Smarty Jones Day at Parx Racing is scheduled for Sept. 2, Labor Day. There will be a special guest this year — Smarty Jones.
The 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner left his backstretch home in trainer John Servis’ barn at what was then called Philadelphia Park in August 2004. He went to stud in Kentucky, came back to two Pennsylvania farms, then to Kentucky again and, in late December, to Equistar Farm in Annville, Pa.
If all the details can be worked out, the plan is for Smarty Jones to parade sometime during the race card on the day named in his honor, which culminates with the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes. Smarty is about a two-hour van ride from Parx in Lebanon County.
The great horse and the race named for him will be part of a live television show that day (4:30 to 6 p.m.) on PHL17, which became the home of the weekly Let’s Go Racing Parx horse racing show (10 a.m. Saturdays) in January.
“I have wanted to bring him back to Parx from the beginning, I really have,” said Smarty’s owner, Pat Chapman. “John [Servis] was concerned that it would be too much for him, that he would get too excited; he’d be hard to handle. So we’ve given him a few years to grow up and get some of it out of his system.”
When she was asked about the possibility a few months ago by Bruce Casella, the producer of Let’s Go Racing, Chapman said she wanted Servis’ approval.
“I don’t need John’s permission. I want his approval,” she said. "I would not want to do anything that John would not think is right for the horse. I’m very excited about it for the fans. It’s not going to do anything for the breeders, but it will for the fans.”
Smarty’s return will be part of the start of the biggest September in the track’s history. There will be six other stakes on Labor Day.
Then, on Sept. 21, NBC will televise the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and $1 million Cotillion. It will be the first national television broadcast in the 45-year history of the racetrack. Since the Pa. Derby was moved off Labor Day to later in September and the Cotillion was placed on the same day, the race card has become one of the biggest in American racing during the fall and is a perfect lead-up to the Breeders’ Cup for 3-year-olds. That NBC is coming to televise just cements how far the event has come since the schedule changes.