Smarty Jones left the race track for what certainly seemed like the final time on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2004. The next evening at what was then known as Philadelphia Park, the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner walked onto a van that would be headed for Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky.
Most anybody who was there that Saturday afternoon when Smarty was paraded in front of the fans, took a tour of the walking ring, and stopped in the winner’s circle for a brief ceremony, had to figure they would never see the horse again. Well, the horse’s owner, Pat Chapman, always wanted to give them another look.
Monday afternoon, shortly after 5 p.m. at Parx Racing, 15 years after his last appearance, Smarty Jones will reprise that ``final’’ day from 15 years ago.
``I’m so thrilled,’’ Chapman said. ``I’ve wanted to do this for so long, but then I had the concern that: Is he going to get so excited that he’s going to be difficult to handle? But I think everything’s going to be all right, so I’m looking at the positive side of it a lot more than the what-ifs.’’
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness trophies will be at the track for the fans to see. Smarty Jones, the greatest horse ever born in Pennsylvania, will arrive by van after a 2-hour ride from Equistar Farm in Annville, Pa., in the early afternoon. He will be housed in trainer John Servis’s barn until it is time to take to the track again.
``Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to get to spend a lot of time with him because I’m going to have a bunch running that day, I think,’’ Servis said. ``I’m sure a lot of emotions will come flooding back."
It was 209 days from Smarty Jones’s first race at Philadelphia Park until his final race at Belmont Park. So much has changed since then. The casino across the parking lot might not be there without the massive impact Smarty Jones had on legislators in the spring of 2004. When Smarty was in Servis’s Barn 11, he was housed in stall 38. All the old barns have been razed with new ones in their place.
What has not changed is how people feel about the horse who raced nine times at nine different distances and won every time until he was passed in the final yards of the Belmont Stakes.
``I think it’s going to be awesome,’’ Chapman said. ``I wanted to do it so much for the fans that just loved him and were certainly a big part of making him who he was and is. I’m excited for the fans.’’
Smarty Jones’ appearance will be the centerpiece of a day that will include seven stakes races. The horse’s appearance and four of those races will be part of a broadcast on PHL17 (4-6 p.m.). The final race on the telecast, right after Smarty’s appearance, will be the Smarty Jones Stakes.
The Triple Crown races are a combined 6,930 yards. Smarty Jones so dominated all but the final 30 yards that a record 120,139 people were at Belmont Park for his final race. Everything went perfectly except the ending.
Smarty left the track for stud duty at Three Chimneys. He came back to stand at Ghost Ridge Farms outside York and then Northview Farm in Peach Bottom (Lancaster County) before heading back to famed Calumet Farm in Kentucky. He also spent some time in Uruguay during the Southern Hemisphere breeding season. Smarty came back to Pennsylvania for this breeding season at Equistar, so that made Monday’s 15-year anniversary celebration possible.
Mario Arriaga, who was Smarty’s groom during his racing days, and Rodney Eckenrode, who runs Equistar Farm, will lead Smarty Jones up the homestretch to the walking ring, the winner’s circle, and then back down the homestretch to the stable area. Servis will be there. So will Pat Chapman.
Roy “Chappy” Chapman, who owned Smarty with his wife, died in February 2006. Bill Foster, the stable foreman who practically lived with Smarty Jones, passed away in March 2017.
Stewart Elliott, who rode Smarty Jones, will be riding the card at Remington Park in Oklahoma on Monday. It is unclear if Pete Van Trump, who was Smarty’s exercise rider, will be able to make it.
What Chapman wanted more than anything was for Smarty’s fans to get a glimpse of the horse who created so many new, young, and largely female fans of horse racing.