It's five days and counting to Coronation Day, but as readers of this site well know, nothing
happens until I make THAT phone call.
Tomorrow morning, shortly after eight o"clock, I will call Mike Lakow, the Belmont Park racing
secretary, and tell him that I want to enter a horse for Saturday.
I expect he will say something along the lines of "Piesen, don"t bother me...I"m busy. But go
ahead. What race?"
"The Belmont Stakes."
"Does the horse have a name?"
"Yes. Smarty Jones.
"And make the jockey Stewart Elliott."
So far this deal is working out OK. I entered Smarty Jones for the Southwest, the Rebel, the
Arkansas Derby, the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness. The Belmont will make it six. Six
for six. Not bad.
I now am considering making this a full-time gig. I will offer -- for a modest fee -- my services
to trainers to enter their horses on a regular basis.
Of course I will not want to give up my day job -- picking winners for my friends
on my web site. Last weekend alone, I nailed a $260 exacta (that should have paid twice that)
at Belmont, and a bunch of other double-digit winners, including Moscow Burning in the
Sheepshead Bay. Hopefully, there will be a lot more winners where they came from this
And, how "bout those Twolves (Binocs" team years back at the Post)?
Yes, I know the papers say the Lakers won the series 4-2, but as far as the betting public
is concerned, the Wolves won 4-2, thanks to the two most amazing back-door covers
you"ll ever see.
Smarty Jones, meanwhile, won"t need a back-door cover on Saturday. The Belmont will be
a rerun of the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby. If Smarty could talk, no doubt he"d tell us that
he will be thrilled to see old buddy Purge in the Belmont. It will be like old times...only back
then Smarty Jones was just a blip on the radar screen.
That said, I decided to look back at the notes columns I did this spring for Oaklawn Park.
Here"s a sample:
Feb. 18: It is surprising that Smarty Jones is not included among the 23 separate betting
entries in the first pool of the Churchill Downs" Kentucky Derby future book.
"I"m happy about it," says Servis. "It keeps the pressure off. Anyway, it"s results that count."
Feb. 26: "My horse has blazing speed," says Servis. "That"s obvious. But we have been teaching
him to relax, and he"s responding. If he"s going to get the Derby distance, he has to overcome
his sprint pedigree."
March 6: Smarty Jones is referred to as "she" on page one of a major trade publication, which
also questions his ability to get a mile in the (upcoming) Southwest. On the other hand, it
was announced that Smarty was voted the champion Pennsylvania-bred 2-year-old of 2003.
"At least," says Servis, "he"s getting respect somewhere."
March 13: "I am very pleased with Smarty"s move (five furlongs in :58)," says Servis. I wanted
to see him finish strong, and he did." Says jockey Willie Martinez: "Smarty impresses me more
every time I get on him. He (worked :58) with his ears pricking. He is ready to step up now. I
believe he will."
As for the practice of having John Piesen entering Smarty, Servis said: "I don"t want to tamper
with a good thing."
"I can understand," says Servis, "why Smarty has scared a few folks out of the Rebel." And a
note for Piesen: "Don"t oversleep. We"re counting on you."
March 20: "Smarty will be much fitter for the Rebel than he was for the Southwest," says Servis.
"He"s ready to move up to the next level. Some of the other horses are being overrated because
of their connections and pedigrees, while Smarty gets lost in the shuffle."
March 20: A reporter asked Sevis after the (March 20) Rebel if he (Servis) would want to trade
places with any other Derby trainer. "To be honest," says Servis, "I wouldn"t know whom to
In the same column, rival trainer Bob Holthus says: "I don"t know why anyone can think they
can beat Smarty Jones. He ran the fastest final quarter (:24) of any Derby prep this year. You
look at the Gotham and you see the winner came home in :27 3/5. Ben Jones always said that
if you have a horse who can run the last quarter in :25, you have the Derby winner."
March 25: Finally, Smarty cracks some Top 10 polls...including an eighth in the NTRA poll.
"Imagine that," says Servis, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
March 27: Bob Baffert, whose Wimbledon tops some polls, tells Blood Horse columnist Steve
Haskin that "Smarty Jones should be number one in every poll until he"s beaten."
Noticing that Smarty doesn"t make the AP Top 20 poll, Servis says: "That"s perfectly alright
with me. Hopefully, he will start
changing some minds before the Deby."
April 1: "Smarty was maybe 90 per cent for the Rebel," says Servis. "He"ll be 100 per cent for
the Arkansas Derby."
In the same column, Barry Irwin, the president of Team Valor, sets Smarty"s value at $4
million. "But it will be a lot more," he says, "if Smarty wins the Arkansas Derby."
April 5: "Smarty is coming into the Arkansas Derby perfect," says Servis, "everything is on
schedule. We"re hoping to make racing history. Everyone here in Arkansas has been great
to us. We"ll try to repay them in the (Arkansas) Derby."
April 7: If Smarty Jones wins the Arkansas Derby, especially if he wins big, he will go to the
Kentucky Derby as the favorite, and he will be the biggest media story of the year.
Obviously, go Smarty.
April 8: "Sometimes," says Servis, "we find this all hard to believe. But here we are, and we"re
hoping that Smarty takes us all the way."
My choice (for the Arkansas Derby) is Smarty Jones. He should sit an outside stalking trip
behind Purge, and take over when Elliott says go.
April 10: "I don"t feel any pressure at all," says Servis on the morning of the Arkansas Derby.
"We"ve all done everything we can. The rest is up to Smarty."
April 11: "Smarty came out of the Arkansas Derby better than in any of his previous races,"
says Servis. "The cool Arkansas air has him on the muscle. Now it"s on to Kentucky. I want
to thank everyone from Mr. Cella on down. Now we just want to get the job done for the
people of Arkansas who have been so great to us.
"My horse is Arkansas tough."
Now fast forward to tomorrow night. Smarty Jones will be profiled on "Biography" on A&E
at 10 p.m., and again at 2 a.m.
And, needless to say, Smarty has cracked the AP Top 20.