It's not everyday a horse based in the Keystone state earns national recognition. So given the accomplishments of Smarty Jones, the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission has taken steps to honor the undefeated 3-year-old colt who is pointing to the May 1 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
Smarty Jones, a Pennsylvania-bred owned by Pennsylvania residents Roy and Pat Chapman, made the first two starts of his career at Philadelphia Park, where trainer John Servis and jockey Stewart Elliott are based. Last November, the son of Elusive Quality
won the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes at the Bensalem Township track by 15 lengths after having broken his maiden at Philly Park.
The racing commission April 21 adopted a resolution in honor of Smarty Jones. It reads:
"Whereas, the Kentucky Derby is the most sought-after prize in all of Thoroughbred racing, and
"Whereas, the Thoroughbred horse Smarty Jones is one of the leading contenders for the 2004 running of the Kentucky Derby, and
"Whereas, the aforesaid Smarty Jones is a Pennsylvania-bred born and raised in Chester Country, Pennsylvania, and
"Whereas, the owners and breeders of the aforesaid Smarty Jones are longtime Pennsylvania residents Roy and Pat Chapman, and
"Whereas, John Servis, the trainer of aforesaid Smarty Jones, is one of the most respected trainers at Philadelphia Park, and
"Whereas, Stewart Elliott, the rider of the aforesaid Smarty Jones, is among the leading jockeys at Philadelphia Park
"Now, therefore, be it resolved by this commission, this 21st day of April, 2004, that with great pride in the accomplishments of Smarty Jones and all of his connections, we hereby declare Kentucky Derby day, May 1, to be Smarty Jones day at both Philadelphia Park and Penn National Race Course."
Philadelphia Park opened in 1974 as Keystone Race Track, and it has served as home to some of the sport's top horses. For instance, Gallant Bob and My Juliet, the national sprint champions of 1975 and 1976, respectively, were based there. Both of them eventually had stakes named for them at the track.
Hal Handel, chief executive officer at Philly Park, called Smarty Jones "a great local story," and said the track is selling Smarty Jones merchandise with the owners' permission the weekend of April 24-25 and Derby weekend, with all net proceeds to benefit a backstretch fund. Elliott will be signing pictures.
"There is tremendous customer interest in the horse, and it should be the biggest Derby day in Philadelphia Park history," Handel said. "It should bring out a lot of very casual or new customers to see what all the media hype is about.
"It's very exciting for a track like Philly Park to have a live Derby horse, a cross between St. Joe's this winter in the NCAA tournament and "Rocky.' "