Smarty Party Continues: Attendance, Wagering Records Fall at Lone Star Park

The popularity of unbeaten Smarty Jones is obvious in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. For the second straight Triple Crown event, Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie - home of this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships - smashed wagering records as a crowd of 15,453 bet $736,592 on the Preakness Stakes - a 25% increase from last year's record high.

The crowd was the largest for a simulcast of the Preakness Stakes in Lone Star Park history, and on-track wagering surpassed the $2.5 million mark at 7:40 p.m., well past the Preakness Stakes Day high of $2.4 million in 2002. More simulcasting was to continue into the night.

The largest handle on the Preakness Stakes at Lone Star Park before Saturday was $591,850 in 2003. Saturday's crowd bested the mark by $144,742.

Lone Star Park also set Preakness Stakes Day records for simulcast wagering ($1.6 million as of 7:40 p.m.), wagering on the Preakness Day racing program from Pimlico ($1,008,589 on the 13 simulcast races), Drive Through Wagering (1,131 cars which totaled $124,459 in bets) and advance Preakness wagering on Friday ($90,815).

"Smarty Jones' popularity is truly amazing," said Lone Star Park's Vice-President and General Manager Jeff Greco. "We're already planning to host the largest 'Smarty Party' in Texas three weeks from now."

Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones marched closer to becoming horse racing's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 with an 11 ½-length trouncing of 10 rivals - the largest margin of victory in 129 editions of the Preakness. Rock Hard Ten finished second, two lengths ahead of Eddington. The Derby second- and third-place finishers, Lion Heart and Imperialism, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

A victory in the $1 million Belmont Stakes - a demanding 1 ½-mile test of endurance - would make Smarty Jones just the 12th horse in history to sweep the VISA Triple Crown. He would also claim another $5 million bonus, shoot well past Cigar's $9,999,815 all-time earnings mark and join Seattle Slew as the only horses to win the Triple Crown with an unbeaten record.

"He came through for America. I'm so pleased with his effort," trainer John Servis said. "I knew he had to bring his best game. I knew this was the toughest race he was going to be in in a long time. And he brought it. He brought it big time."

North Texans and the rest of America have fallen for Smarty Jones and his soap opera-like story. The Pennsylvania-bred colt nearly died when he fractured his skull in a starting gate accident early in his development. His trainer and jockey, Stewart Elliott, are based at little known Philadelphia Park. His elderly owner, Roy Chapman, is wheelchair-bound and hooked to an oxygen tank due to emphysema. He even turned down a blank check to sell him.

Smarty Jones became an instant Southwest favorite when he cruised to victories in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. Now, last week's Sports Illustrated cover boy is a multi-millionaire and America's darling after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. The 3-year-old is now perfect in eight starts and a winner of $7,413,155.

Two weeks ago, Lone Star Park had its single greatest on-track wagering day when 17,878 customers wagered an on-track record $3,412,562 on Kentucky Derby Day. More than $1.1 million was bet on the Kentucky Derby alone - also a track standard.

Total wagering on Lone Star Park's 12-race live program totaled more than $3.2 million - $894,408 on-track and another $2,321,181 by patrons at simulcast outlets across the country.

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