All the bad headline writers in the world are right: you really can't keep up with Smarty Jones, especially if your last name is Jones.
The same week that Smarty Jones was the toast of the racing world with his super-equine performance in the Preakness (gr. I), a host of other Joneses pulled up lame.
On the evening of May 15, several hours after the Preakness, boxer Roy Jones Jr. went down in a heap after Antonio Tarver caught him on the jaw with a clean left hand. Jones lost both his light heavyweight title and his unofficial claim as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Earlier that evening, Atlanta Braves centerfielder Andruw Jones broke a teammate's collarbone when he charged into second basemen Marcus Giles in pursuit of a pop-up.
The night before the Preakness, "No Show" George Jones was up to his old tricks again. The country music legend, whose drinking problems led to 54 canceled dates in 1979, called in sick for a North Carolina concert, citing a sinus infection.
One day after the Visa Triple Crown's middle jewel, track and field star Marion Jones threatened a lawsuit if she is disqualified from the United States Olympic team because of incriminating evidence of steroid use. Jones, whose former husband tested positive for steroids during the 2000 Olympics, has been linked to the federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative that has tied steroids to a number of famous athletes.
Another famous Jones, Star Jones, one of the hosts of the television talk show "The View," also had a bad week. She and comedienne Rosie O'Donnell got into a sparring match over racism during a taping of the show. Pound for pound, both Jones and O'Donnell are among the biggest celebrities anywhere.
Forget hearts and minds when it comes to winning a war for publicity. Just Google Smarty Jones and others in the extended Jones family. Smarty's a clear winner. Using the Internet site's news search function, the name of Smarty Jones pops up more than 9,000 times, indicating the horse is getting phenomenal press coverage. Marion Jones got 2,200 references, and Roy Jones Jr. just over 1,000. The others were farther back still.
It's only going to get better. With a three-week gap between the Preakness and the June 5 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and the race taking place in the media capital of the world, there will be plenty of time to generate even more publicity for Smarty Jones and Co. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association is doing its part, and so will the New York Racing Association, which has had the benefit of a horse going for the Triple Crown in six of the last eight years.
The NTRA hit it big with popular radio talk show host Don Imus when it gave him $10,000 to wager on the Preakness, with all proceeds going to the Imus Ranch, a charity that gives kids with cancer an opportunity to ride horses and "work" at a cattle ranch. Imus put it all on the winning exacta of Smarty Jones and Rock Hard Ten, giving him $123,000 for the charity. On the Monday after the Preakness, Smarty Jones was the No. 1 subject on a show that has a large following in the New York area via sports-talk station WFAN.
Following Smarty Jones' win in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), the NTRA assigned two full-time publicists to Philadelphia Park to accommodate the surge in media requests for trainer John Servis and jockey Stewart Elliott. Philadelphia Park management doesn't see the need for the NTRA, and is one of a handful of tracks that is not a member of the organization. The track doesn't have a publicity department, either. Perhaps the Smarty Jones experience will show them what good publicity can do for the game and convince them to join the process.E-mail Ray Paulick