By Susan Baldrige
A long driveway leading past curvy grass pastures with blue run-in sheds--that's what I remember of Someday Farm. It was a simple farm, nothing fancy, with a quaint farmhouse and an old, stone barn with irregularly shaped box stalls. The farm had one tiny sign with a black horse painted on it that quietly announced you were there. That was exactly three years ago. Three years ago. That's when Smarty Jones and my stars crossed for the first time. But it was not the last. My sister, Shelly, and I breed, sell, and race a small number of Thoroughbreds every year. Sometimes we like to stay up for endless nights watching mares refuse to give birth on their due dates and then go to work the next day bleary-eyed with iodine stains on our hands. Other times we like to pay people to foal our mares. That's what brought us to Someday Farm. At the time, there was nothing about the place that would suggest the next big Thoroughbred star had just been born there. There were no trumpets, no fanfare; the colt didn't even have a name. Can you blame me for not noticing him? Smarty Jones was running around those grassy pastures with his mom and a bunch of other mares and foals. It could have been the opportunity of a lifetime because it was the year Roy and Pat Chapman were offering up most of their stock for sale. But to me, Smarty looked like every other colt on the place, which is one of the many reasons people encourage me not to give up my paying job. Also, I was much too enamored with our own foals being born to give the future superstar a second look. We've raised our fair share of stakes winners over the years, but I might as well mention that my filly who grazed on the same grass with Smarty Jones has yet to win a race or, evidently, run as if she were in a race, but that is another story. Our colt, a pasture-mate of Smarty, has not quite exhibited the same level of talent, but we haven't given up hope just yet. After all, our colt is chestnut just like Smarty, he's a Pennsylvania-bred, and he breathed the same air as the champ. The dream is still alive. The other thing is that the farm manager, Deb Given, who delivered our foals, also delivered Smarty Jones. Deb worked many years for the Chapmans. She is the Pennsylvania equivalent of Ellie Mae Clampett, more likely to have a litter of baby foxes than company in her living room. Her refrigerator is full of colostrum, not caviar. The only problem with Deb was that she loved all animals and all horses equally, so I don't think she realized Smarty's greatness either. She never mentioned anything to us. Even after we took our moms and babies home, my connection to Smarty Jones was far from over. One of my homebreds, a tall, cranky chestnut colt, which I sold at the Timonium sale, ended up being trained by John Servis and ridden in each and every race over the past couple years by Stewart Elliott. Now John and I have a special relationship. I give advice to John at every possible opportunity on how to train the horse that I no longer own but through whom I still receive state breeder incentive checks whenever he runs in the money. And John, in his own special way, tries to avoid me whenever possible. I'm not sure why he doesn't appreciate my advice or my sister's. In a weak moment once he gave us his e-mail address and cell number. I figured he did that so we could stay in touch. So we took that opportunity on many occasions to let him know when he worked the colt too often or didn't race him often enough. I'm sure he passed on all the advice we had for Stewart, too. I'm just not sure how he's managing Smarty without us. Those are all my special connections to Smarty, which I bring up often and loudly now, to impress others. Sometimes it even works. My husband, Tom, on the other hand, simply wants to know if all these special connections will make us any money. My husband's main job in this Thoroughbred venture is to pay the bills, so I tell him "no," not this year but someday...someday all the stars will align and our place will be the next Someday Farm.
SUSAN BALDRIGE is a reporter for the New Era newspaper in Lancaster, Pa., and an often-silent partner in a small Pennsylvania breeding operation.E-mail Editor