06/04/2004 12:00AM

King's Belmont Stakes analysis


1 Smarty Jones
2 Eddington
3 Purge
4 Rock Hard Ten

Smarty Jones will win the Triple Crown. Why will he succeed after so many others have failed? Because he is a brilliant racehorse, and the opposition is thin. Of the 17 rivals he whipped in the Kentucky Derby, only two - distant finishers Master David and Birdstone - are back for another try. Rock Hard Ten and Eddington - second and third behind him in the Preakness - also are back, but they never got close at Pimlico.

Then, of course, there are the new shooters, who weren't talented enough or far enough along to even warrant being in the Derby or Preakness.

If Smarty Jones holds his form and handles the 1 1/2-mile Belmont distance, he will become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

With the exacta to Rock Hard Ten likely to be grossly overplayed, Eddington will be in the second spot in my exotics. He ran in spurts when third in the Preakness, 13 1/2 lengths behind Smarty Jones. Previously, he had been a close third in the Wood Memorial.

Perhaps he will be more professional racing at Belmont, a track on which he has trained since April. He seems to have more room to improve than others, and his even-paced style seems well suited to a minor award in this 1 1/2-mile race.

Purge may also offer a bit of value. His only losses in five starts came in races won by Smarty Jones: the Rebel and Arkansas Derby. He has three easy victories, including the Grade 2 Peter Pan May 22. That 6 3/4-length triumph earned him a 108 Beyer Speed Figure.

If able to run back to a 108 Beyer, he could challenge the heavy favorite - provided Smarty Jones regresses off the 118 Beyer he ran in the Preakness.

Smarty Jones twice broke Purge's heart in Arkansas, and now going 1 1/2 miles - a distance which would appear beyond Purge's best range - he could get discouraged again.

The talented Rock Hard Ten also has merits, but too many supporters have jumped on his bandwagon as an alternative to Smarty Jones and he will be overbet in the gimmicks underneath the favorite. Forget about getting the 8-1 odds listed on him on the track morning line.