Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner Smarty Jones, who was declared Monday from the Sept. 6 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) with a bruise in his left front foot, is still on track for the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I), trainer John Servis said Tuesday.
Participating in a National Thoroughbred Racing Association teleconference, Servis said that the Pegasus Handicap (gr. II), at either Monmouth Park or the Meadowlands, or the Super Derby (gr. II) at Louisiana Downs are still under consideration.
"Right now, I'd say he's definitely on track for the Breeders' Cup," Servis said. "I would love to be able to get a race into him, but when he's showing me he's ready to go on and have me cranking on him the way I was able to before, then I'll feel a lot more confident. When I'm at the point that I can put him on the fence and start breezing him, then I'll be able to go right on with him and know exactly where I'm at.
"I believe we're going to see him run again," Servis continued. "I've been through some situations like this where quite frankly, it just takes time. If it was any horse other than Smarty Jones, I'd say, 'Heck, yeah, this horse is gonna' run again. You can guarantee it.' But, there's so much on the line, and time is of the essence, with the Breeders' Cup coming up. It's something he's gonna' get over. Hopefully, he'll get over it quickly enough."
Servis said he's had problems with Smarty Jones' feet in the past, and had cut out a bruise prior to the Kentucky Derby.
"He's been the kind of horse where every once in a while we've cut a bruise out of his foot," Servis said. "About 10 days ago we cut one out of his left front foot, and he just hasn't come back as quickly as we would have liked, as far as his aggressiveness and being ready to go on. I figured at this stage of the game, if we were going to make the Pennsylvania Derby, we would have had to put some pressure on him and rush him to get there, and I wasn't ready to do that. This last bruise was more deeply embedded than the other ones. We actually had built up some wall around his hoof with some glue, and put some glue-on shoes on him to try to keep the pressure off the feet. And he's gotten a lot better since we did that, but he's not 100% yet, and I'm not ready to start breezing him until he is.
"Everything was very, very iffy, and I felt Philadelphia Park deserved to know that as soon as possible," Servis said. "I didn't want them to put out a ton of money to get ready for this, and to have all kinds of construction changes, and then pull the plug on them late."
In mid-July, Smarty Jones missed his first scheduled work since the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), in which he was defeated by Marylou Whitney's Birdstone, depriving him of a Triple Crown sweep. Servis referred all inquiries about Smarty Jones to his foreman, Bill Foster, but did say last week that the son of Elusive Quality
was suffering from a slight fever and elevated white blood count, likely due to a reaction to a routine flu vaccination.
Last Friday, Smarty Jones returned to the track after missing several days of training and Servis said the colt would work the following Monday. But instead came a press release from Philadelphia Park Monday stating that Smarty Jones would not run in the Pennsylvania Derby.
In the release, Philly Park CEO Hal Handel said, "John has told us that (Smarty Jones') training since coming back off the Triple Crown break has not progressed significantly enough to keep him on track for a start in the Pennsylvania Derby." Co-owner Roy Chapman told the Associated Press that Smarty Jones was suffering from a bruised foot.
Philadelphia Park was expecting a record crowd for the Pennsylvania Derby, and was planning on pre-selling tickets on a limited basis, as well as constructing bleacher seats and renovating the third floor, which has not been used since the track underwent a complete renovation several years ago.
If Smarty Jones does make the Pegasus Handicap (gr. II), the date, and even the track, is flexible, and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority has already told Servis they would run the nine-furlong race to suit his and Smarty's schedule. According to Meadowlands media relations, the stakes schedule for the upcoming meet has not been finalized. Of the two tracks, Servis said he'd prefer to run at Monmouth.
The Chapmans are still hoping to make Smarty Jones the all-time money-winning Thoroughbred. He currently ranks fourth with earnings of $7,613,155 (including a $5-million bonus for winning Oaklawn's Southwest Stakes, Rebel Stakes, and Arkansas Derby-gr. II and the Kentucky Derby). Ahead of him are Fantastic Light ($8,486,957), Skip Away ($9,616,360), and the all-time leading earner, Cigar, with $9,999,815.
Smarty Jones was syndicated in a deal worth a reported $39 million following the Belmont Stakes and will take up residence at Three Chimneys Farm, which purchased an interest in the colt, following his racing career. Servis said he's been under no pressure regarding Smarty's racing plans.
"If anything, from my connections, I have an unbelievable amount of support," Servis said. "Naturally, everybody was very disappointed that he's not going to be able to run in the Pennsylvania Derby, but both Mr. (Robert) Clay (owner of Three Chimneys) and Mr. and Mrs. Chapman said to me they appreciate everything and thanked me for putting the horse's best interests ahead of everything else.