Smarty Loses Triple Crown Bid

Pope Pius XII before the microphone in his study at Vatican City in Rome on Nov. 4, 1940, broadcasting an appeal to the United States to support Catholic Missions.
Belmont, you ol' heartbreaker, you did it again.

Smarty Jones lost his Triple Crown bid and his perfect record Saturday when Birdstone ran him down near the finish of Saturday's thrilling Belmont Stakes, toppling his chance to end a record 26-year drought without a winner of thoroughbred racing's most coveted prize.

The little red chestnut was poised to become the 12th Triple Crown champion when he turned for home, but Birdstone came flying down the stretch and took the lead inside the 16th pole to win by a length.

That move dashed yet another Triple Crown hopeful's attempt to do what no horse has managed since Affirmed in 1978.

A raucous crowd of more than 100,000 filled Belmont Park hoping to see popular 3-year-old Pennsylvania-bred run into history. Instead, this crowd, like many others, left disappointed and wondering when another Triple champion might grace this track.

Before the race, reports's Jarrett Murphy, the crowd observed a moment of silence for late president Ronald Reagan. The American flag at trackside was flown at half-staff during the race.

Smarty Jones is the third straight Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, and sixth in the past eight years, to fall short in the 1½-mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the three races.

And so, the exclusive little club of 11 Triple Crown champions remains the same. And Smarty Jones is now the 18th horse to come tantalizingly close to winning it all, only to be tripped up in the race known as the "Test of the Champion."

Last year, New York-bred Funny Cide couldn't handle a wet track and was beaten by Empire Maker; two years ago, War Emblem stumbled at the started and finished eighth. This time, it might have been jockey Stewart Elliott who asked Smarty Jones to move to the lead too soon, with about a mile to go.

By the time the nine-horse field rounded the final turn on a fast track, Smarty Jones had already worked harder then he had in winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. With jockey Edgar Prado urging on Birdstone, Smarty Jones had nothing left and lost for the first time in nine races.

"When I peaked over and saw Birdstone," Elliott said, "I thought we might be in trouble. He was coming pretty strong."

Prado, aware the crowd desperately wanted Smarty Jones to win, was apologetic afterward.

"I'm very sorry, of course," he said, "but I had to do my job, that's what I'm paid for. I'm very sorry that I had to win."

Birdstone, who ran eighth behind Smarty Jones in the Derby, gave Prado his second huge upset in the Belmont. Two years ago, he spoiled War Emblem's Triple try by winning aboard 70-1 shot Sarava, for the biggest payoff in Belmont history — $142.50.

Birdstone went off at 36-1, and gave trainer Nick Zito his first Belmont win after five second-place finishes.

Smarty Jones was second, followed by Royal Assault, Eddington, Rock Hard Ten, Tap Dancer, Master David, Caiman and Purge.

Birdstone, owned by socialite Marylou Whitney, returned $74, $14 and $8.60. Smarty Jones, the 1-5 favorite, paid $3.30 and $2.60. Royal Assault was $6.10 to show.