06/16/2004 11:00PM

Salty Punch: Smarty not in his way


Lion Heart, Rock Hard Ten, and Salty Punch are all 3-year-olds. What else do they have in common?

They all ran second in stakes to Smarty Jones.

Lion Heart, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, and Rock Hard Ten, the Preakness runner-up, are recognizable names. But who is Salty Punch?

Last November, Salty Punch was second-best, albeit 15 lengths behind Smarty Jones, in the Pennsylvania Nursery. He returns to Philadelphia Park for the first time since then for Saturday's $50,000 Peppy Addy, a seven-furlong stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds.

Salty Punch deserves to be favored against his seven rivals, based on his wire-to-wire win in the six-furlong Danzig at Penn National a month ago, when he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 90. The second- and third-place finishers in the Danzig, Prince Joseph and Hey Rube, are back to take another crack at Salty Punch.

Hey Rube is part of a Tim Kreiser-trained entry with Isle of Mirth. A distant fourth in the Danzig, run over a sloppy track, Isle of Mirth came out of that race to crush nonwinners-of-two allowance runners in his next start, earning an 82 Beyer.