Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Smarty Jones begins Kentucky retirement

Horse racing: New home for Derby winner

By Murray Evans
The Associated Press

MIDWAY, Ky. - As the fog still hung above the rolling fields on an unseasonably cool morning, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Smarty Jones took his first look at his new Kentucky home.

The popular thoroughbred arrived Monday morning at Three Chimneys Farm, where he will stand at stud.

"He was one of the special race horses of our time," said farm owner Robert Clay, who flew in from New York to see Smarty's arrival. "This is a special day."

Smarty left his home state of Pennsylvania Sunday night, a day after he was honored during a farewell appearance at Philadelphia Park. His owners, Roy and Pat Chapman, retired the 3-year-old colt two weeks ago after he was diagnosed with chronic bruising in all four hooves.

Smarty Jones missed winning the Triple Crown by one length, falling to Birdstone in the Belmont Stakes June 5, a race that proved to be Smarty's last.

Twenty-seven people - most of them farm employees - watched as Smarty exited the van at Three Chimneys at 7:56 a.m., led by his new groom, Ruben Ramos. Smarty walked into the courtyard between the farm's stallion barns and quickly nipped a sampling of bluegrass.

Fifteen minutes later, he entered his stall - once occupied by 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew - and it didn't take long for him to roll around in the hay.

His new neighbors - fellow stallions Silver Charm, Albert the Great, Sky Mesa, Point Given and War Chant - perked up and took notice as Smarty entered the building.

They figure to see a lot more fans in the coming weeks and months, as people come to visit Smarty.

"I don't think it will take long for people to come out to see him," Clay said. "This came earlier than we expected, so we're not quite geared up yet. But we will gear up."

Three Chimneys offers tours by appointment four days a week, and Clay figures he'll need to add extra parking to accommodate the new visitors.

Hatfield said Smarty would be put in the farm's round pen and could be out in the fields as early as today.

In nine career starts, Smarty Jones won eight races and earned $7,563,535, including a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn Park for victories in the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby.

The Chapmans recently syndicated the horse for about $48 million but maintained half-ownership.

Clay said the horse will have the next four months off. Smarty will begin test breeding in December and start his stallion duties Feb. 15, he said.

Clay said he will determine Smarty's stud fee, in consultation with the Chapmans, by Sept. 1. Smarty will only be bred to 110 mares a year, according to the farm's contract with the Chapmans.

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