If you haven't seen the latest comments from Rick Dutrow Jr. regarding Smarty Jones and what he feels was questionable training by John Servis leading up to the 2004 Belmont Stakes, here they are:
"I think maybe the way they trained that horse for that race going up to the Belmont had a lot to do with him getting beat," Dutrow said. "I was at my house and they showed a flash where Smarty Jones was breezing for his Belmont race. He did it at Philadelphia Park on a sloppy, sealed track. It just blew my mind away."
Dutrow also said: "I also don't think he needed to win the way he did in the Preakness (by 11 1/2 lengths)." Big Brown, he said, had the Preakness well in hand and Kent Desormeaux "grabbed a hold and he knew we still had another race to go through.
"I think that the connections of Smarty Jones just were not smart in order to get their job done for the Belmont. They should have played it a lot safer, a lot better."
I was listening to that May 28 media teleconference when Dutrow made those remarks. Like many, I was pretty shocked. The following day I decided to give Servis a call. Always a class act, his comments were what I expected.
"I'm not offended," Servis said from his barn at Philly Park. "I know the situation he's in and how much pressure he is under. Ricky has a tendency to talk before he thinks."
I asked Servis if he did indeed work Smarty on a sloppy, sealed track the week before the Belmont, just as Dutrow contended.
"That is inaccurate," Servis said. "It was four years ago, so I guess I could have forgot. But I had someone go back and look it up and all of his works were listed on a fast track. So he's wrong about that."
And what about Smarty winning the Preakness by more than he had to?
"It's easy to throw stones," Servis continued. "But Smarty had his ears pricked near the wire and he was pretty much being eased. As far as I'm concerned, he could have won by 20 lengths."
After hearing Dutrow's insensitive comments, I wondered if Servis was rooting for Big Brown to lose the Belmont.
"Not at all. The industry could use a Triple Crown winner," Servis said. "I'd like to see him win. It would be good for everyone.
"If he is healthy, I can't see him losing. But with feet (problems) you never know. I can tell you one thing, if those cracks were to happen a day or two before the race he wouldn't be running. No way. So if I were Rick, I would be at church every day praying he stayed healthy."
Servis, who says he has one 2-year-old son of Smarty in his barn and will be getting a couple more shortly, also talked about his memories of the disappointing 2004 Belmont.
"I've never really lost sleep over it," he said. "I thought it was unfortunate because we had the best horse. More than anything, I really felt bad for Chappy (owner Roy Chapman). He died less than a year later and it would have been a great swan song for him."
Always good to hear from Servis. A class act.