Smarty Jones ran his unbeaten record to seven and earned a $5 million bonus in the process Saturday, winning the 130th Kentucky Derby (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
The 3-year-old Elusive Quality
colt became the first horse to win the Derby while undefeated since Seattle Slew in 1977.
``Man, that was great,'' winning trainer John Servis exclaimed after his first Derby. ``That was a beautiful race. Picture perfect.''
It marked the second straight year with a touching story connected to the Derby winner. Last year, a group of friends racing as Sackatoga Stable won the Derby with Funny Cide. This year, Roy and Patricia Chapman soured on the game after their trainer, Robert Camac, was murdered. They hired Servis and kept one colt -- Smarty Jones.
Lion Heart showed his gameness, nearly wiring the field in the Derby. He held on for second, beaten 2 3/4 lengths. Imperialism closed ground for third, another 3 1/4 lengths behind.
In celebration of its 100th anniversary year, Oaklawn Park owner Charles Cella offered a $5 million bonus to any horse that could win the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby (gr. II), and Kentucky Derby.
Smarty Jones' owners bred Smarty Jones at their Someday Farm in Pennsylvania. Out of the Smile mare I'll Get Along, he became the second Pennsylvania bred to win the Derby; Lil E. Tee is the other.
It was the first Derby run on a sloppy track since Go for Gin won in 1994. It began raining about two hours before post time and turned the track sloppy. The 18-horse field broke at 6:14 p.m. before an on-track crowd of 140,054.
Lion Heart went to the lead out of the gate under Mike Smith and was tracked by Quintons Gold Rush, who had to hustle from the outside post, Pollard's Vision, and Smarty Jones.
The quarter went in :22.99 and the half in :46.73. Lion Heart, who trainer Patrick Biancone kept at Keeneland until the morning of the race, was just bounding along as Smarty Jones took up the chase. They went the six furlongs in 1:11.80.
The field was very strung out down the backside as several of the closers began their runs. But it became clear in the turn that it was going to take a monster effort for any horse to catch Lion Heart and Smarty Jones.
Down the stretch, the two staged a Derby battle with Lion Heart on the rail and Smarty Jones on the outside. Imperialism, who had one horse beat down the backside, closed the strongest, but was no threat to the top two.
Lion Heart hung tough on the lead, but Smarty Jones wore him down for the victory. The mile split was 1:37.35 and the final time was 2:04.00, a slow time but considering the track condition not surprising.
Smarty Jones paid $13.60, $8.20, and $4.20, while Lion Heart returned $10 and $7. Imperialism returned $6.20. The exacta was $65.20 and the Kentucky Oaks/Kentucky Derby daily double of Ashado and Smarty Jones was worth $60.20.
Smarty Jones became the highest priced favorite to ever win the Derby.
Smarty Jones had earned $878,355 coming in to the Derby and picked up purse money of $854,000 and the bonus of $5 million to bring his total to $6,733,000.
"An absolutely masterful ride," Servis said of Elliott's ride. The trainer and jockey are regulars of Philadelphia Park. They became the first trainer-jockey duo to win the Derby on their first try since Spectacular Bid won in 1979 for trainer Bud Delp and jockey Rodney Franklin.
In the stands, 77-year-old owner Roy Chapman got out of his wheelchair and shouted, ``I can't believe it!'' as he received hugs from Servis, friends and relatives. Chapman, hooked up to an oxygen tank because of his emphysema, then sat back down, taking deep breaths to calm himself, but smiling the whole time.
"We bunched up a bit on the first turn but things turned out great," Elliott said. "It was a good trip."
The complete order of finish was: Smarty Jones, Lion Heart, Imperialism, Limehouse, The Cliff's Edge, Action This Day, Read the Footnotes, Birdstone, Tapit, Borrego, Song of the Sword, Master David, Pro Prado, Castledale, Friends Lake, Minister Eric, Pollard's Vision, and Quintons Gold Rush.
Prior to Smarty Jones, there had been 17 other horses to run in the Derby having never tasted defeat. The four to win the race prior to Smarty Jones were Regret in 1915, Morvich in 1922, Majestic Prince in 1969, and Seattle Slew in 1977.
"It is just unbelievable," Elliott said of the feeling of winning the Derby with his first mount in the race. "I crossed the wire and I can't explain it; There aren't words to describe it.
"At the three-eighths pole, I knew I had a loaded gun underneath me. I was just going to sit until he straightened up and switched leads. He really went to running."
Smarty Jones made two starts at two, both of them at Philadelphia Park. He broke his maiden easily and then won a restricted race by a whopping 15 lengths.
He won the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct in January and Servis then shipped him to Oaklawn. He won the Southwest prior to the Rebel and Arkansas Derby.
The bettors found the Derby to be a good betting race but in the end they got it right. Smarty Jones was the favorite, but at 4-1, while Lion Heart was the second choice at 5-1. Two others were less than 10-1, Tapit, who at 6-1 ran ninth, and The Cliff's Edge, who finished fifth at 8-1.
Servis said trainer Bob Baffert told him if he could tell at the eighth-pole that he was going to win, he would experience feelings he had never felt before. "He was right," Servis said. "He told me I will never feel he same way again about any race after winning the Derby, and I think he will be right."
Baffert's horse, Wimbledon, was scratched from the Derby the day before the race.
Servis said he will see how Smarty Jones comes out of the race and then decide if he will run next in the May 15 Preakness (gr. I). Should he win the Preakness and June 5 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Smarty Jones will win another $5 million. Visa, which sponsors the Triple Crown, will pay $5 million to a horse that can win the three races.