In a thirty-day period from the end of June to the close of July, Northview’s Pennsylvania-based Smarty Jones scaled new heights: he got his first Grade 1 winner, first international Derby winner, and first Canadian Graded stakes winner. Had these runners been members of his first few crops, Smarty might still be at stud at Three Chimneys, where the Pennsylvania-bred Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero entered stud to much fanfare and a $100,000 fee in 2005 in a deal valued on paper at $39 million for his homebreeders, Pat and Roy Chapman.
After six years in the Bluegrass State encompassing the period of the great economic collapse of 2008, Smarty-mania waned without a “big horse” to carry the freight of the massive syndication. When the markets crashed, Japanese breeders did come calling because of Smarty’s first-crop Japanese-bred and-raced Grade 3 winner Keiai Gerbera, a filly with earnings of nearly $2.5 million. A sale to Japan could have been a nice financial deal in tough times. But through the maneuvering of his majority owner, Pat Chapman, who left money on the table because she didn’t want to see the horse leave the US for good, the chestnut son of Elusive Quality and I’ll Get Along, by Smile, found himself back home in familiar and friendly environs. It’s fitting, then, that Pat Chapman is the breeder of record of the Smarty Jones gelding Centralinteligence, winner of the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap on June 29th at Betfair Hollywood Park, and it’s equally emblematic that he was foaled in the dark days of 2008 (the deadly fourth year at stud, too) but has signalled his sire’s renaissance with a win at the highest level.
When a horse leaves a premier Kentucky facility for a regional market, as Smarty did for the 2011 breeding season, the writing is usually on the wall. But this doesn’t appear to be the case in this instance. Centralinteligence’s success only adds to a growing resume of quiet but notable winners in Japan, Europe, Korea, Singapore, Panama, Canada, and Puerto Rico, as well as here, for Smarty, and at the moment he’s the second-leading sire on the General Sire List in Pennsylvania, very much poised with an excellent chance to stand atop it by year’s end. To date he is the sire of 18 black-type winners, many of them at the Graded level.
Aside from Centralinteligence, the first-time Graded Stakes winner Nikkis Smartypants, a Canadian-bred foal of 2009, is an exciting filly on the scene. She won the Grade 3 Royal North Stakes at Woodbine on July 28th and is now four for six. Nikkis Smartypants, Centralinteligence, and Keiai Gerbera (Jpn) are quality sprinters for Smarty Jones, but together they illustrate his versatility as a sire as well. Centralintelligence won his Grade 1 race on the all-weather, Nikkis Smartypants won her Grade 3 race on turf, and the Japanese filly won her only two Grade 3 races on dirt in a country where turf racing is supreme.
Better Life (Aus)
The Smarty Joneses show a lot of speed and turf/all-weather ability, and occasionally they can stay—like he did—10 furlongs and up. Australian-bred mare Better Life (Aus), who won the Singapore Derby (a race for 4-year-olds) on turf at 2000 meters (about 10 furlongs) on July 14 at Kranji, is one of them. A winner of eight races from 14 starts and $1.6 million, Better Life was a marquee racer in Asia. She has since been retired and is due to be bred to Australian first-season sire sensation Sebring.
Aussie breeder and social media force Su-Ann Khaw travelled to Singapore for the Derby and said, “Consistent throughout her career, Better Life entered the Singapore Derby a class above the four-year-olds in the race. Better’s Life’s first G1 win in the Kranji Mile exuded class when she beat odd-on favorite Super Easy.”
The Singapore races that Better Life won qualify for international black type, by the way. “The quality of horses in Singapore continues to improve every year,” Su-Ann Khaw said. “For example, the ex-French trained Tropaios, raced by the China Horse Club, was an interesting addition to the Derby.” A stakes winner in France, Tropaios was third in the Singapore Derby and franked the international class of the race.
[Editor’s note: This post began as an article for the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, but crossed wires meant it didn’t make it into the magazine. A second post to it will examine the very interesting pedigree of Better Life.]