A record crowd of 112,668 was witness to history at Pimlico Race Course this afternoon as Someday Farm’s Smarty Jones moved one step closer to winning the coveted Triple Crown with a resounding, record setting victory in the 129th running of the Grade I, $1,000,000 Preakness Stakes.
The pride of Pennsylvania and now the hero of American horseracing galloped home an 11-1/2 length winner, topping the winning margin of ten lengths set by Survivor in the inaugural running of this classic in 1873. Smarty Jones completed the mile and three-sixteenth distance in 1:55.59. The track record for the distance is 1:52 2/5. The Preakness record is 1:53 2/5, which is shared by both Tank’s Prospect (1985) and Louis Quatorze (1996).
Smarty Jones broke on top but let Triple Crown rival Lion Heart slip ahead as the horses approached the first turn. Lion Heart raced extremely wide around the turn with Smarty Jones in close attendance. When jockey Mike Smith could not move Lion Heart any closer to the rail, Stewart Elliott sent Smarty Jones inside that one and the race became a two-horse duel around the turn and into the home stretch. Smarty Jones bounded away from his rival to a widening five-length lead at the furlong pole and the crowd, which could sense that victory was imminent, erupted in approval. Rock Hard Ten, who had delayed the start, rallied down the stretch to finish second. Eddington came from even farther back to be third. Lion Heart tired in the stretch and finished fourth.
Winning jockey Jockey Stewart Elliott said, "It is just unbelievable. We bunched up a bit on the first turn but things turned out great. It was a good trip. I crossed the wire and I can't explain it; There aren't words to describe it. At the three-eighths pole, I knew I had a loaded gun underneath me. I was just going to sit until he straightened up and switched leads. He really went to running."
Winning trainer John Servis said, "Man, that was great. That was a beautiful race. Picture perfect. An absolutely masterful ride. You know, when Stu reached back and really got after him and he started to pull away, it was just passed the eighth pole and the first thing I thought of, Bob Baffert told me: John, you've got a good horse. If you're fortunate enough to win the race, when they go past the eighth pole and you know you're going to win it, you're going to be overcome by a feeling that I can't explain to you, and you'll never -- you'll never get over it. Every race you run in will never be the same like the Kentucky Derby. He actually had a little bit of a tear in his eye telling us. When this horse came to the eighth pole, I was thinking about what he said. He's right, it was just overwhelming."
Owner Roy Chapman said, "To see a horse that was born on the farm that we had and look at the stall he was born, I'm still a little nervous. We have an awful lot of horses, had an awful lot of fun, and sometimes you have to cheer loud when you have a $10,000 claimer winner as any. You love them all. But no, we've never raced at this level. Never thought we would get here, until we met Smarty and this guy (trainer John Servis) sitting next to me."