Someday Farm's Smarty Jones left his stall on the Oaklawn Park backstretch and arrived at beautiful Keeneland Racecourse Tuesday to begin his preparations for America's most famous race, the Kentucky Derby, which is set for May 1 at Churchill Downs.
Trainer John Servis chose Keeneland as his Derby base because of the massive construction project currently underway at Churchill Downs, which is about 100 miles west of Keeneland in Louisville.
"With the uncertain training hours at Churchill I just decided it would be better if we went to Keeneland," said Servis.
Accompanying Smarty Jones to his new home were assistant Bill Foster, groom Mario Arriago and exercise rider Pete Vantrump.
Servis found time to squeeze in a short trip back to Bensalem, Pa. on Monday and Tuesday to not only see his family but the 35-horse contingent he left behind when he shipped 'Smarty' and 13 runners to Oaklawn in mid-January.
He was scheduled to rejoin his celebrity colt and entourage at Keeneland yesterday.
'SMARTY' PARTY: Officials of Oaklawn Park announced yesterday that they are throwing a gala "Smarty Graduation Day Party" for its simulcast fans on Kentucky Derby day.
Now that Smarty Jones has completed the first two requirements (winning the Rebel and Arkansas Derby) for the $5 million Centennial Bonus offered by Oaklawn president Charles J. Cella, his race in the Derby at Churchill Downs will net him $5 million should he win.
Oaklawn is calling this "the biggest Derby Day Party ever."
"Arkansas loves Smarty Jones," said media director and simulcast host, Terry Wallace. "And we want the world to see what genuine enthusiasm and love of the sport of racing and of Smarty Jones is all about. We'll have fun and prizes throughout the day and hope to make enough noise that they hear us all around the country."
"Smarty has graduated from the enhanced 3-year-old program here at Oaklawn now to the national scene," said Wallace. "And we want to have a graduation party, with 'graduation gifts' and 'scholarship prizes' to those 'Smarties' who rooted him home to his three straight wins at Oaklawn."
TOUCHING GREATNESS: Had it not been for the immediate intervention by respected Philadelphia Park veterinarian Dan Hanf, Smarty Jones might not have become the most widely talked-about Derby contender in the country today.
Last spring, on the morning that Smarty Jones reared up in the starting gate and cracked his head on the iron bar that runs across the top, smashing bones around his eye and his nasal cavity, Hanf was subbing for trainer John Servis' regular veterinarian, who was on vacation.
He got the call to report to Barn 12 for an emergency.
"When I got there he was bleeding profusely from his left nostril, and my first course of action was to get the bleeding under control," said Hanf. "There was also swelling near his left eye and forehead, and as the swelling increased I determined there was a fracture because there was air between the skull and his skin."
Hanf treated the colt with DMSO (a drug which works as an anti-infammatory), plus Lasix, Bute and banamine (pain medication). By the end of the day, he could barely see out of the eye, and by the next morning, it was worse.
"It was nothing like I'd ever seen before," he said. "The swelling was incredible. That's when I made arrangements for him to go to the N.J. Equine Clinic (in Clarksburg) for their help."
One thing Hanf remembers is Smarty Jones' demeanor throughout the entire episode.
"The horse never seemed like anything bothered him," said Hanf. "He was acting normally, trying to eat, while his eye and the side of his face was so enlarged."
Hanf, of course, is proud of the accomplishments of his patient, who is a perfect six-for-six after winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby last Saturday.
"I touched greatness, even though I didn't know it then," said Hanf.