LIVE ONCheri LaserWritten June 8, 2004
After Smarty Jones finished second at the Belmont Stakes on June 5, 2004, I must admit that Icried. In fact, anyone watching would have assumed some horrific personal disaster had befallenme. Please keep in mind that absolutely no link exists between
life and mine.
met the horse or anyone even remotely associated with him. In fact, the sport of thoroughbredracing only peaks my interest for one month each year, beginning with the Kentucky Derby inMay and ending with the Belmont in June. Yet there I was, brokenhearted because a three-year-old named Smarty Jones was beaten for the first time in his short racing life, while the hopes andcheers of fans from one coast to the other were trampled by an upshot horse named Birdstone.
“Just think how
must be feeling,” I
mused to myself, as another shredded Kleenex
landed in the wastebasket. “He’
s never lost a race. Maybe he was startled when that great brownblur of Birdstone-motion had the nerve to streak ahead of him just as the finish line was in sight.
That’s something he’s never experienced
No one’s ever been in
of Smarty at theend of a race. Maybe he
feeling sad, too,
let everyone down. And what aboutthose poor people in Philadelphia
? Or in all of America?
Wait a minute
What am I saying?
My reasonable inner voices were attempting to speak to me as I fought against the memory of more than two hundred bewildered and deflated faces atth
Smarty Party in the lobby bar when the race had ended.
You need to put this situationin perspective!
Yes, I certainly do. We
do, because we need to stop feeling so awful aboutthis disillusioning turn of events.Smarty Jones fed our collective spirit and imagination for an entire month because he
wasn’t even supposed to
in that race on June 5, or in the preceding Kentucky Derby orPreakness either. If not for the brilliance and compassion of his veterinarian when Smarty wastwo years old,
he wouldn’t have a right eye, or possibly even part of his head
, following ahorrific accident. A little more than a year ago, Smarty Jones was just lucky to be alive.But he seems to have been born with the pluck and resilience
that we all pray we’ll find
when we’ve been kicked
, or when
flattened. As a result, when he crossed those twofinish lines at the Derby and the Preakness, he carried jockey Stewart Elliott on his back, alongwith the passion of every human survivor and dreamer within reach of this horse
To be sure, Smarty’s
projected Triple Crown journey evoked visions of a polio victimwho ended up winning a marathon, or an author who lost the use of both arms in an accident andthen wrote a bestseller. But what about the polio victim who simply
the marathon, or thedisabled author who simply wrote a
Or the miracle horse who came in second … by anose … hair.
How astonishing are
each of us like to believe
the gumption to celebrate something less than first, or top, or most? Perhaps someof us are trying to do precisely such a thing at this very moment.For those
—and for everyone still reeling from the Belmont’s unimaginable
I say that Smarty Jones remains the shining example to follow. Not only is heextraordinary, but he remains
a very young horse who’s lost only one of his
nine lifetime races todate. A world of possibilities still awaits him.Yes, the Triple Crown would have been fun. At the end of his career, though, he
look back upon that arbitrary grouping of three races and see a blip that won’t matter very