Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Smarty Jones to resume training; Haskell next?
By Jay Privman
Daily Racing Form
The letter was postmarked from London. It was addressed to "Smarty Jones, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA." It landed on trainer John Servis's desk.
"It makes me realize, it opened my eyes, into just how big a story this horse got," Servis said Tuesday.
The story has more to be written. Smarty Jones has had a well-deserved break from serious training since the June 5 Belmont Stakes, in which he suffered the first loss of his career. But this Friday, Smarty Jones will return to the track at Philadelphia Park and begin training for a summer and fall campaign. Maybe by the time Smarty Jones is ready to race again, Servis and his wife, Sherry, will have recovered from writer's cramp.
"We're getting a grocery bag full of mail every day," said Servis. "Since the horse lost, the mail has doubled or tripled. We're getting stuff from Europe, from soldiers in Iraq. We were so busy, we never imagined he had touched so many people."
And now, a refreshed Servis said, "I'm ready to do it again."
Smarty Jones was hand-walked at Servis's Philadelphia Park barn for three days following the Belmont. Since then, Smarty Jones has walked around the shed row with his regular exercise rider, Pete Van Trump, on his back. All this is part of a schedule Servis devised even before the Belmont, but Smarty Jones has done so well in recent days that Servis has moved up the timetable of returning him to jogs, then gallops, on the racetrack.
"He came out of the Belmont really good," Servis said. "The next day he was tired, but the great thing about him is that he comes out of his races unbelievable."
Just how quickly Smarty Jones progresses in his training will determine his next start. The first possibility would be the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 8, but Servis said that race might come up too quickly.
"It's probably stretching it, but it's not out of the question. He'll have to show me he's bounced back fast," Servis said.
Regardless of whether Smarty Jones runs in the Haskell, he will definitely be pointed to the Grade 2, $750,000 Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park on Labor Day, Sept. 6. Not only is Philadelphia Park where Servis and owners Roy and Pat Chapman are based, but both Servis and the Chapmans want to reward Philadelphia Park for the way it has embraced the Smarty Jones phenomenon.
"That's the main reason. I can't tell you how great they've been," Servis said.
The main goal for Smarty Jones at the end of the year will be the Grade 1, $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30. Smarty Jones will have one race between the Pennsylvania Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic. It will be the Pegasus Handicap at the Meadowlands.
The date for the Pegasus has yet to be set. Servis acknowledged that the Meadowlands "wants to consult with me" about the scheduling to make it optimal for Smarty Jones. If it is the first weekend in October, that would give Smarty Jones nearly four weeks from the Pennsylvania Derby to the Pegasus, and a full four weeks between the Pegasus and the Breeders' Cup.
This schedule would mean that the Breeders' Cup Classic would mark Smarty Jones's first start against older horses. Servis at one time briefly considered Belmont Park's Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, which will be run Oct. 2, as a final Breeders' Cup prep, but decided the Pegasus - which is exclusively for 3-year-olds - was more suitable.
"I'm not afraid of running against older horses, but I want him to have the same momentum going into the Breeders' Cup that he did going into the Kentucky Derby," Servis said. "This is an easier route to build momentum and confidence. I mapped out with the Chapmans a plan that's the best way to get him to the Breeders' Cup."
The Breeders' Cup Classic will be Smarty Jones's final start of the year. Whether it is the final start of his career will be determined by the terms of Smarty Jones's syndication. The Chapmans were in Kentucky two weeks ago visiting with several breeding farms and a deal seemed imminent.