06/15/2011 3:59PM

Canterbury: Late-bloomer Humble Smarty still getting better

Canterbury Park
Humble Smarty sets a track record in the Honor the Hero Stakes.

Humble Smarty is coming off a track-record performance at Canterbury Park and may make his next start in a six-figure stakes. Not bad for a horse who was orphaned at birth and slow to get the hang of the racing game.

In 2004, his dam, Humble Danzig, died during foaling and Humble Smarty was unable to stand and nurse. His trainer, Brett Creighton, was present at the foaling while working for owner/breeder James Danaher and hand-nursed him until he could take his milk from a bucket.

“I was his mother, really” Creighton said.

When Danaher retired from racing in 2007 he told Creighton to keep the horses he wanted and sell off the rest. There was no question the promising adopted gelding would be kept.

“I would take him out to the wheat field in the center of the training track so he could play. I’d lie down and he would come right on over and lay down next to me,” Creighton recalled. “Not having a mother made him really immature and it took him a while to get it together.”

After winning just 2 of his first 18 career starts, the now 7-year old gelding has put it all together, winning or placing in 12 of 13 races since October 2009. He won the 2010 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit and has finished second in the Shot of Gold Stakes at Canterbury and Nodouble Breeders Stakes for Arkansas-breds at Oaklawn. In all, Humble Smarty has won 14 of 51 starts and earned close to $300,000.

Humble Smarty started 2011 at Oaklawn with a sixth-place finish in a $75,000 optional claimer before bouncing back to set a track record for five furlongs while winning Canterbury’s off-the-turf Honor the Hero Stakes on Memorial Day in 56.10 seconds.

“You can throw that Oaklawn race out,” Creighton said. “He wasn’t sent to the front where he likes to be and I was just happy he came back from it okay.

“I’m leaning toward the $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap on June 24 for his next race. It’s a big step but he’s earned the chance.”