06/03/2004 11:00PM

Watchmaker's Belmont Stakes analysis


1 Smarty Jones
2 Eddington
3 Master David
4 Rock Hard Ten

Smarty Jones is unlike the five other horses since 1997 who went into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to sweep the Triple Crown. He does not have an established rival who is close to him in terms of ability; at this point, he is far ahead of the rest of his contemporaries. And, he is not locked into one particular running style. He can relax on the front end if the situation requires him to go to the early lead, and has repeatedly demonstrated that he can relax just off the early pace.

The only question concerning Smarty Jones Saturday is the Belmont's 1 1/2-mile distance, although all eight of his opponents face the same question. The fact is, Smarty Jones long ago broke the perceived distance barriers of his pedigree - many doubted he would handle 1 1/8 miles, let alone the 1 1/4 miles of the Kentucky Derby - and in the Derby and Preakness, he never showed so much as a hint of being tired at the finish. Moreover, Smarty Jones actually fits the profile of the successful Belmont Stakes horse, which is one with positional speed who has the ability to break the race open on the far turn. Say hello to America's 12th Triple Crown winner.

In a race that, frankly, isn't appealing from a betting standpoint, I'm going to try and beat probable second choice Rock Hard Ten with Eddington, and Master David. Eddington made up some ground late when two lengths behind Rock Hard Ten for second in the Preakness, and can turn the tables on that opponent in his first career start over the track on which he trains very well.

Master David, meanwhile, was ridiculously far back early when a disappointing third in the Peter Pan. The two best races he ran in this country came when he was close to or right with the pace, and he can be close early here.

Rock Hard Ten may be the second-most talented horse in this field. But I can't take him as the likely second choice, not after being beaten a double-digit margin in the Preakness, earning only a mediocre Beyer Speed Figure, and not when he is 50-50 to pitch another fit at the starting gate.