BALTIMORE — The Preakness field is far from wide-open.
Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones was made the 8-5 morning-line favorite Wednesday for the second leg of the Triple Crown, and will leave from the No. 7 post in an 11-horse field.
Lion Heart, the Derby runner-up, was the 3-1 second choice, and leaves from the No. 1 post.
The Derby was considered a wide-open race with 18 starters, although Smarty Jones and Lion Heart ended up being the top two betting choices. For Saturday’s 1 3/16 th-mile Preakness, unbeaten Smarty Jones and expected pacesetter Lion Heart open as the top choices by Pimlico linemaker Frank Carulli.
Smarty Jones, the first undefeated Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977, has won all seven of his starts. Trainer John Servis said the No. 7 post has been lucky.
“He won the Southwest and the Rebel Stakes from No. 7, and the Kentucky Derby was his seventh win in a row,” Servis said.
The last Preakness winner out of the No. 7 post was Silver Charm in 1997.
Imperialism, who finished third at the Derby, was the third choice at 5-1 and will break from the No. 8 post.
Rock Hard Ten, who finished second in the Santa Anita Derby but was disqualified to third for interference, was 6-1 and starts from gate No. 10; The Cliff’s Edge, fifth in the Derby, and Eddington were both 8-1.
Rock Hard Ten and Eddington both missed the Derby because of insufficient graded stakes earnings.
The Cliff’s Edge, the early Derby favorite, may not make the Preakness after developing a sore right front foot Wednesday. Trainer Nick Zito said he would make a decision Thursday.
The Cliff’s Edge lost both front shoes in the slop at Churchill Downs and finished fifth.
“Maybe everything related to the shoes has caught up to him,” Zito said. “His shoes were back on last Wednesday, he worked well on Sunday, and he looked great jogging here yesterday. Then this morning, something’s wrong. My first thought is, why couldn’t this happen in June?”
Smarty Jones has already earned a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn Park by sweeping the Rebel, Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby. If he wins the Preakness, he would have a chance to earn a $5 million Triple Crown bonus by winning the Belmont Stakes on June 5.
Jones may end up below even money
It is likely that Smarty Jones, who will be 8-5 when betting opens Friday, will walk into the starting gate for the Preakness at odds lower than even money.
One early barometer, a poll that appears on the Bloodstock Research Information Services Web site, showed that almost 70 percent of those who responded expect Smarty Jones to win the Triple Crown’s second leg. Bloodstock Research customers are more than casual horseplayers.
Trainer John Servis stayed with what he sees as a lucky number in selecting the No. 7 post for the Derby winner. Servis was second to choose a starting position, the order determined by lottery early in the day.
“He was seven in the Rebel, seven in the Arkansas Derby, and the Kentucky Derby was his seventh win in a row,” he said. “We’re staying with seven.”
With a long run to the turn and a manageable field of 11, post position in the 1 3/16 -mile Preakness is essentially inconsequential.
Trainer Patrick Biancone chose the No. 3 post for Lion Heart, the Derby runner-up.
Odds-on favorites have fared poorly in the Preakness in the past 30 years. Spectacular Bid, in 1979, was the last odds-on favorite to win the Preakness. The last four — Linkage (‘82), Swale (‘84), Easy Goer (‘89) and Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) — have been upset.
Elliot has legal history
A New Jersey newspaper reported yesterday that Stewart Elliott, Smarty Jones’ jockey, had legal problems in 2001 besides the assault charges to which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year of probation. Also in 2001, Elliott pleaded guilty to simple assault and criminal mischief in two domestic incidents involving his then-girlfriend, Maria Alfano, a former pari-mutuel clerk at Monmouth Park.
Maryland Jockey Club officials said they were aware of the incidents before clearing Elliott to ride here.
Stall 40 the winners’ stall
Although it was once traditional for the Derby winner to spend the week before the Preakness in stall 40 at Pimlico, many trainers in recent years have chosen quieter accommodations.
Servis, however, has elected to keep Smarty Jones in stall 40. Three Triple Crown winners — Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed — occupied the stall.
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