It's a bit unbelievable to think it was almost ten years ago when Smarty Jones ran away from his rivals to win the Preakness, but time passes on quickly.
Watching the 2004 Preakness again I'm reminded of the thoughts I had back in 2004 when the Smarty Party was in full swing. Smarty Jones was clearly the best three-year-old colt in America that spring and it almost seemed like a "given" that he would carry over his brilliant Derby and Preakness form to Big Sandy and the Belmont Stakes. On the other hand, there was this gnawing feeling that a son of Elusive Quality out of a female family with sprinters all over the place was pushing his luck at ten furlongs, let along the mile and a half "Test of Champions" of the Belmont Stakes.
When Belmont week rolled around, I remember thinking, "yeah, he's pedigree doesn't really give you a lot of confidence about a mile and a half, but his rivals just seem so far behind him that it's hard to pick against this colt." And while Smarty fought gallantly in the Belmont, his eager stalking style, the constant pressure from the other horses near the lead, and, ultimately, a pedigree that wanted nothing to do with 12 panels, ultimately saw his Triple Crown dreams dashed at the hooves of Birdstone.
But, despite the major letdown in the final furlong at Belmont Park, it was Smarty's romp in the Preakness that generated a three-week buzz leading to the big stage in New York. And there's no denying the fact that Smarty Jones was picture perfect at the Preakness in 2004.