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Trainer: Triple Crown a cinch

He called Big Brown's win a "foregone conclusion" and ripped Smarty Jones' handlers.

NEW YORK - Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. held nothing back yesterday, saying it was a "foregone conclusion" that Big Brown would win the Triple Crown.

He also insisted that Smarty Jones, the last horse to try for racing's biggest prize, in 2004, lost the Belmont Stakes because his connections "were not smart."

Big Brown will attempt to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978. The colt missed three days of training this week with a slight crack on the inside of his left front hoof, but Dutrow said the injury would not affect Big Brown in the 11/2-mile Belmont on June 7.

"I feel that he will do it," he said during a conference call with reporters. "I feel like it's actually a foregone conclusion. To me, I just see the horses he's in with, and I see our horse, so I expect him to win this race."

Asked if he thought any of Big Brown's rivals might be out to hinder his colt's attempt rather than trying to win, he said: "I just can't imagine that anybody would go do something stupid just to keep us from winning the race."

When it was mentioned some still believe that was what caused the Philadelphia Park-based Smarty Jones to lose the Belmont, Dutrow offered his own take.

"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," he began. "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 that the way Smarty Jones won the Preakness, with an all-out effort in a record 111/2-length romp, played a part. Big Brown, he noted, had the Preakness well in hand in the stretch, and jockey 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," Dutrow said. "They should have played it a lot safer, a lot better. I don't see that everybody was after the horse in the race. . . . I don't feel like the jockeys and the trainers would care if another horse wins the Triple Crown. Why would they care? Why would they go out of their way to make themselves look not so good in the racing game?"

John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones, seemed to take Dutrow's comments in stride, although he pointed out correctly that Smarty did not have a pre-Belmont workout over a sealed and sloppy track at Philadelphia Park.

"If it wasn't what Rick wanted, I can't help that," Servis said in a telephone interview. "I did what I thought was the best thing to do.

"It was just Rick being Rick. He has got a lot on his mind these days, especially with the quarter crack and all. He's under a lot of pressure, and a lot of times we say things we don't mean. I'll take it with a grain of salt."

Earlier yesterday, Big Brown galloped around Belmont Park for the second straight day and remained on target for the Belmont.

Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay said Big Brown's injury was 70 percent to 80 percent healed. McKinlay inserted stainless-steel sutures into the area to pull the crack together on Monday. He plans to patch the area with an adhesive a few hours before Big Brown's final workout Monday.