06/02/2004 11:00PM

Elliott looks at Smarty's brilliant career


BENSALEM, Pa. - Stewart Elliott had already won more than 3,000 races before he climbed aboard the back of Smarty Jones for the first time last Nov. 9 at Philadelphia Park. Elliott, 39, couldn't have known it then, but his life would be changed forever.

"Where you've been hiding this one?" Elliott said to trainer John Servis while still atop Smarty Jones after his 7 3/4-length maiden win at Philadelphia Park on that November afternoon.

Seven months later, Elliott and the chestnut horse with seemingly endless stamina make their bid for racing's Triple Crown in Saturday's Belmont Stakes. Only 11 other horses and 10 other jockeys have completed the Triple Crown, none since Affirmed and a teenager named Steve Cauthen in 1978.

Only Seattle Slew and jockey Jean Cruguet in 1977 were able to go through the Triple Crown undefeated.

Under the glare of the hot media spotlight, Elliott has not wilted. He handled the revelations of past alcohol abuse and assault charges in a professional manner. While Elliott can only imagine what it would be like to complete the journey, he knows what it took to get here.

In Elliott's words, here is a description of the first eight races of Smarty Jones's career:

Maiden Special Weight
Six Furlongs, open company
First by 7 3/4 lengths

PHILADELPHIA PARK, Nov. 9, 2003 - I think John kind of kept him a secret. A lot of horses I'll work for John before they run, and this one I was never on. He told me he thought a lot of the horse, and sure enough he was right. Because he had an accident at the gate before he ran, the big thing was getting him over there and hopefully he would be okay. You're hoping he doesn't blow a fuse in there. That was our main concern. Everything went okay and he just won easy. We knew he had a good future.

Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes
Seven furlongs, Pennsylvania-breds
First by 15 lengths

PHILADELPHIA PARK, Nov. 22, 2003 - We had the one post. He had to stand in there a long time. He broke a little slow because he was in there for a long time. But obviously he showed again, he's a runner. I thought I was going too fast. I had him as much as I could and he was running off with me. I knew he was smoking. I said this is seven furlongs, he can't keep going like this, he's going to get tired and somebody's going to catch him. But he just kept running. Easily. The whole way. Now, all we had to do was see if he could run longer.

Count Fleet Stakes
Mile and 70 yards
First by 5 lengths

AQUEDUCT, Jan. 3 - He stumbled this day, which automatically set him back just a little bit. But it probably helped him, too. It helped me. He was able to finish up and win by five. He could have used himself up and not have anything left and shown he's probably a sprinter. This showed he could go the two turns, the mile and 70 yards. It was a step in the right direction.

Southwest Stakes
One mile
First by three-quarters

OAKLAWN PARK, Feb. 28 - Going into the race, John had said that he didn't have him 100 percent fit; maybe 80 percent ready. So, there was concern that he would need the race. When I got him in the post parade he was rearing up, he was a wild horse. Now I'm thinking how am I going to get him to relax? John's already said he's going to get tired, so if he doesn't relax he's going to get beat. Well, he relaxed enough. This other horse started coming to him and he was getting tired, but he held on. A lot of people said he'd never get the distance because it looked like he was struggling and he barely held on to win, but we knew he was supposed to get tired. John said he would be much more prepared for his next race and sure enough he was.

Rebel Stakes
1 1/16 miles
First by 3 1-4 lengths

OAKLAWN PARK, March 20 - John was telling me he was going to be a much better horse for the Rebel, which was a little tougher race. We just went from a $100,000 race to a $200,000 race and Purge was in there, and Mr. Jester was a horse that looked liked he'd be tough. He was still a little bit tough to keep off of Purge, but Purge was a pretty fast horse so that helped. After he won this race the way he did, we knew we were heading the right way now.

Arkansas Derby
1 1/8 miles
First by 1 1-2 lengths

OAKLAWN PARK, April 10 - This is a big step, here. We're going into a million-dollar race. Borrego looked tough. Mr. Jester you figure maybe he had an excuse. Again he won. He settled a little bit better and he won again. After the Rebel, going into this race, we thought distance wasn't so much a concern, but it was a mile and an eighth, then again he pulled it off. He took the next step. He galloped out strong.

Kentucky Derby
1 1/4 miles
First by 2 3-4 lengths

CHURCHILL DOWNS, May 1 - It was his first time on Lasix and that made him totally controllable. I think the Lasix completed him. He was so relaxed, he's in between horses and that was the most relaxed he'd ever been even when he started to get crowded. That was the first time instead of me pulling against him, he was nice and relaxed.

1 3/16 miles
First by 11 1-2 lengths

PIMLICO, May 15 - He was push-button again. He just improved. All along he just kept getting better and that was his best race yet. It was pretty easy.