Jason Servis, the older brother of John Servis, has been having a good year in New York. He saddled Chocolate Brown to victory in Thursday's Fashion Stakes here.

"I wanted to get the track warmed up for my brother," said Jason Servis, who has been winning at a 22% clip in 2004.

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Having already ridden before crowds of more than 100,000 in Kentucky and Maryland, Elliott, riding in his first Belmont, shouldn't be intimidated by another six-figure turnout today.

"He's a cool customer," John Servis said of the jockey.

"He's riding at Monmouth Park this summer instead of Philadelphia Park, but it was still hard for him to leave Philadelphia, because he's been so successful there."

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Jason Orman, who trains Rock Hard Ten, is hopeful that his big colt will be a better gate loader in the Belmont than he was before the Preakness. Rock Hard Ten, who finished second at Pimlico, delayed the start about five minutes.

"It was my fault," Orman said. "I should have taken him to the gate in the days leading up to the race, so the [assistant starters] could have gotten to know him more."

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Island Sand, who finished second to Ashado in the Kentucky Oaks, won the $250,000 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park Friday, beating favored Society Selection by 1 3/4 lengths.

Friendly Michelle finished third and Bending Strings ran fourth.

Island Sand, who was ridden by Tommy Thompson, paid $10 to win, running one mile in 1:34 4/5.

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