One of Philly’s greatest horses -- in classic city sports fashion -- came up short 10 years ago Thursday.
It was June 5, 2004 when Smarty Jones, the Chestnut colt born in Chester County and owned by area car dealership owners Roy and Patty Chapman, took the starting gate at the Belmont Stakes with a chance to make sports history by becoming the first horse to win racing’s Triple Crown in decades.
A record crowd of more than 120,000 racing fans packed into Belmont Park in hopes of seeing history.
They got their wish for most of the 1-1/2 mile course as fans hooted and cheered watching on television as undefeated Smarty Jones -- the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes -- ran towards the homestretch with a length-and-a-half lead.
But, instead, they experienced a letdown that Philadelphia sports fans have become all too accustomed to as Smarty Jones faded down the home stretch of the longest race in the Triple Crown – being caught by 36:1 long shot Birdstone with only a handful of gallops left to go.
The letdown sent a deflating feeling throughout the Delaware Valley. It also made the area horse racing crazy as later Philly horses like Afleet Alex and Barbaro also came up short as they ran for the Triple Crown.
Ten years after his only loss, Smarty Jones remains out to stud -- some reports put his syndication fee upwards of $39 million. Maybe one day one of the great horse’s offspring will finally win the crown Smarty Jones couldn’t.