The story did not get much media attention, so in case you missed it, Roy Chapman, the
owner of Smarty Jones, ripped Jerry Bailey last Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Chapman, his wife Pat, and trainer John Servis were at Churchill to formally accept the
Kentucky Derby trophy, an obviously festive event.
Instead Chappy took the occasion to lay the lumber on Bailey for Jerry"s Belmont performance
I"ve been in this game a while, and I don"t ever recall seeing or hearing the owner of a beaten
horse blame a rival jockey for the defeat.
According to my sources, this is what Chappy told the cameras and microphones:
"I never saw two riders (obviously Bailey and Solis) ride so hard to lose a race in my life. They just
were out for one thing: making sure Smarty didn"t win.
"It was very obvious what happened. Those riders were not out to win the race. They were out to
ruin the race. I"ve met an awful lot of people who said the same thing. Every jockey I"ve ever
hired, I hired to win a race.
"(Bailey and Solis) were not out to win the race."
And what makes it more interesting is that Bailey was at Churchill that day to ride Peace Rules in the
Stephen Foster, so it was a simple thing for the media to ask him for a response to Chapman"s charges.
"I"m sorry that Mr. Chapman feels that way. All I can say is that I said going into the race that Eddington
trained like that. We felt like if my horse goes 12s (12-second furlongs), he had a chance. That"s what we
were trying to do.
"I"ve been asked if I tried to get Smarty Jones beat. If I was, I would"ve left the gate trying to beat him. I"m
just tired of taking the blame for something I didn"t do."
Chapman was not at all convinced with Bailey"s sincerity.
"How often do you use a stick on the backside?," he asked Bailey.
"I tapped my horse on the shoulder," Bailey said. "He"s a lazy horse."
If you want my opinion, Chapman"s right. The more I think about it, the more I believe that Bailey and
Solis went out of their way to get Smarty beat.
After Rock Hard Ten spit the bit halfway down the backside, Solis kept pumping on the obviously tired
animal, and could have done some serious damage to him. Trainer Ormann ripped Solis after the race.
Too bad that Gary Stevens didn"t come back from Europe to ride Rock Hard Ten. I doubt very much that
he would have used the same tactics. And you can only wonder how Pat Valenzuela (Ormann"s next choice)
would have ridden the horse.
As for Bailey, I"ll repeat what I said here last week. I"ve been watching Bailey ride for 20 years, and I had
never before seen him make the suicidal four-wide backside move that he made in the Belmont.
The bottm line is that Belmont Stakes Day, rightly hailed beforehand as the greatest day in modern
American racing, turned into a disaster -- a disaster for the American public, which was geared to make
the popular Smarty Jones the first Triple Crown winner in 26 years; a disaster for the bettors, who
wagered millions on Smarty Jones -- and Eddington and Rock Hard, whom, as the race was run, never
had a chance, and, maybe most significantly -- a disaster for the reputations of superstars Jerry Bailey
and Alex Solis.
Despite all his accomplishments in a brilliant riding career, Bailey will always be remembered as the
guy who took down Smarty Jones.
As a footnote, Bailey for years has been a regular guest on WFAN sports talk radio in New York, so it was
no surprise that afternoon host Mike Francesa took Bailey"s side, and, in fact, put Jerry on the air to
make his case.
At the same time, Francesa spent hours bashing Stewart Elliott. Francesa kept saying that Elliott should
have let Eddington go, and then come back and get him.
This may be the stupidest racing comment I"ve ever heard...and Phil Mushnick, the sports-media
columnist for the New York Post, shares my view.
Mushnick wrote yesterday:
"In bashing Stewart Elliott for a bad ride, Francesa said Elliott should have just let them
(Rock Hard Ten and Eddington) go, he seemed to think that 3-year-old horses are like Ferraris, and jockeys
are like race car drivers...that, together, they can go real fast, brake, then go real fast again."
P.S.: Is is not amazing that I just wrote an entire piece off the Belmont Stakes without once mentioning
In case you are thinking that a rematch between Smarty Jones and Birdstone (there, I said it), is in the
immediate future, forget about it. There is what I would call a 50-50 chance that Smarty Jones will make
the Haskell at Monmouth, there is zero chance that Birdstone will.
Going back to the days of Strike the Gold, trainer Zito is anti-Monmouth Park. He has always believed
stretch-runners are at a disadvantage over Monmouth"s tight turns and short stretch. Moreover, New Yorker
Zito clearly will run his horse in the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga, where he is stabled.
Meanwhile, New Jersey racing is prepared to move mountains to get Smarty to race in the Garden State.
If Smarty does not make the Haskell,
Jersey will go so far as to move the dates of the Pegasus and/or the Meadowlands Cup to attract Smarty.
If Smarty as expected goes in the Pennysylvania Derby Sept. 6 at Philadelphia Park, Monmouth has offered
to move the Pegasus -- which has always been run in October at The Meadowlands -- to Sept. 26, closing
day at Monmouth, to position it as a perfect prep for the Breeders" Cup.
You will be reading and hearing often in the next few weeks similar proposals to Get Smarty. And,
obviously, money will be no object.
It"s interesting. Despite his stunning Belmont defeat, Smarty is as popular as ever.
One final thought:
The NTRA is to be commended for getting more racing on TV, but the agency will have to do a better
selling job. The rating for last Saturday"s 90-minute Pick Four program on ESPN was 0.3.
That"s hockey country.