Along Came Jones

As mentioned, to keep this blog active over the holiday season, I am reprinting a series of race recaps, mainly from the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup, that originally were published on Bloodhorse.com over the past decade. A new recap will appear every two days. The intention is to provide the reader with a kaleidoscope of images and back stories from these historic races. I hope everyone enjoys them, either again if you've already read them or for the first time.

We start with Smarty Jones' Kentucky Derby.

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Along Came Jones

Get out the cheese steaks and pretzels. It's party time in Philly. After Pennsylvania-bred Smarty Jones' stirring May 1 victory in the 130th Kentucky Derby (gr. I), the City of Brotherly Love has found the real Philadelphia flyer.

Although it sounds like a children's novel, The Legend of Smarty Jones reads like a soap opera, complete with murder, misadventure, and debilitating illness. But most of all it's a story about perseverance and loyalty, and a very special horse, the likes of whom has not been seen in this country for a very long time. As if riding in on the tail of the Seabiscuit and Funny Cide comets, Smarty Jones has carved his own niche in racing folklore. And like The Biscuit and Funny Cide, he has transcended the sport of Thoroughbred racing, reaching deep into the heart of mainstream America.

The legend was spawned on Roy and Pat Chapman's 100-acre Someday Farm in Chester County, Pa., where a chestnut colt by Elusive Quality out of I'll Get Along, by Smile, was born on Feb. 28, the same birthdate as Pat Chapman's mother, Mildred, whose nickname of Smarty Jones was passed on to the young horse. The prologue had been written.

But the story of the little colt with the children's book name took a sudden detour when the Chapmans' trainer, Bob Camac, who had picked out I'll Get Along and recommended Elusive Quality, was murdered in December 2001 by his stepson, who also killed his mother, Camac's wife, Maryann.

With Camac's death and Roy Chapman in ill health, suffering from emphysema, the Chapmans sold most of their horses, leaving themselves with only two Pennsylvania-bred weanlings, one of whom was Smarty Jones.

"When Bobby got killed, it took the starch out of Roy," said the Chapmans' former trainer, Mark Reid. The Chapmans decided to keep Smarty Jones after getting a call from their farm manager, telling them he thought the colt was something special. The decision was made to keep the horse and train him at Philadelphia Park. When Roy Chapman contacted Reid, now a noted bloodstock agent, and asked him about a possible trainer, he recommended his former assistant, John Servis. End of Chapter One.

The wheels were now in motion. The magical journey of Smarty Jones had begun. Seven races and seven victories later, Smarty, as he is now affectionately known, has captured America's greatest prize; a $5-million bonus offered by Oaklawn Park; and the hearts of a nation crying out for heroes.

What was perceived to be the most muddled Kentucky Derby picture in memory turned out to be crystal clear after all. With severe thunderstorms rocking Louisville, and dark, ominous clouds hovering over Churchill Downs as the Derby horses paraded to the post, Smarty Jones emerged from the murk and the slop like a beacon of light.

The city of Philadelphia erupted, as if their beloved Flyers had just captured hockey's coveted Stanley Cup, minus the ticker-tape parade. When Smarty Jones won the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), the head-on finish shot took up almost the entire front page of the Philadelphia Daily News, with the headline reading: "Our Horse in the Derby."

After the Kentucky Derby, fans at Philadelphia Park let out a rousing ovation never before heard at the Bensalem track. While most of Servis' employees back at Philly Park watched the race from either the grandstand or track kitchen, assistant trainer Maureen Donnelly went home an hour before the race and watched it with her boyfriend.

Donnelly was still having a tough time believing what Smarty Jones had accomplished. It was Donnelly who was on a young 2-year-old having his first gate-schooling session last spring. She watched in horror as another of their colts, Smarty Jones, reared up, hitting his head on one of the iron bars that runs across the top of the gate.

Smarty Jones fell to his knees, blood pouring out of his eye and nostrils. "It was pretty messy," Donnelly recalled. "The next day, we thought for sure he was going to lose the eye, because you couldn't even see the eyeball. It was just the flesh coming out from inside the socket. He looked like something out of a horror movie."

The scene shifts to the Cream Ridge, N.J., home of veterinarian Patricia Hogan, who operates the New Jersey Equine Clinic in Clarksburg, with founder Dr. Scott Palmer. Hogan watched the Derby with family members and several employees from the clinic, and when Smarty Jones crossed the finish line in front, "there was a lot of crying and screaming."

Hogan has vivid memories of the colt who was rushed to the clinic looking so hideous they nicknamed him Quasimodo. "His whole face was horrible, and his left eye was so swollen it wasn't even visible," she said. "I really wasn't sure if I could save it or not." In addition, Smarty Jones had suffered multiple fractures of his skull, and the orbit (the circular bone that holds the eyeball) was broken.

But the colt, his head wrapped in bandages, showed a spirit far beyond that of most horses, and was able to be nursed back to health with the help of medication to reduce the swelling inside the eye socket. Hogan knew this was no ordinary horse when Smarty, despite all his injuries, walked off the van with a spring to his step and his head held high. After he returned to the track, everyone at the clinic followed his career closely, clipping out articles about him and posting them in the surgery room.

"I'm beside myself," Hogan said after the Derby. "It's unbelievable. He was such a special horse and I am so proud of him." End of Chapter Two.

The next chapter begins in the paddock at Philadelphia Park on Nov. 22, 2003. Smarty Jones had just won his career debut 13 days earlier in open company by 7 3/4 lengths. On this day, he was facing 10 opponents in the state-bred Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes. Standing in the paddock was Mark McDermott of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association. What he saw that day prompted him to start making phone calls, telling people about a very special Pennsylvania-bred colt who had renewed his enthusiasm for racing.

"There was this squirrel that owned the paddock at Philly Park," McDermott said. "He'd walk right up to the horses, and people would feed him. When Smarty Jones walked in the paddock, the squirrel came over to check him out, like, 'You're on my turf now.' Smarty jumped straight up in the air, with all four legs off the ground at the same time. He turned his body while in midair and lashed out with his hind legs, That was the last anyone saw of the squirrel for a long time. Smarty landed on all fours and calmly went about his business. It was the most athletic move I've seen by a horse. Then he goes out and wins the Nursery by 15 lengths (in 1:21.88 for the seven furlongs) and gets a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. I knew right then this horse was something out of the ordinary."

After the Nursery, Servis and the Chapmans began having visions of grandeur that would take them far beyond the realm of Philadelphia Park. Forget about being a Pennsylvania-bred and Philly Park horse, the Twin Spires were beckoning. Roy Chapman, head of Chapman Auto Group, had been ill with emphysema for more than 10 years, and his health was deteriorating. He required oxygen and a wheelchair to move about, and had recently come down with a case of pneumonia. So, when Servis planted the seeds of Derby roses in his head, Chapman said to him, "Do whatever you have to, just get me to the Derby."

Servis mapped out a plan where Smarty Jones would get his first two-turn test in Aqueduct's Count Fleet Stakes on Jan. 3, and then head to Oaklawn Park for the Southwest Stakes, Rebel, and Arkansas Derby. He felt so strongly about the colt's ability, he was confident with this plan, despite the fact Smarty Jones would not accumulate any graded stakes earnings until the Arkansas Derby. Everything he did before that would mean nothing if he didn't finish first or second.

With Oaklawn celebrating its 100th anniversary, track president Charles Cella came up with the idea to offer a $5-million bonus to any horse that could win the Rebel, Arkansas Derby, and Kentucky Derby in the hope of luring America's top 3-year-olds to Oaklawn.

One victory after another followed. Smarty Jones captured all three of Oaklawn's Derby preps, and just like that, the pride of Pennsylvania was on the verge of winning $5 million and becoming only the fifth undefeated Kentucky Derby winner, and first since Seattle Slew in 1977.

The Derby trail had been in chaos from the start, with longshots winning most of the major stakes. Only Imperialism, trained by 21-year-old Kristin Mulhall, and Limehouse had been able to win more than one graded stakes this year. The picture cleared a bit on April 10 when top-ranked 2-year-olds Tapit and The Cliff's Edge captured the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), respectively, the same day Smarty Jones won the Arkansas Derby. In the Rebel, Smarty had earned a Thoro-Graph speed rating that was the fastest ever given to a 3-year-old.

Offers to buy the colt, which had started months earlier, were now rolling in, and reaching figures well into the millions. Jockey agents from all over the country were hounding Servis, trying to get him to replace Smarty's regular rider, the Philly Park-based Stewart Elliott, even though he had ridden the colt perfectly every time. Servis remained loyal to his rider and stuck with him. The last Derby winner to have a first-time jockey and trainer was Spectacular Bid in 1979, when Bud Delp and Ron Franklin combined to win the roses.

After the Arkansas Derby, Servis sent Smarty Jones to Keeneland, where the atmosphere was quiet. On Thursday, April 22, nine days before the Derby, Smarty Jones arrived at Churchill Downs. Unlike most horses, he came charging off the van and strutted into Barn 42 as if he were announcing to all the occupants he was taking over. Several stalls down, Imperialism, racing's other Cinderella story, was calmly nibbling on hay. On the opposite side of the barn was Todd Pletcher's 12-strong legion, including Derby starters Pollard's Vision and Limehouse, and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) contender Ashado.

"The big dogs are on the backside," Servis said, as he helped get Smarty Jones settled in. "But I feel like I'm coming with a loaded gun. The way he charged off that van, he knows something big is in store."

On the Saturday before the Derby, Smarty Jones went out for his final work with jockey Willie Martinez up. By the time he was finished, all of Churchill Downs knew that this was no ordinary horse. With Martinez motionless throughout, Smarty Jones breezed five furlongs in :58 as if he were out for a morning stroll. His feet barely touched the ground as he glided smoothly over the Churchill strip. He was a powerhouse galloping out, and wasn't even blowing coming off the track.

Meanwhile, trainer Bob Baffert, who had withdrawn San Felipe (gr. II) winner Preachinatthebar from the Derby after an unsatisfactory work, was now in danger of losing jockey Jerry Bailey, who was to ride Baffert's main Derby hope, Wimbledon, winner of the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). One more withdrawal and Bailey would jump back to Eddington, who was next in line to get in the field based on graded earnings. But Baffert had just seen something to make him forget his jockey woes. "All I know is that after watching Smarty Jones work today, we're all in trouble," Baffert said. Nick Zito, trainer of Derby starters The Cliff's Edge and Birdstone, had seen Smarty Jones gallop at Keeneland earlier in the week, and all he could say was: "Whew! I can't believe the way he attacks the ground."

After the work, Martinez, who has been a major part of the Smarty Jones team, couldn't stop raving about the colt. "When you're undefeated, you know you're the man," he said. "I've been riding for 16 years and I know the feeling when a horse's confidence level keeps rising and rising. I don't think anyone really knows how good this horse is or how good he's going to be. Right now, the Smarty Jones puzzle is coming together and people are starting to see what this horse is all about. They look at his pedigree and knock him, and he just keeps kicking butt. What else do they want him to do?"

In his gallops following the work, Smarty Jones literally dragged his 170-pound exercise rider, Pete Van Trump, around the track like a rag doll. After two days of Van Trump having to stand straight up in the irons, trying to rein in this rampaging bundle of power and energy, Servis finally had to gallop alongside Smarty Jones on the pony, keeping a firm hold of him. As he returned with the colt one morning, all Servis said was, "Man, I wish the Derby was tomorrow."

"I don't know how to describe him, I really don't," Van Trump said. "There's just such an adrenaline rush to be on something like that. He's so headstrong; all he wants to do is train. No matter what we do we can't get him tired."

When entries were drawn, Servis selected post 15, with the dangerous speed horse, Lion Heart, winding up in post 3. That meant Smarty Jones would have to break sharply and contend with two outside speed horses, Pollard's Vision and Quintons Gold Rush, while Lion Heart was sure to take an easy lead into the clubhouse turn.

The morning before the Derby, Wimbledon scratched with a tendon injury and Santa Catalina (gr. II) winner St Averil was withdrawn with sore feet. That meant Eddington and the lightly raced colossus, Rock Hard Ten, missed getting into the Derby by two days. They'll now try to catch up with Smarty Jones in the Preakness (gr. I).

The Chapmans arrived at the barn later that morning and went over last-minute details with Servis. Their main concern was getting Roy to the winner's circle in his wheelchair. Roy, as feisty as his colt, told Servis through sandpaper-lined vocal cords, "I told them if he wins he is not going in that winner's circle until I get down there. They called me back and said, 'We'll get you in. We don't know how but we'll get you in.' The first time we spoke, the guy said, 'We're going to carry you across.' I said, 'Let me tell you something; you ain't carrying me across that damn track in front of 150,000 people.' "

Servis then jumped in: "Unless they carry you on their shoulders. Just watch they don't dump any Gatorade on you." Servis then had the Chapmans listen to a phone message he had received from Cella, who told Servis, "I just want you to know I got the other half (of the bonus money) covered, so go get the money, honey!"

Heavy rains Friday into Saturday morning turned the track sloppy, but track superintendent Butch Lehr managed to get it fast after several races. A little after 9 a.m. Lion Heart arrived by van from Keeneland. Trainer Patrick Biancone had thrown down the gauntlet by selecting post 3, letting everyone know his intentions. His instructions to jockey Mike Smith were short and simple: "Come back with your silks clean."

At 4 p.m. a severe thunderstorm swept through Louisville, quickly turning the track sloppy again. As the sheets of rain whipped through Barn 42, flooding the entrance, both Servis and Mulhall welcomed the prospect of a sloppy track. Smarty Jones and Imperialism never turned a hair as loud claps of thunder rocked the barn.

Finally, the rain let up, and it was time for the pieces of Derby 130 to come together. Smarty Jones went off as the 4-1 favorite, followed by Lion Heart at 5-1, Tapit at 6-1, and The Cliff's Edge at 8-1. Up in their box, Servis turned to Roy Chapman and said, "Chap, whatever happens, we've had a great ride." Chapman couldn't agree more, and simply replied, "Absolutely."

As expected, Lion Heart shot to the lead. Smarty Jones had a clean break, but was caught in tight quarters between Read the Footnotes and Pollard's Vision as they charged by the stands the first time. Elliott was able to bull his way through and took up a comfortable position just outside Pollard's Vision and Quintons Gold Rush as they headed around the turn after a stiff opening quarter in :22.99. Lion Heart continued to lead, easing two lengths clear of the battling threesome through a half in :46.73 over a track that was a bit slick and sticky.

Behind them, the closers were trying to get their footing, but no one was able to make any headway down the backstretch. Quintons Gold Rush was the first to retreat, as Read the Footnotes rolled past Minister Eric into fourth. As they hit the far turn, the three-quarters in 1:11.80, Elliott had Smarty Jones in gear and he began cutting into Lion Heart's lead.

Around the turn, The Cliff's Edge was making a run from far back, while Imperialism was beginning to roll, weaving his way between horses. Limehouse was improving his position along the rail, outrunning Borrego to his outside. But Lion Heart was still going strong as Smarty Jones moved in for the kill nearing the quarter pole.

The pair had opened a four-length lead on Read the Footnotes, who was unable to sustain his move.

Turning for home, Smarty Jones, who was racing on Lasix for the first time, had Lion Heart measured, as Elliott shook the reins at him. Kent Desormeaux gave Imperialism a crack of the whip left-handed at the five-sixteenths pole, and steered him sharply to the outside where he likes to run. But he was too far back to make any impact on the two colts slugging it out on the lead.

Elliott hit Smarty Jones twice right-handed, then switched to two left-handed whips and two more right-handed. By the sixteenth pole, Smarty Jones was clear of a gutsy Lion Heart and splashing his way into history. He crossed the wire 2 3/4 lengths in front, with Lion Heart 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Imperialism, who in turn was two lengths clear of Limehouse. The Cliff's Edge, who threw two shoes in the race, had little punch in the stretch and had to settle for fifth. The time for the 1 1/4 miles was 2:04.06.

Roy Chapman had to sit down and take several deep breaths before embarking on the longest journey to the winner's circle in Derby history. But there was no way he was going to miss out on the moment of his life. As the signal was given to bring in the horse, Servis quickly jumped in. "No, leave the horse," he said. "This man needs to be in the picture."

It was several minutes past 6:30 when Chapman finally was brought out from behind one of the hospitality tents after being led through the tunnel to the infield. When the large entourage waiting in the winner's circle saw him, they let out a roar, with many of them raising single roses over their heads. As Chapman was wheeled in, they shouted, "We want Chap. We want Chap."

Pat Chapman looked numb as she made her way to the media pavilion. "Actually, I slept well last night," she said. "I was a little nervous this morning, but I said, 'You know what? What's the worst that can happen?' We won't win, and I can handle that. And then I calmed down."

While the Chapmans and Servis were celebrating at the Kentucky Derby Museum, Kristin Mulhall was getting ready to leave, having to catch an early flight back to California the following morning. Although she was feeling pride and elation, she wasn't too eager to face Smarty Jones again in the Preakness. "I don't think we can beat him going a mile and three-sixteenths," she said. "That horse is a freak."

Smarty Jones showed no signs of having just raced a mile and a quarter, as he kept digging into his hay rack and butting it with such force it would fling back and hit him in the face. The following morning, his feed tub, as usual, was licked clean.

Smarty Jones, his Kentucky Derby odyssey over, now ships back home to Philly Park, where Donnelly and the crew wait to give him a hero's welcome. "I can't believe this is happening," Donnelly said Sunday morning. "We're just little people from Philadelphia."

So ends the latest chapter in the Smarty Jones fairy tale. No one knows where it will lead, and which hallowed corridors of the heart and soul it will touch next. But it really doesn't matter. It has already woven an unforgettable saga in the vast tapestry of the Kentucky Derby and the Sport of Kings.

60 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

    Your words brought me back to that first Saturday in May in 2004, Thank You! What a day and what a colt, So glad the Chapman's kept Smarty and they so deserved all the bright moments that followed.  They sure were the exception, Rather then the rule, By sticking with Mr. Servis and Mr. Elliot. Smarty Jones sure was a "Freak"., I still can't believe it has been over 5 1/2 years since that day!, Thanks again, Wonderful read...

13 Dec 2009 11:03 PM
Soldier Course

Thank you, again. God bless Smarty Jones.

13 Dec 2009 11:06 PM
sushyne

Thank you, Steve, for bringing to life another miracle horse I didn't have the fortune to watch back then. I was, however, honored to see him at Three Chimneys this spring. What a small but proud and pure horse....

14 Dec 2009 5:52 AM
Charlomer

Thanks for the tribute to Smarty. He was the horse that got me into this crazy sport. I thought he was about the cutest horse I'd ever seen. I soon found out he was also one of the best racers. His performance in the Preakness was  the most exciting that I have seen! I watched it every day for a while. Sadly, we were planning to go see him run at Monmouth Prk the yr. he was retired. I was so disappointed. Thanks again!

14 Dec 2009 6:03 AM
Philly Flyer: Smarty Jones

I can't believe it's been over 5 years since that day Smarty came home with the roses. I remember the reason i picked him at first was just because i liked his name because my last name is jones. then as i started doing research on him i couldn't believe what this horse had been through. He gave me a great ride through that year's triple crown. I don't care that he got beat by birdstone at the very end. He's still an amazing animal to do what he accomplished.

14 Dec 2009 7:28 AM
Majella from Ireland

Thank you so much! I have heard of Smarty's story of course and I have watched all his races on youtube. But that article made me feel I was watching the race that day. A great artitcle and its a pity Smarty lost the Belmont.

14 Dec 2009 7:29 AM
Ernie

Belmont Stakes day, 7 a.m., traffic on the Cross Island, Pennsylvania license plates...

Terrific piece.

14 Dec 2009 7:51 AM
BELLWETHER

STUFF MOVIES R MADE OF...LONG LIVE THE KING!!!...

14 Dec 2009 7:51 AM
Cheryl

What a great way to start my Monday!  As always, another stellar article that puts me right back to that magical day. I owe so much to Smarty Jones.

14 Dec 2009 7:57 AM
Somethingroyal

Thank You, Steve. Nothing like a great story and a warm cup of coffee to start off my day. I can't wait for the other articles to follow.

Merry Christmas!

14 Dec 2009 8:06 AM
Kevin J.

What an exciting time. Smarty Jones my all time favorite.

14 Dec 2009 8:22 AM
Jennie

I still shake my head when I think how such a popular horse was retired in his prime ... such a blow to the sport when it needed him most.  And for what?  

14 Dec 2009 8:31 AM
Amy

Steve,

Thank you so much for the memories.

Smarty is a horse for the ages, and we love him!

14 Dec 2009 8:36 AM
texaszippeee

I remember watching Smarty win the Derby.  It was so exciting.  I fell totally in love with him.  He was my inspiration to totally involve myself in the racing of these magnificent thoroughbreds.

14 Dec 2009 8:54 AM
CURLINLOVER

I love your Smarty Jones write-up.

In fact, I love all your blogs - but not all the disrespectful naysayers on them.  Too bad some of their comments slip through as they can be hurtful at times.

But I can't wait for your CURLIN story! :-)

Love that CURLIN!!!!!!!!!!!

14 Dec 2009 9:08 AM
Linda in Texas

I hope this makes Virgil Fox feel the better for having Smarty's story reprinted first as only Mr. Haskin can tell it.

The words that i take from Steve, first mentioned early in this article are 'perseverance and loyalty', words we should all never forget in our own lives through daily trials and tribulations.

I was unaware of the totality of his injuries, only mention made before the race was that he had banged his head in his stall. That was all.

Before the race i was going over the races won by the entrants in The Derby, Smarty's wins could not be overlooked. For some reason i was pulling for him. The rest is history.

The day Smarty was moved from Philadelphia to his retirement home, i tracked every mile by accessing news along his route, cars pulled over to allow his passing, as police escorts along the way stopped traffic, somehow everyone knew it was Smarty Jones and that was such a nice tribute to Smarty by just plain people like me. I was so glad that he made it without any problems.

What true grit he is made of and The Jacksons deserved every single rose and then some for their suberb loyalty to him. So thanks Steve and Smarty for the memories, like Cheryl and Somethingroyal, it is truly a great way to start a new week and i especially hope it gives Virgil Fox hope for the future.    

14 Dec 2009 9:17 AM
Steve Haskin

As I said, there is a lot more about Smarty in the Birdstone Belmont story, so I hope those who have blocked that race out of their minds will at least try to attempt reading it. It actually was one of my favorite recaps, despite the outcome.

I have so much more about Smarty, but time and space prevent me from using it, such as "Hail the Conquering Hero" -- Smarty's return to Philly Park after the Derby, his first trip to the track and the media gathering. Then there is the story on his two "Gallop" appearances on the Saturday after the Derby and Saturday after the Preakness, which drew an amazing 5,000 fans and almost 10,000 fans, respectively. Fans were lined up outside Philly Park at 5:00 a.m. on the second appearance. It was surreal. There are other stories, too. as well as the Preakness recap. One day they all might make for a good time capsule.

14 Dec 2009 9:32 AM
mburry

My only Kentucky derby triactor. I also loved Lion Heart but in my heart I knew he wouldn't get the distance, I saw 2nd for him. My grandson bought me a Smarty Jones T-shirt which is still in the drawer. What a day.

14 Dec 2009 9:47 AM
Virgil Fox

Steve,

Thank you so much.

Like it just happened yesterday.

"That horse is a freak." :)

Linda in Texas -

I appreciate your thoughts.

- Peace

14 Dec 2009 9:49 AM
txhorsefan

Wow.  How I missed this article in printing out all those related to Smarty's bid for the Triple Crown is a mystery to me, because reading it now has prompted me to drag out my stuffed binders of memorabilia.  Many articles were, of course, written by you, my favorite writer, but there were many others also in my trip down memory lane in a plastic three ring binder, printed from my home computer here.  This particular column, though, really strikes a chord because you captured the essence of the experience so well - it just brought it all flooding back - gosh, how I loved Smarty Jones!  I am sure that this story with all the background details you so vividly describe is one of the reasons I fell in love with the horse, his connections and began being consumed by horse racing.  Today, yes, I turned the printer on and made myself a hard copy of this for future reference to go in my Smarty Jones binder, to be kept with the computer print-outs, the Sports Illustrated and the various newspaper articles.  Steve, you really do know how to pull people in to this arena with your words.  Thank you for sharing your love and passion.  Forgive me for being so wordy!

14 Dec 2009 10:01 AM
Soldier Course

Steve:

I hope someday someone will write a serious book about Smarty Jones. I have read one book about him, but it is so poorly written and edited that it broke my heart. Smarty deserves better than that.

14 Dec 2009 10:05 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

What a wonderful article!  What a wonderful horse!  I was fortunate to witness Smarty's Arkansas Derby and follow him through the Triple Crown.  It was the most exciting time.

14 Dec 2009 10:59 AM
Tiznowbaby

So at 6 this morning, I found myself going to youtube to relive those three races.

So exciting. So thrilling. Great stuff.

14 Dec 2009 11:05 AM
diane.jackson89@yahoo.com

My youngest daughter still remembers Smarty Jones winning the Derby (she was five at the time).  She can't understand why he's not still racing - he is her very favorite racehorse! :) Now that his babies are racing, I make a point to let her know which ones are his.  Thank you for reliving the memory for all of us.

14 Dec 2009 11:21 AM
GoSmartiesGo

May his progeny do him proud! I'd LOVE to see a Smarty baby win the Derby!

Thanks for the reprint, Mr. Haskin. You captured Smarty perfectly, and Servis and the Chapmans - what a class act!

14 Dec 2009 11:22 AM
Steve Haskin

Txhorsefan, thank you, but I'm the last person to apologize to for being too wordy :).

14 Dec 2009 11:27 AM
Serena

What nice memories!  I remember Smarty's Derby very well. The Thurs evening before the race we were out socializing and a friend wanted to know who I liked in the Derby and I said, "I like Lion Heart but don't be surprised if a horse named Smarty Jones steals the race. From everything I hear about him, he's got the best shot and he's unbeaten so far"  Well before they even got back to the winner's circle, my phone rang and thanks to caller i.d. I simply picked up the phone and said "Told You !!!"  And he said "How did you pick that horse???" to which I replied  "We're both from Philly and we never back down from a fight"  This friend still asks me every year since who my picks are... I haven't been so lucky as to go 1, 2  lately  but I did have Barbaro to win!   Thanks to the fine folks at Three Chimneys, we get to see Smarty and the others, which is so rewarding to the fans.   And Thanks again for reprinting this article -- brings back some nice memories.  Looking forward to the rest....

14 Dec 2009 11:39 AM
Spicer Willits

It still boggles my mind that 120,000 people came to Belmont to see if Smarty could take the Triple Crown. 120,000 people to see a horse! It just shows us that a great champion can arouse interest and passion in people whether they are long-time followers of racing or not. I agree with the comments that Smarty left us (as far as actually racing was concerned) way too soon. It's happening all too often - Afleet Alex just the next year.

14 Dec 2009 11:48 AM
Zookeeper

All Kentucky Derby winners are worthy of our admiration(it's such a difficult race to win),but Smarty is one of my favorites. When I saw him at Three Chimneys in '05, I was amazed at how small he is. I guess his exploits on the track had raised him to gigantic stature in my mind... What a horse! Thank you Mr. Haskin for bringing him back to fly again, in our minds, the way he did that rainy day at Churchill Downs. What a horse! What a great story! What a great story teller!

14 Dec 2009 12:02 PM
Karen in Texas

Thanks, Steve, for helping us relive Smarty's special time! His small stature, filled with spirit, drew in a nation. I still have my "button"---Go, Smarty, Go!

14 Dec 2009 12:11 PM
Jane K

Brilliant writing! I shared your Zenyatta column with my writers' group, and other members agreed that it demonstrated not just sportswriting at its best but brilliant writing of any kind. Let's have a traditional book anthology of your best columns.

14 Dec 2009 12:12 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Jane K, for sharing the article and your group's reaction. I'm extremely flattered. Books arent my department. I just crank 'em out on here :)

14 Dec 2009 1:00 PM
Karen2

Wow...Cigar16...I can't believe Smarty didn't impress you. There is no denying that little horse was tenacious and a fighter. Not to mention incredibly fast. He had a target on his back in the Belmont and he still pulled off a very impressive race. I would think he found his way into the hearts all horse racing fans. Not really fair (or even close to accurate)to call him a dud.

Steve....thanks for the re-cap. I loved Smarty and when he retired I was devastated. I felt "cheated". With the year we have had with the birdstone colts that has made Smarty's Belmont come full circle although that was a slow healing wound. Smarty introduced you to me in a way....for that I will forever be thankful. Thanks Steve!

14 Dec 2009 1:16 PM
Kim R

As always Steve, your writing is impeccable!  You always bring the stories you tell to life in a way that no other writer can do!

Thank you again and again and again!

14 Dec 2009 1:37 PM
Karen2

I just watched the KD, Preakness and Belmont on You tube.....it is amazing the emotions that get stirred up.  I was shaking watching the Belmont even though I knew the outcome.  Triple crown winner or not...what a champion. I can't wait to meet you Smarty!!!!

14 Dec 2009 1:37 PM
Debbie O'Connor

Steve,

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.  Being a Philly girl, Smarty was and still is my main man.  How exciting it was to witness all the excitement and fun Smarty bought on his campaign to the triple crown.  His connections were so gracious and giving of both their and Smarty's time to us, his adoring public.  It was a wonderful time to be a horse racing fan in the City of Brotherly Love.  I lost count of the number of "Smarty Parties" we attended.  Every day someone had some new story about Smarty, the Chapmans, John Servis or Stewart Elliot.  It was so much fun!  And then of course, came the Belmont... I cried for days.  Even with that sadness, I still derived a lot of joy from that time.  I will never forget dear Smarty Jones,

14 Dec 2009 1:46 PM
Fran Loszynski

Just great Steve. It brought tears to my eyes. I remember my best friend and I placed a bet on him and won. It was her first horse race. Smarty Jones got me interested in the Philly horses, thus Afleet Alex captured my heart; I will always remember Smarty. He was a ham to the camera! My best friend died two years ago and how I remember her is by her yell "I like that Smarty!!"

14 Dec 2009 2:49 PM
steve from st louis

Steve: As usual, very readable narrative. Putting your own opinion out there, how do you compare Smarty? Kind of "Slew"-like?

14 Dec 2009 3:01 PM
Michelle B.

Amazing - thank you.

P.S.  All you need is a good editor - they'll put the book together for you from what you've already written.

14 Dec 2009 3:17 PM
keenelandcat

Thank you for that article again.  Like Secretariat before him, Smarty Jones came along when this country desparately needed a larger than life hero.  We were bogged down in an unpopular war & people were struggling just to make ends meet.  His story and connections gave many of us in this industry renewed hope.  This wonderful story provided us with a true set of American heros.    

14 Dec 2009 4:21 PM
Circe

Steve, you're my favorite turf writer and once again you've brought tears to my eyes describing one of my favorite racing memories.

Smarty was my Derby pick going into the Arkansas and though I'd been a fan of the sport for a while, he was the first horse I felt that special "true connection" with that - as I've since learned - comes along only so often (Afleet Alex and Curlin are my others, and not quite as deep).  

2004 was the 3rd year my now-husband had been forced to watch the Derby with me, and our first in our new home together.  When Smarty took the lead in the final 16th I was jumping up and down, and when he crossed the line I was literally hysterical. (My husband was totally taken aback!)  I've since watched the video of that race easily 100 times and it never fails to bring tears.

I don't expect to have that strong of a reaction again for a long time, if ever.  Unless my ultimate dream comes true and a Curlin - Rachel Alexandra baby wins the Triple Crown. At which point my husband will need to invest in smelling salts.  

14 Dec 2009 5:15 PM
DKS

Smarty was the working man's horsse: look who owned him, who trained him, the track he called home. He was easy to identify with and to root for. Smaller than most of the horses. I will never forget seeing him dwarfed in the Preakness by Rock Hard Ten and Eddington. He did not care. He was all about running. Thank you for reminding us of his ride. You are also one of my favorite writers. Your words paint pictures that draw us in.

14 Dec 2009 6:02 PM
CV

Would Smarty Jones be a good candidate to mate with Zenyatta? I understand you wouldn't want too big a stallion because she's so tall herself.

14 Dec 2009 6:49 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Zookeeper, Kim R, Fran, Circe and everyone else for your kind words.

Steve From St. Louis, I wouldnt compare Smarty to Slew or any other horse. He is who he is, which is a talented horse with a great personality and demeanor, and a limitless future. He could have been one of the great ones.

Michelle, it's not an editor, it's a publisher that would be needed.

Very well said, Keenelandcat

14 Dec 2009 7:08 PM
Dr. Patty Hogan

Steve -

Although the story of Smarty had all the "stuff that dreams are made of",  you truly have a rare gift for piecing it all together into the most wonderful fairytale!  Reading it again brought back the goose bumps,a broad smile to my face, and some tears! Smarty  was something so special - I remember every little hair on his head, his incredible spirit, his spunky nature and "can-do" attitude...to see all those great qualities then manifest into those thrilling performances on the racetrack is something I will long admire and never forget.  Thanks for the memories!

14 Dec 2009 7:48 PM
Steve Haskin

Aww, thanks so much, Patty. That was beautifully written. It's one thing writing the fairy tale, but it's another to actually be part of it. I will e-mail you to catch up and see how everything is going with you.

14 Dec 2009 8:08 PM
gammyp6

Steve, thanks for the catharsis. I feel so much better now. I have gone around for a while trying to keep it together. I love Christmas but my Mom has been gone for eleven of them. The way you write just goes to the very soul. Smarty is an all time favorite of mine. What he brought to racing was needed then and now. I realize that is an understatement. But the tears that welled up and overflowed just now were good. Here's to Smarty and here's to you Steve. God Bless us each and everyone!

14 Dec 2009 9:16 PM
Soldier Course

Thank you, Dr. Hogan, for your wonderful post, which I'm sure everyone here has appreciated.

Three Chimneys has Tweeted about this particular blog on Twitter tonight.

14 Dec 2009 9:46 PM
Julie L.

How great was Smarty Jones but I must admit that though I was pretty sure that it would be Smarty that day my personal favorite was Lion Heart. What a gutsy performance he gave and his heart lived up to his name. I always look for his babies because with a heart like that his babies have to be good.

14 Dec 2009 9:52 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, GREAT piece. I loved Smarty Jones from the start and he is one of my all time favorites. I agree that he had a ton left in the tank. He was one great horse. Very heartwarming.

Wonderful to see Dr. Hogan posting about her boy. She did an amazing job with him. She is to be congratulated.

14 Dec 2009 10:08 PM
keenelandcat`

In my previous post, I was rushing to an appointment and didn't have time to make correctons or add one final thought. For me, the fact that Smarty was a homebred, one of only two horses the Chapman's owned, made his story even more magical.  As a small breeder, knowing that someone was able to achieve that pinnacle is extremely inspiring.  

14 Dec 2009 11:05 PM
Cleone

Steve, I love your looks back into racing history!  Keep 'em coming, please.  

15 Dec 2009 10:27 AM
MonicaV

Once in a great while, along comes a horse that fires the imagination and takes us along for the ride of our lives.  That was Smarty.  I fell in love with him early on in his career.  He had it all!  The looks, the personality, the talent and the connections.  He was a miracle for horse racing and it is truly a shame he was retired after the Belmont.  What a horse!

15 Dec 2009 11:17 AM
charlie

That year when friends asked me about the Derby, I'd say There's this Pennsylvania bred, Smarty Jones. It had been a long time since one of my Derby picks ran well, so that day Smarty had me yelling at the TV, and I don't do that often.  As to the Belmont Stakes that year, I've always said I never saw a horse try so hard to win a race as Smarty did that day. I've always thought he laid the rest of his racing career on the line that day.

15 Dec 2009 12:31 PM
Lou

As someone who has always looked at the races from a betting perspective, Smarty Jones is the only horse that ever brought tears to my eyes. Just something about him, he deserved the crown.  Thanks for the memories.

15 Dec 2009 1:52 PM
Pat Chapman

Steve,

Thanks for the wonderful tribute to Smarty Jones.  You certainly brought back so many memories for me.  He came so close in that last race (and you know there is a story there). You also know that he still cannot be ridden (and they do ride their stallions at Three Chimneys.)

Steve, you've almost got the book done, and with so much emotion.  Maybe you should go for it.  

Patty, I loved your comments, too. Thanks to you for your wonderful part in this story.

15 Dec 2009 5:49 PM
merrywriter

Where has the decade gone?  Gone Baby Gone!

15 Dec 2009 6:40 PM
MonicaV

Mrs. Chapman,

Thank you so much for the Once-in-a-lifetime horse!  Smarty Jones is my all-time favorite and I cannot describe the thrills I experienced watching him run.  I love that horse and am I ever glad you bred that little dynamo.  Thanks for the thrills and thanks for being wonderful people we all loved cheering for.

15 Dec 2009 7:09 PM
txhorsefan

Dear Mrs. Chapman, we should be thanking you for providing so much joy and so many thrills for us as we were with you on Smarty's exciting run!  You were so generous to be sharing your beautiful boy with all his fans and I well remember how it was reported on Bloodhorse that one of your requirements for his life as a stallion was that his fans would be able to visit him.  I haven't made it to Three Chimneys yet, but on my next trip to KY, I will finally get to meet Smarty Jones.  Thank you!

15 Dec 2009 8:00 PM
Soldier Course

Hello, dear Mrs. Chapman,

Smarty is right here in my heart, always, my "second star to the right". I think of you every day.

Hasn't Steve's recap been wonderful? Just think of the book he could write about Smarty.

Lyn Powell

aka "Soldier Course" on the blogs

15 Dec 2009 9:00 PM

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