A day after a warm welcoming party was given for the champion mare Zenyatta at Churchill Downs, a plethora of Smarty Jones fans gathered at Three Chimney’s Farm near Midway, Ky., Nov. 3 to say goodbye to the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (both gr. I) winner, who will soon be relocated to his birth state at Tarry Bratton’s Ghost Ridge Farms near Felton, Pa.
“I’m kind of happy for him because I know most of his clientele are from Pennsylvania, and I think he’ll be better off there, but I know people from Kentucky are really going to miss him,” said Tracy Wachbrit, a native of Los Angeles who is currently studying to be a Thoroughbred trainer at the Lexington-based North American Racing Academy.
Wachbrit was one of many fans that had traveled to Three Chimneys several times to visit Smarty Jones since he arrived at the Robert N. Clay-owned farm in 2004. Smarty Jones, a son of Elusive Quality, retired from racing that year with eight wins from nine starts, including the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and three other stakes.
An earner of more than $7.6 million on the track, Smarty Jones was a featured attraction for Three Chimneys’ more than 25,000 visitors a year and occupied the stall of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
“It’s nice to see all the fans, and it’s been a good day,” said stallion manager Sandy Hatfield as Smarty Jones was paraded around the stallion barn by his groom, Luis Galves, and dozens of horse enthusiasts snapped photos of the horse. “There are a lot of familiar faces--people that have been to see Smarty every year during Derby or Breeders’ Cup time, and there have been a lot of people with tears in their eyes.
"But it’s exciting for Smarty; he’ll be home, and those (Pennsylvania-based) breeders have supported him throughout his career here.”
Smarty Jones, who is now solely owned by Pat Chapman, showed off his personable side by playfully tossing his head for fans and letting one of his admirers, a toddler named Charlie Vostal, pat him on the neck. Immediately upon arriving at the stallion barn, Vostal had given Galves a hand-drawn scrapbook he made as a going-away present for the chestnut stallion.
“We don’t really have a connection to horse racing; we’re just fans,” said Meg Vostal, Charlie’s mother. “Charlie and Beth Jones are my parents, and we got interested in Smarty a few years ago (because of his name); we all have the hats.”
Jennifer Tison, a Smarty Jones fan from Columbia, S.C., had traveled to Kentucky for the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup World Championships and decided to come and see Smarty Jones for the first time at his farewell party.
“I’m a little sad that he’ll be farther away from me, but I don’t get out here a lot, so Pennsylvania might be a very good move for him,” said Tison, who grew up reading Black Beauty books and has been hooked on Thoroughbred racing since watching Winning Colors’ Kentucky Derby victory in 1988. “(Smarty) will be a big fish in a smaller pond (in Pennsylvania). Kentucky has a lot more competition, and I hear the Pennsylvania state-bred programs are pretty good, so hopefully that will help him get some good mares.”
According to Hatfield, when Smarty Jones travels to Ghost Ridge, he will take an interesting keepsake with him in the form of a St. Christopher medal, a symbol of protection and reassurance.
"He had a St. Christopher on his halter when he came and I have kept it while he has been here,” Hatfield said. “I will put it on his halter for the ride to Pennsylvania, and hopefully they will keep it for him while he is there. I had it on his halter for a little while when he first got here, but he kept rubbing it off in the mud, so I have had it in a safe place for him.”