09/01/2012 2:43PM

Parx Racing: Teeth of the Dog looks to bounce back in Smarty Jones Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Teeth of the Dog is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for Monday’s $350,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing.

A suspensory injury that sent Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags into early retirement cost trainer Michael Matz his top 3-year-old earlier this summer. But Matz has a capable replacement on the cusp of stardom in Teeth of the Dog.

Teeth of the Dog, who joined the elite of this year’s crop of late-blossoming 3-year-olds with a courageous neck victory in the Grade 2 Dwyer, will look to take another step forward in Monday’s $350,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing.

The Grade 3 Smarty Jones, which will be contested at a mile and 70 yards, headlines a stakes tripleheader with the Grade 3, $350,000 Turf Monster Handicap and the $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap for fillies and mares.

The Smarty Jones serves as Parx’s prep for the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 22. Matz is hopeful Teeth of the Dog will prove he deserves a shot at the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and is willing to throw out his colt’s lackluster performance in the July 28 Jim Dandy at Saratoga.

Based on what jockey Joel Rosario told him afterward, Matz feels certain Teeth of the Dog disliked the sloppy conditions. Teeth of the Dog tracked a slow pace by front-running winner Alpha and faded to fourth in the stretch.

“He didn’t like the surface,” Matz said. “I thought he could handle the slop. I thought we’d be on the lead. Instead, he was chasing in second, and the rider said he was just spinning his wheels.”

The result convinced Matz to abandon any thoughts of bringing back Teeth of the Dog in the Travers, which ended up in a dead heat between Alpha and Golden Ticket. Both are candidates for the Pennsylvania Derby.

The Jim Dandy and the Preakness, in which Teeth of the Dog was a distant fifth behind I’ll Have Another, are the only two subpar performances Teeth of the Dog has turned in since April. He drew clear to capture the $100,000 Easy Goer by 3 3/4 lengths and followed up by holding off Fast Falcon in the Dwyer.

“We were a little too aggressive in running him in the Preakness,” Matz said. “He tries. He will give you whatever he has. He ran two good races before the Jim Dandy, and he has trained fine since that last race.”

Teeth of the Dog, the track’s 5-2 morning-line favorite, will face eight other 3-year-olds in the Smarty Jones, including two-time graded stakes winner Prospective and Not a Given, winner of three straight at Monmouth Park.

Prospective, based at Woodbine with Mark Casse, is a four-time winner this season, including the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. Like Teeth of the Dog, Prospective did not appear to handle the sloppy going in the Jim Dandy.

Not a Given moves up in class following a 7 1/2-length win in a second-level optional $32,000 claimer that produced a 95 Beyer Speed Figure, the second best last-out number in Monday’s field.

The field also includes My Adonis, winner of the Long Branch at Monmouth; the Nick Zito-trained Easter Gift, second by a neck two starts ago in the Grade 3 Pegasus; and Traffic Light, a Pennsylvania-bred who has won four of his last five starts.