BENSALEM, Pa. - Smarty Jones appeared in top form Saturday, a day after a 7-furlong workout on his home track and a week before the third and final leg of his Triple Crown bid.
If he wins the Belmont, the chestnut colt would become the first thoroughbred to capture the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
Smarty had a 25-minute walk at Philadelphia Park on Saturday morning to gauge his condition.
Bill Foster, the barn foreman for trainer John Servis, found the 3-year-old Pennsylvania-bred ready to go.
"We walked him for 25 minutes and he was really on the muscle squealing and bucking. I even had to put a (lead) shank in his mouth to keep him under control," Foster said.
"He gobbled down all of his dinner last night. His temperature is good, his legs are cold. He's just perfect."
Servis planned to take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner back to the track at about 5:30 this morning for a likely jog with his pony Butterscotch, Foster said. Smarty may also work a short distance on his own afterward if he seems to want more exercise.
Servis intends to ship his horse to Belmont Park either Tuesday night or Wednesday for his final preparations for the race.
SCRATCHES: Tapit and The Cliff's Edge won't run in the Belmont.
The Cliff's Edge finished fifth behind Smarty Jones in the Kentucky Derby, but missed the Preakness with a bruised right front foot. The colt has recovered, but after a workout Saturday at Saratoga in New York, trainer Nick Zito pulled his Blue Grass Stakes winner from consideration.
"He got very, very tired after the work," Zito said, and after talking to owner Robert LaPenta, "we decided not to run. He missed a whole week of training in Baltimore, so he would have been only 90 percent ready to run in the Belmont."
Tapit, ninth in the Derby, will miss the race because he has not "fully recovered from the remnants of lung disease," according to a posting on trainer Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm Web site.
David Fiske, racing manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds, Tapit's owners, said allergies may have caused the gray colt to develop a lung infection after a sixth-place finish in the Florida Derby. Tapit was healthy enough to win the Wood Memorial before running in the Kentucky Derby.
"He's just not 100 percent and he would have to be 110 percent to beat Smarty Jones, so we're not going to run," Fiske told the Thoroughbred Times.
Zito still plans to run Birdstone and Royal Assault in the Belmont. Other contenders include Rock Hard Ten and Eddington, second and third, respectively, in the Preakness; Master David, Purge, Tap Dancer and Caiman.
With the latest defections, the trainers of Purge and Master David are reconsidering their original plans to pass on the race.
Purge, beaten twice by Smarty Jones in Arkansas, was an impressive winner of the Peter Pan Stakes last weekend at Belmont. Master David, 12th in the Derby, was third in the Peter Pan.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said he will make a decision on Purge after the colt works out Monday.
"I might enter, but that's about it," Master David's trainer Bobby Frankel said.