Okay, a potential stud, according to Thoroughbred Times.com. Regardless, Smarty Jones got Laurel to do some things I never believed I’d see her do. Like, ask “Where is the sports page?” this past week and then actually read the section that heretofore had as much interest to her as the classifieds. Also, sit down in front in the TV this afternoon and watch a sporting event, the Belmont Stakes.
Of course, today there is no joy in Hinesville, for Smarty Jones pooped out on the backstretch. But we enjoyed our brief excursion into the land of horseracing, which probably was stimulated by our viewing of “Seabiscuit” not long ago. There are many similarities between Seabiscuit and Smarty Jones. Both horses overcame serious injuries, and the jockeys who rode them overcame serious personal problems.
It probably will be a long time before we watch another horse race. However, I did better realize today why the sport holds such an attraction for so many people. It is elegant. It has an old world charm, what with the buglers dressed in red, much of the (upper class) crowd elegantly attired, the stately deliberateness of the horses being led out to the track, where the favorite is greeted with huge applause and countless “Smarty Jones” signs that, apparently, the holders expect the horse to read.
It was refreshing to watch a big-money sporting event in which the winners and losers depart the playing field with such detached aplomb. No playing to the cameras, no “I won!” flaunting or taunting. I would expect this from the horses, but the jockeys and the owners were equally gracious. The jockey who beat Smarty Jones said that he was a friend of Smarty Jones’ jockey, and almost apologized for dashing the Triple Crown dream. “I had to ride to win,” I remember him saying. “That’s my job.” But you could tell that his victory was bittersweet.
Horses seem to race for the fun of it. Many (or most) of the owners are already so rich, probably this applies to them too. Yes, races are taken seriously. But right after the race Smarty Jones’ people didn’t look nearly as disturbed as one might expect, given the $10 million or so hit to the horse’s value caused by a single length loss in the Belmont. His jockey told the interviewer there wasn’t anything he would have done differently. “We just got beat,” he said. “That’s horse racing.”
I thought the reporter who rode up to Smarty Jones after the race, microphone in hand and antennae-equipped helmet on her head, looked way cool. That has to be a plum job, interviewing jockeys right on the track, sitting on a great-looking horse. I wouldn’t have the first idea what to ask (“Um, did you ever think you might fall off?”), but she could really talk horse-racing talk, which I guess is to be expected.