Roy Chapman and Bob Lewis were members of a very select club in Thoroughbred racing. Both experienced what most owners involved in the sport would call the ultimate thrill: winning the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Both Chapman and Lewis had a passion for racing, and the sport gave something back to them in their twilight years. Both also came close to winning the Triple Crown, tasting defeat when their horses lost the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). The two men died on the same day, Feb. 17. Chapman, of course, won the 130th Run for the Roses with Smarty Jones, a horse he bred in the name of his modest Someday Farm, an operation whose name evokes the hopes and dreams that many people invest in Thoroughbred racing and breeding. He and his wife, Pat, had divested nearly all of their bloodstock interests by the time Smarty Jones made his exhilarating run in 2004, but they still held on to those dreams of "someday" getting the big horse. Smarty Jones came through for them. That Roy Chapman lived the dream was a wonderful thing for a man who for years had been in ill health due to emphysema. "Smarty Jones was some of the best medicine he had," Pat Chapman said. Smarty Jones also provided tonic for the "mom and pop" operations--many of them struggling to survive--that fill such a significant portion of the Thoroughbred landscape. It showed them big dreams sometimes can come true. Whether you own a one-horse stable like the Chapmans were down to in 2004 or invest millions of dollars at sales of yearlings and 2-year-olds in training like Bob and Beverly Lewis did, you can't win the Kentucky Derby without luck on your side. The Lewises had that in spades--winning their first Derby in 1997 with Silver Charm and coming back two years later with Charismatic. Only 11 other racing stables have won the Derby two or more times, many of them comprising a Who's Who of the sport: Calumet Farm, Col. E.R. Bradley, Belair Stud, William Condren and Joseph Cornacchia, Darby Dan Farm, Greentree Stable, Mrs. John D. Hertz, King Ranch, Bashford Manor, Meadow Stable, and Harry Payne Whitney. Everyone who knew him has a Bob Lewis story that says something about the man. Mine is from last August, when Lewis was in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to attend a dinner the night before The Jockey Club Round Table. Scarcely 24 hours earlier, Lewis got the news from trainer Bob Baffert that What a Song, a $1.9-million 2-year-old purchase who was unbeaten in three starts, had suffered a catastrophic injury and could not be saved. When someone offered condolences to him, Lewis replied: "Thank you. But I just feel so bad for Bob and his staff. They're the ones who are around those horses 24 hours a day. I hope they won't take it too hard."
MAYHEM IN THE SPORTS WORLD It was tough for NASCAR to put a positive spin on the Daytona 500 victory by Jimmie Johnson, whose crew chief was suspended for illegally altering the winning car during qualifying for the Feb. 19 race. In the Winter Olympics in Italy, the Austrian cross-country and biathlon teams were rousted from their sleep in a late-night raid by police and anti-doping agents Feb. 18. Over 100 syringes and 30 packs of drugs were confiscated, according to published reports. The team's former coach, banned from the Olympics for blood-doping violations, was arrested near the Italian border after apparently trying to run his car through a police roadblock. Barry Bonds, the Major League Baseball home-run king accused of steroid use by principals involved in the BALCO criminal investigation in California, said he is retiring after 2006 because "the game isn't fun anymore." Horse racing has its suspected cheaters, too. At least we're not alone.