Sunday, June 13, 2004

Smarty owner says two jockeys sabotaged Triple Crown bid



By PAT FORDE
The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE - Saturday was designated as a velvet-wrapped joyfest for Team Smarty at Churchill Downs. Roll into town, sign autographs, formally accept the Kentucky Derby trophy and float off on a cloud of post-Triple Crown bliss.

And, for the most part, that's how it went. But before floating off, Roy Chapman had his say about the Belmont Stakes.

It's been gnawing at his gut for a week. Ever since his charismatic colt, Smarty Jones, wound up a heartbreaking length short of history, Chappy has been chapped at two of the game's biggest jockeys. He believes they sacrificed their Belmont horses to sabotage Smarty's Triple Crown bid.

"I never saw two riders ride so hard to lose a race in my life," the 78-year-old Chapman growled. "They just were out for one thing: making sure Smarty didn't win."

Chapman wouldn't name names, but you don't have to be Lucien Laurin to know he's referring to Jerry Bailey, who rode Eddington, and Alex Solis, who rode Rock Hard Ten. Those two tweaked their Preakness strategy, hustling into the early pace and bracketing Smarty Jones on the long Belmont backstretch. They kept pressing Smarty, refusing to let him settle and relax. Then both Eddington and Rock Hard Ten folded on the far turn, and Smarty came up empty in the stretch.

He was overhauled by long shot Birdtown, to the profound dismay of a nation - and an owner.

"It was very obvious what happened," the feisty Philadelphian said.

"They were not out to win the race. They were out to ruin the race. ... I've met an awful lot of people that said the same thing."

Bailey also was at Churchill Saturday, riding six races on the star-studded Stephen Foster Day card. When asked about Chapman's assertions, he shrugged.

"Sorry he feels that way," Bailey said. "Listen, I said going into the race that my horse trained like that. We felt like if he goes 12s, 12s, 12s, 12s (12-second furlongs), he had a chance. That's what we were trying to do."

The cold-blooded Bailey would ride his mother into the rail to win a race, but would he ride solely to make another horse lose?

"People have asked me if I tried to get that horse beat," he said.

"If I was, I would've left the gate trying to beat that horse. ... I'm just tired of taking the blame for something I didn't do."

Bailey did use his whip on Eddington very early in the race, urging him up to Smarty Jones' flank.

"How often do you use a stick on the backside?" Chapman asked.

"I tapped my horse on the shoulder," Bailey said. "He's a lazy horse."

Solis rode a full card Saturday at Hollywood Park but gave a comment to Hollywood publicity on Chapman's assertions.

He said his mission was to win the Belmont, not scuttle Smarty's party.

"Everyone has an opinion," Solis said. "Everyone can look for excuses. After (Smarty Jones) left me at the three-eighths pole, I was down the stretch saying, 'C'mon, Smarty!' If I didn't win, I hoped that he won. Smarty Jones is an incredible horse."

A review of the race reveals this: You can see what you want to see in the tactics.

Bailey and Solis definitely urged their horses forward at early junctures in a 1 1/2-mile distance. Whether that was a purposeful attempt to unsettle Smarty Jones or simply an effort to maintain contact with the horse that obliterated them in Baltimore can be debated forever.

We know where Chappy stands. He stressed that this was his fight and shouldn't be pinned on trainer John Servis, who declined comment on the matter.

"If they want to talk to anybody about it, they can talk to me," Chapman said. "Every jockey I've ever hired, I hired him to win a race. They were not out to win the race."




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