Smarty Jones, Equihero

Smarty Jones, Equihero

by Bernard Kenny

Its Kentucky Derby time, and all eyes will be on the 4/1 favourite Omaha Beach in emulating that ‘equihero’ Smarty Jones, having also won the Arkansas Derby and the Rebel Stakes en-route to this 145th Run For The Roses.

With victory in the 130th Kentucky Derby in 2004 Smarty Jones not only collected $854,800 first prizemoney, but also earned the $5 million Oaklawn Park Bonus for winning the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby.

In winning the Derby on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs, Smarty Jones tracked the front-running former 2yo Hollywood Futurity Stakes winner Lion Heart, jockey Mike Smith, well into the home straight, before taking command and racing away to win by 2¾ lengths.

Smarty Jones with jockey Stewart Elliott (Bloodhorse)

Now joining Seattle Slew as the only then unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner, Smarty Jones became the eighth 3yo to be an unbeaten Derby starter. In addition, he and Lil E Tee are the only Pennsylvania bred winners of the Kentucky Derby.

This historic victory also provided trainer John Servis and jockey Stewart Elliott as being the first trainer-jockey combination in 25 years to win the Kentucky Derby on debut.

In stepping out in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlicio, and in running a time of 1:55.10sec for the 1 3/16 mile journey, Smarty Jones won by 11½ lengths and had generated a record-high $59 million betting pool. Today the Pimlicio winning post is named the ‘Smarty Jones Pole.’

This 2004 season was the 100th anniversary of the Triple Crown series, but he could not emulate the likes of Seattle Slew, American Pharoah and Justify as a Triple Crown winner, when second in the Belmont Stakes.

His Belmont and Triple Crown hopes were soon dashed when 36-1 outsider Birdstone issued a late challenge to haul in Smarty Jones before the line. Smarty Jones was unable to settle in running as he did in winning the Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Unknown to the 120,000 Belmont Park racegoers, who wagered $120 million in the betting pool, this was to be Smarty Jones’ final race as he was later diagnosed with fetlock bruising. In being crowned the US Champion 3YO Colt of 2004, he had won 8 of 9 starts and $7.6 million in total prizemoney.

However, Smarty Jones career was full of drama well before he had run his first race. Owner Roy Chapman had chosen Bobby Camac to train Smarty Jones, but before receiving the horse both Camac and his wife were murdered by his stepson.

Smarty Jones was then placed with young up-coming trainer John Servis at Philadelphia Park, but tragedy struck during in his 2yo preparation. In fracturing his skull in a starting gate schooling accident Smarty Jones missed the bulk of his juvenile season being sidelined until November.

In winning both of his late season 2yo race starts at Philadelphia Park by a combined total of 22¾ lengths, and a five-length victory in the Court Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct in opening his 3yo season, Smarty Jones was sent to Oaklawn Park for a Run For The Roses preparation.

John Servis’ stable foreman ‘Big Bill’ Foster says it all in making Smarty Jones a ‘national hero.’ “Number one in horse racing, you have to have the horse. Number two, you have to know what to do with the horse once you have him.”

“A lot of people in this business have a lot of horses, and never made it because they broke them down. It happens a lot. Mismanaged. Mistrained. All because people want to be in the limelight. Which is where we’re different. We don’t want to be in the limelight.”

Bred by Roy and Patricia Chapman and raced in the blue and white colours of their Someday Farm, Smarty Jones was the resulting foal of their duel stakes winning smile mare I’ll Get Along, being mated with the Japiur Invitational Stakes winner Elusive Quality.

Named in honour of Patricia’s later mother Milly ‘Smarty Jones’ McNair, who had both having shared the same birthday. Patricia described her horse as a strong-willed actor from birth, and said her mother was given the nick name of ‘Smarty Jones,’ as being considered a smart aleck as a child.

This year Smarty Jones returned home to Pennsylvania, now standing at Equistar Farm in Annville. In being only four miles from Penn National Race Course, it is a short distance from his birthplace at Fairthorne Farm in Chester County.

A chestnut standing 16.0hh, Smarty Jones originally retired to Three Chimneys Farm in Midway Kentucky, and for a time occupied the same stall used by Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. In 2011 he returned to Pennsylvania to stand at Ghost Ridge Farm.

Having shuttled to Haras La Concordia in Uruguay for the southern seasons, Smarty Jones later transferring to Northview PA, Pennsylvania. In 2016 he returned to Kentucky standing at Calumet Farm from three seasons.

Today Smarty Jones has 11 US crops of racing age and earnings of $38 million, with his owner and breeder Patricia Chapman having the Gr1 Triple Bend Handicap winner Centralinteligence. Better Life, Smart DMA and Bamba Y Bamba were champions in Singapore and South America.

Today Smarty Jones is honoured at Parx Racing through the giant bronze statue ‘Horse at Water,’ with the Smarty Jones Stakes run each August at Parx Racing. At Oaklawn Park the Smarty Jones Stakes is a 3yo Kentucky Derby prep race, run annually in January.