By Dick Jerardi
Smarty Jones began his stallion career during the winter of 2005 at Three Chimneys Farm in Versailles, Ky. A few years later, he came home to Pennsylvania to stand at Ghost Ridge Farm outside York. Then, he was moved to Northview Farm in Peach Blossom (Lancaster County). More recently, legendary Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky. was Smarty’s home. The Parx Racing legend also shuttled to South America for several Southern Hemisphere breeding seasons.
Last year, Smarty’s owner Pat Chapman made the decision to bring her beloved horse home one final time. On Jan. 19, Pat was at an open house for Smarty at Rodney Eckenrode’s Equistar Farm near Annville (Lebanon County), not far from Penn National. This will almost certainly be Smarty’s final stop before he is retired from stallion duty.
“It’s a big thrill (to have Smarty back in Pennsylvania),” Pat said. “It’s really exciting. They’ve been asking for a couple of years to get him back. I thought, well, maybe it’s time now. We’ll see what happens.”
There is no question Smarty Jones is the best horse ever bred in Pennsylvania. The 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner is also the most popular by a wide margin.
“I hated to take him from Pennsylvania (back to Kentucky) but the breeders had lost interest in breeding to him,” Pat said. “So for the syndicate and me, we couldn’t afford to leave him here. So I thought let’s give him a chance in Kentucky one more time and that worked for a couple of years, but that last year there, the same thing happened. Interest fell off. I had so many questions about getting him back here so I said let’s give it a try. We’ll see if the breeders come out this time.”
Believe it not, Smarty Jones is now 18 years old. He has been a solid sire, with more than 1,500 winners, but has not been able to sire a horse with anything like the incredible race record he had. And that is fairly typical in the hit-or-miss stallion business.
Whatever happens next, the Smarty saga will be replayed forever in Pennsylvania and beyond.
“What a ride, what a thrill; who would have ever dreamed that we would ever end up with a horse like that with the memories that I had,” Pat said. “I think about it so often and relive a lot of the good times that Chappy (her late husband Roy Chapman) and I had.”
Smarty Jones was the Chapmans’ horse, but, really, he was everybody’s horse.
“That’s a big thrill,” Pat said of Smarty’s popularity. “I still hear from fans occasionally and then I go on (his) Facebook page and see all the nice comments about Smarty. It’s wonderful to know that he hasn’t been forgotten. I just hope that someday he’s going to get a good runner that’s going to help even more keep his name in the limelight.”
Eckenrode is as excited to have Smarty at his farm as Pat Chapman is to have her horse back in Pennsylvania.
“It’s just amazing,” Eckenrode said. “It’s a terrific opportunity not only for the state of Pennsylvania, but the whole Mid-Atlantic region. We just feel extremely blessed to have a horse of his quality.”
Even though Smarty is closing on 20, he is still quite lively.
“He acts like a 3-year-old,” Eckenrode said. “He’s just frisky and spunky and just a really neat horse.”
And Smarty Jones is, of course, a star on the farm and for the farm.
“There’s nothing like it,” Eckenrode said. “I never dreamt that we would have a horse like this at our place. It’s just amazing.”
The breeding shed opens at Equistar on Feb. 15 and, according to Eckenrode, “we have a lot of contracts out right now so I think he’s going to be extremely busy this year”.