05/18/2004 11:00PM

Smarty couldn't hardly wait

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Equi-Photo
Smarty Jones (above left), exercise rider Peter Van Trump up, takes the track Wednesday morning for the first time since winning the Preakness, as trainer John Servis oversees the session. Servis said he will likely work the colt once before the Belmont.

BENSALEM, Pa. - Three days away from the racetrack did little to rejuvenate trainer John Servis, but it certainly had the batteries of his dual-classic winner Smarty Jones fully recharged.

So energetic was Smarty Jones on Wednesday morning that Servis called an audible in his training routine and had Smarty Jones jog one-half mile and then gallop one-half mile at Philadelphia Park. It was the first day on the track for Smarty Jones since his record-setting 11 1/2-length Preakness victory last Saturday.

Servis originally planned to jog Smarty Jones a mile, which is what he did the Wednesday following the Kentucky Derby. But Smarty Jones was feeling so good that Servis said he felt he had to do "a little more with him training-wise than I had originally planned to for the simple reason that he was calling for it."

Servis is preparing the undefeated Smarty Jones (8 for 8) for a bid to become Thoroughbred racing's 12th Triple Crown winner when he runs in the $1 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 5.

Servis brought Smarty Jones to the track at about 5:50 a.m., 10 minutes before the track was to open to the rest of the stable area. A light drizzle was falling as Servis, astride stable pony Butterscotch, accompanied Smarty Jones and exercise rider Pete Van Trump to the empty racetrack.

As they progressed through the exercise, it was evident that Smarty Jones was getting anxious, as he began to playfully buck. "He's a little full of himself this morning," Servis said as he passed the clubhouse turn.

Servis proceeded with the jog until the finish line, when he abruptly turned Smarty Jones around. Once pointed the right way, Smarty Jones broke into a light gallop while still beside the pony, going one-half mile before being pulled up. By 6:05, Smarty Jones was off the track.

"I planned to jog him a mile," Servis said at a press conference in the Philadelphia Park paddock. "We got about half a mile through that, and he just got to feeling so good I was more concerned about what tonight would be like, so I elected to turn him around and galloped him a half-mile, just to try and take a little bit of the edge off. It seemed to work. He was happy coming home. He wasn't too rank. I just can't get over how this horse came out of this race, I really can't."

Servis took Smarty Jones's energy level as a good sign.

"I can't see any reason why this horse wouldn't go to the Belmont and run as good a race as he's been running all along," Servis said.

Servis has yet to lay out a work schedule or a shipping schedule for Smarty Jones. Servis will most likely work Smarty Jones once before the Belmont. Asked if he felt a second work would be needed to take some of the edge off, Servis said, "No. Once he starts galloping and I turn him loose, he'll do enough."

Although New York Racing Association officials said Wednesday that Servis told them he would ship Smarty Jones to Belmont next Wednesday, Servis said he sees no need to get Smarty Jones to Belmont early.

"If he continues to train well here, I'm going to keep him here as long as I can," Servis said.

Last year, the New York Racing Association required all Belmont Stakes horses to be on the grounds by 3 p.m. the day before the race. NYRA officials have not yet decided when they will require the Belmont starters to be on the grounds this year, said Mike Lakow, the NYRA racing secretary.

In addition to being Smarty Jones's first day on the track after the Preakness, Wednesday was also the first day back for Servis after he and his wife Sherry took a brief holiday to the Poconos. Servis, who was fighting a chest cold in Baltimore, said he's still not 100 percent.

"It was an opportunity to get away for a couple of days," Servis said. "We took advantage of it. Am I rejuvenated? No, not by any means, but it certainly helped."

The Cliff's Edge gets back on track

The Cliff's Edge, who was scratched from the Preakness because of a bruised right front foot, has returned to light training in Saratoga, but his chances of making the Belmont will not be known for at least another week, trainer Nick Zito said Wednesday.

The Cliff's Edge jogged Tuesday and Wednesday morning with exercise rider Maxine Correa.

"Maxine said he went fine," said Zito, who is spending the week at Belmont to oversee his runners there.

Zito said he will get a firsthand look at The Cliff's Edge early next week and will be better able to assess his progress then. The Cliff's Edge missed six days of training when the bruise came to the fore only three days before the Preakness.

"That thing is like a minefield. I'm just being cautious," Zito said. "We just need some good days. If he can get up to a breeze, we'll think about the Belmont. If he can't, we'll wait it out. He's going the right way. I just don't know how fast he's going, what kind of progress he's making."

The Cliff's Edge is one of three Zito-trained runners under consideration for the Belmont. Royal Assault is a definite starter following his victory in Saturday's Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico. Birdstone, who finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby, is possible.

* The public will be able to get a glimpse of Smarty Jones on Saturday, when he gallops at Philadelphia Park at approximately 8:30 a.m. Gates open at 8 a.m. and admission is free.

* NYRA officials said Relaxed Gesture, an Irish-bred, is no longer under consideration for the Belmont.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman