You heard it here first, unless you ran into me already at the pool hall -- Smarty Jones is DOA this Saturday. It is a foregone conclusion that Smarty Jones will become the 12th Triple Crown winner, but you can stick that foregone conclusion in a paper sack and sell it for two bits at your next garage sale.

(By the way, even if you thought Smarty Jones was a stone-cold immortal lock, why would you bet him? He's going to go off at 1-to-5 odds or less, maybe even 1-50. You'd get a better return from your $2 if you slipped it into Donald Trump's hair.)

Smarty Jones, unbeaten folk hero? Ain't gonna happen.

Sure, I'm just a stupid Slouch and Smarty Jones is a superhorse, but trust me -- he's not crossing the finish line first on Saturday. In fact, if Smarty Jones wins the Belmont Stakes, I'll eat crow cordon bleu while riding a mechanical bull in a hailstorm.

Hey, I've got my reasons to know what I know. And, as a favor to America -- which has treated me very well, particularly on weekends, here they are:

1. The public is usually wrong. Very wrong. Geez, Las Vegas is built on that very concept. So any time a bunch of people tell you that something is guaranteed to happen, assume it won't. Good example: When Marx and Engels wrote in 1847, "Workers of the world, unite!" everyone told my great-great-great Uncle Nathan that they would, but instead the workers of the world just started watching television.

2. Smarty Jones weighs only 1,075 pounds -- light for a Triple Crown contender -- making him vulnerable to the rigors of racing a mile and a half at Belmont. Heck, I remember back in the day when I weighed only 140 pounds, I had trouble walking that far.

3. When's the last time anyone from Philadelphia went to New York and had anything good happen to them? Not only is Smarty Jones going to lose in front of 120,000 raucous New Yorkers, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets pick-pocketed -- and horses don't even have pockets!

4. Since Affirmed in 1978, the last nine horses who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown have failed to complete the feat. So even though Smarty Jones has scared away most of his competition, I don't care if he's racing against Mister Ed, Mrs. Ed, a Budweiser Clydesdale, a donkey called Dan and a Horse With No Name, he's going uphill against history.

5. Frankly, this horse's name does not evoke greatness. Here's your list of Triple Crown winners: Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Smarty Jones? Don't think so. It would be like letting Carrot Top into the Friars Club.

6. Already, Smarty Jones is cutting big-time marketing and merchandising deals. He has a licensing agreement with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association to sell Smarty Jones gear online. (This is the proverbial "putting the cart before the horse," so to speak.) Instead of worrying about hay, oats and trailer conditions, Smarty Jones is the biggest self-promoter this side of Richard Simmons. (Next thing you know, Smarty's going to lobby for racehorses to be allowed to carry advertising on their ankle bandages.)

7. Rather than keeping his eye on the prize, Smarty Jones has an eye on the ladies -- every time you look up, he's snuggling up to his stablemate. In fact, Smarty's growing fame has drawn the company of a band of loose, tail-flitting females who call themselves the Philadelphia Fillies. Like Billy Baldwin and Seve Ballesteros before him, Smarty Jones will soon wake up on the bridle path of broken professional dreams due to a weakness for women.

P.S. I've even heard Smarty Jones has gone Hollywood. A friend of mine spotted him at The Brown Derby in L.A. last week, hobnobbing with a couple of stunt horses from "Deadwood."

Ask The Slouch

Q. If your mother were an Astros pitcher, would you respect her if she walked Barry Bonds? (Arthur McDonald; Beaumont, Tex.)

A. My mother can do whatever she wants with Barry Bonds -- heck, she could rob a string of convenience stores, for that matter -- and I'll still love her. But don't get me started on my father.

Q. What would be your estimate of the number of people watching the Tampa Bay-Calgary Stanley Cup finals on ESPN and ABC? (Carroll Wright; River Hills, Wis.)

A. To make the number seem larger than it is, I'm going to put it in Roman numerals: XVIII or so.

Q. My son has enjoyed an outstanding career as a high school wrestler. My wife thinks he should accept one of the wrestling scholarships he's been offered and pursue a college degree. I think he should turn pro now. Please advise. (Ken Elinsky; Solon, Ohio)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. How much of the $1.25 will my wife require? (Barney Buchanan; Annapolis, Md.)

A. If you're still married, set aside $1.10; if you're divorced, you'll need additional funds.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. E-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!