Smarty Jones is best remembered for winning the first two legs of the American Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, in 2004, before finishing second in the third, and final, leg, the Belmont Stakes. His defeat in the Belmont Stakes was the only one of his nine-race career.
Smarty Jones was bred and owned by Roy and Patricia Chapman and trained by John Servis. He was named in honour of Milly McNair, the late mother of Patricia Chapman, who was nicknamed “Smarty Jones” and with whom he shared a birthday. As a juvenile, Smarty Jones knocked himself unconscious in a schooling accident, fracturing his skull and the orbit of his left eye so badly that he nearly lost the eye.
However, after a lengthy period of recuperation, the horse made his racecourse debut in a maiden race, over 6 furlongs, at what is now Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. He won by 7¾ lengths and followed up, by 15 lengths, in the Pennsylvania Nursery, over a furlong further, at the same venue three weeks later. The rest, as they say, is history.
Smarty Jones also won the first four starts of his three-year-old campaign, including the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, and duly started favourite for the Kentucky Derby three weeks later. On sloppy going, he tackled Lion Heart, who had set a fast pace, at the furlong marker and was ridden out to win “The Race for the Roses” by 2¾ lengths. Consequently, he started odds-on for the Preakness Stakes two weeks later, which he won, impressively, and the Belmont Stakes, three weeks after that, in which he suffered the one and only defeat of his career.
Attempting a mile and a half for the first time, Smarty Jones set strong fractions at the head of affairs, but when headed by Birdstone – a 36/1 chance on the day, but from an exceptional family – in the last 70 yards could only keep on at one pace and eventually finished second, beaten a length. He never raced again and was retired, through injury, in August 2004. At the end of his career, he had earned over $2.6 million in prize money, plus the so-called Oaklawn Centennial Bonus, of $5 million, offered by the owner of Oaklawn Park, Charles Cella, to any horse that won the Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby.