SportsProf

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Sunday, May 30, 2004

One Week to the Belmont

So much has been written about Smarty Jones that it makes you wonder how good a horse he really is. True, Philadelphians are starved for a winner. Philadelphia has the longest drought of any city with professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey teams -- dating back to the 1982-1983 76ers. And, if that's not bad enough, there has been a good-natured turf battle going on between Philadelphia and its neighbor, Bucks County, as Philadelphia Park, Smarty Jones' home track, is located in Bucks County. Bottom line is that Southeastern Pennsylvania is looking for its first winner in over twenty years.

To make matters worse for this three year-old, the national media has attached itself to the Seabiscuit-like story of the owners, the trainer, the jockey and the horse itself. When Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby, the New York Times wrote of the Smarty Jones team as if they were the Beverly Hillbillies (Philadelphians frequently suffer that fate at the hands of New Yorkers). The coverge was patronizing at best, insulting at worst. But ever since Smarty Jones ran away with the Preakness, even the New York media has been singing the praises of this colt. And, with only five competitors in the Belmont at last count, Smarty does look like a prohibitive favorite to win the Triple Crown.

But remember, in something like six of the eight past years, the media has anointed horses as Triple Crown winners, only to have all six who won both the Derby and the Preakness lose in the 1 1/2 mile third leg of the Triple Crown. So before everyone gets drunk singing the praises of Smarty Jones, please have him run the Belmont and win it. Many go into the Belmont as Triple Crown winners, only to emerge as victims of the Belmont Stakes.

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