Trainer John Servis held his final press conference at Philadelphia Park this morning before he and Visa Triple Crown hopeful Smarty Jones head to Belmont Park Wednesday morning, three days before the colt's run in the 136th Belmont Stakes. Smarty Jones will train at Philadelphia Park Wednesday morning before boarding a van to take him to New York. The undefeated son of Elusive Quality pleased Servis in his exercise this morning. "We let him have a good strong gallop this morning and he handled it great," Servis said. "He was playing a little bit while he was in there cooling out in the barn and gave a little buckjump." Going a mile and a half in the Belmont Stakes, Servis wants to make sure Smarty Jones will relax. "If anything, I've tried to take a little of the edge off of him," Servis said. "His energy level has been very, very good. He's an amazing horse. I don't know when the time's going to come when he shows we've reached the peak of that energy level." Smarty Jones will leave Philadelphia Wednesday morning and will receive police escorts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. The journey from Philly Park to Belmont is about 100 miles and will probably take about two hours, depending on road traffic.
Rock Hard Ten
Rock Hard Ten, the Preakness runner-up owned by Mercedes Stable and Madeleine Paulson, exited Monday's five-furlong workout of :59 in good shape, according to trainer Jason Orman. "He came out of the work real good," Orman said. "He just walked today. He'll go back to the track to jog tomorrow and we'll take him back to the gate on Thursday and Friday." The biggest news of the day regarding Rock Hard Ten occurred this morning in California where the Los Angeles Superior Court denied jockey Patrick Valenzuela a stay of a suspension for failing to take a drug test in January. The decision means that Valenzuela will not be able to ride Rock Hard Ten in the Belmont Stakes, along with several other mounts he had lined up for the weekend. Alex Solis is expected to pick up the mount on Rock Hard Ten.
Trainer Nick Zito continues to be confident his two Belmont Stakes prospects - Royal Assault and Birdstone - will give a good accounting of themselves during Saturday's 136th running of the third jewel in the Visa Triple Crown. For Birdstone, the trainer summed it up this way on Tuesday morning: "You know, he finished eighth not 18th [in the Kentucky Derby]." And he added that the colt had trouble in the race, the loss of one shoe not the least of the trouble. On Royal Assault: "He's a very nice horse, always has been. I was very impressed with his Wood [Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct on April 10], the way he came out of a Florida allowance race and jumped into a stakes like that." Royal Assault finished fifth, 6 ¼ lengths behind the winner, Tapit. Birdstone, who won last year's Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park and is one of the few 2-year-old stars who is still running, will be vanned to Zito's Belmont Park barn after training hours on Wednesday. The trainer said he changed the colt's shipping plans from Tuesday morning because of expected bad weather. He galloped over Saratoga's Oklahoma training track Tuesday morning as his preparations for the Belmont continued forward. Zito also said of Birdstone: "A lot of people can't quite figure him out," implying what has been a hit-and-miss spring for the son of 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone has created some confusion in the racing community. Without claiming he has the colt figured out, Zito said, "I think he's going to run well." Royal Assault walked the Zito shedrow Tuesday morning following his five- furlong work in 1:00 1/5 on Monday. The Kris S. colt was reported in good shape following his final work in preparation for Saturday's 1 1/2 mile test.
Willmott Stable's Eddington, the third-place finisher in the Preakness, returned to the track for the first time since working five eighths in :59.10, handily, on Sunday morning. A colt by 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Unbridled, Eddington will be ridden by two-time Belmont Stakes winner Jerry Bailey on Saturday. "He jogged over the main track and everything is fine," trainer Mark Hennig said. "I'm happy." Hennig says he does not get nervous or anxious on big race days, although that is something that might change come Saturday. "Not yet, but I might on that day," he said. "Being a part of the big races is always exciting and even more so when it's a Triple Crown race."
Purge, who is expected to be entered on Wednesday with the prospect of running in Saturday's race still a question, jogged Tuesday morning. "He came out of his work in good shape," trainer Todd Pletcher said. The son of Pulpit breezed five furlongs Monday morning in 1:01 3/5. Purge's victory in Belmont Park's Peter Pan Stakes makes him a prospect for the Belmont Stakes. Pletcher said he would be speaking with owner Jack Wolf of Starlight Stable later on Tuesday to decide on entering on Wednesday.
Belmont Stakes longshot Caiman arrived in town last night and was bedded down in barn 5. Trained by Angel Medina, Caiman had his first feel of the main track this morning, jogging one lap the wrong way. "He's comfortable and he's happy," Medina said.
Master David jogged Tuesday morning as he sharpened up for a possible run in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. The colt is expected to be entered on Wednesday with a decision to run waiting on possible late developments with other prospects. Trainer Robert Frankel was at Saratoga Tuesday morning to check on horses there, according to assistant trainer Rueben Loza.