The racing world has marveled at journeyman Stewart Elliott's cool, professional work aboard Smarty Jones. "The guy is so calm, he must set an alarm clock in a tin bucket to wake up in the morning," says Lukas. Elliott, 39, has kept Smarty Jones ideally positioned at every jump and timed his moves perfectly. In an age when outlandish celebration is expected to accompany big wins, his biggest outburst was waving his whip three strides past the Derby wire. "Not that I'm not happy," Elliott says. "That's just me."
While many trainers and riders approach the Belmont pace as if it were advanced science, Elliott has a plan of Forrest Gumpian simplicity. "The thing that's good for me and the horse is, it's a mile and a half, but it's only one time around the track," the jockey says. "Horses are creatures of habit, and my horse is used to going once around the track. He's thinking: Straightaway, turn, straightaway, another turn, and then my jockey starts really asking me to run. He's going to run the same race he always runs, except the track is a little bigger." Plus, Elliott has already guided Smarty Jones to a $5 million bonus, awarded by Oaklawn Park's owner for winning the Rebel, the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby. And, most significant, Elliott is sitting on pure brilliance. "I've got such a good horse underneath me," he says, "that I can ask him to do just about anything at this point."
To which lovers of the sport would say only this: Ask him to win. Twenty-six years is long enough.