Barbaro, Seabicuit, and Smarty Jones Part II
Laura Hillenbrand has written a brilliant book about horse racing from the perspective of one incredible animal in a time of depression in America. She begins her story like this:
â€œIn 1938, near the end of a decade of monumental turmoil, the yearâ€™s number-one newsmaker was not Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Hitler, or Mussolini. It wasnâ€™t Pope Pius XI, nor was it Lou Gerhig, Howard Hughes, or Clark Gable. The subject of the most newspaper column inches in 1938 wasnâ€™t even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse named Seabiscuit. And so began Hillanbrandâ€™s tale of the saga of Seabiscuit, the racehorse that captured the imagination of the nation. He was especially adored by those who were having a tough go in the depression. He was one of them and he gave them hope. Some seventy years later another small horse caught the nations attention again.
Roy Chapman made his fortune with a string of automobile agencies around Philadelphia. He and his wife Pat bought a small horse operation outside of Philadelphia called Someday Farms. They had both come to love horses and loved to ride. Over the years they raised a number of pretty good horses, but none good enough to enter any of the national races like the Kentucky Derby.
Royâ€™s trainer, Bob Carmac, came to him one day with a suggestion. â€œLetâ€™s breed our little filly Iâ€™ll Get Along with Elusive Quality and see what we get. I have a hunch that this might produce something special. Iâ€™ll Get Along is a good sprinter, and Elusive Quality good from 3/16th to a mile. Might be a good combination of speed and stamina.”
Roy had been hesitant because of failing health. A lifetime smoker he was quite ill with emphysema, getting around with a motorized wheelchair connected to an oxygen bottle. But he loved horses and he trusted his friend Bob Carmac. The colt was foaled on February 28th, 2001. Pat wanted to name the colt after her mother, but they both agreed it wouldnâ€™t be proper to name him Mildred, so they compromised. Mildred Jones was quite a talker, and a smart aleck to boot, and so she had been nicknamed Smarty, and so they named their horse Smarty Jones after Patâ€™s mother.
But then tragedy struck. Bob Carmac and his wife had taken in their son-in-law, Wade Russell, a troubled young man who Bob thought he could help. But soon after Bob discovered that Wade and been stealing from them in a check forgery scheme. Bob sued Wade for the $70,000 he had stolen from them. Wade, in a rage, broke into their house in the middle of the night and shot and killed both Bob and his wife as they slept in their beds.
Roy was devastated. He decided that was all he could take, so he told Pat, â€œletâ€™s get out of the horse business, and move to Florida and just live out our lives in peace. I just donâ€™t have the stomach for it any more.” Pat agreed. So they put the 30 horses they had for sale, but a short time later they received a call from their farm manager. â€œChappie, thereâ€™s a couple of horses down here you might want to keep. I think they may be special.” One of the two horses was Smarty Jones. It was Pat who persuaded Chapman to keep Smarty. â€œThere was something about the look in his eyes,” she said, â€œand I told Chappie, letâ€™s keep him.” He was to give them the ride of their lives.
Chappie shipped his two horses to Florida to be trained to race. They hadn’t been there two weeks when the manager called Chappie and told him that one of his horses, the little one, had bullet-like speed, and he had broken every record they had for 1/8 of a mile, 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, and for one mile. “Chappie, I think this one is really special. He’s not only the fastest horse we’ve ever trained, but when asked he responds with incredible acceleration.” This left Chappie with another problem to solve. With Bob Carmac his former trainer now gone he needed to find someone to take over Smarty Jones’ training when he was received back in Philadelphia. He found a young trainer at Philadelphia Park Race Track who was highly thought of. When Chappie approached John Servis with a proposal to train Smarty Jones , Servis was thrilled with the opportunity. Servis had gone through some tough times when he was starting out. “When I left college I went to work for Scotty Schulhofer at Monmouth. I was living in a room at the end of the barn. I wasn’t making much money. I’d go to the grocery store once a week to stock up on peanut butter and jelly. But those are the sacrifices you make in order to do what you love to do. I think this gives everyone hope.” A small brown horse was about to change Servis’ luck and make him a nationally known figure in horse racing.