02/17/2006 1:00AM

Chapman, Smarty Jones owner, dies


Roy Chapman, who bred and campaigned the immensely popular champion Smarty Jones with his wife, Pat, died Friday at his home in Doylestown, Pa. Chapman, 79, died of complications associated with emphysema.

Roy and Pat Chapman had been at their second home in Florida but returned to Pennsylvania at Roy Chapman's request.

"He was as comfortable as he could be, and he died very peacefully," Pat Chapman said.

The Chapmans were longtime Thoroughbred breeders with a small operation, Someday Farm, that campaigned horses primarily in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic states. They had enjoyed success before, including a win in the prestigious Maryland Hunt Cup by their steeplechaser Uncle Merlin, but nothing could have prepared the couple for Smarty Jones.

The Chapmans almost got out of racing altogether in 2001, the year Smarty Jones was foaled, when their trainer, Bob Camac, was murdered by his stepson. That tragedy and Roy Chapman's declining health prompted the couple to sell off much of their bloodstock, including Smarty Jones's dam, I'll Get Along. But they kept Smarty Jones, an Elusive Quality colt who went on to win the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Billed as a blue-collar runner who had overcome a nearly fatal injury in a starting-gate mishap, Smarty Jones attracted public affection. He paid that back by becoming the first undefeated Kentucky Derby winner since Seattle Slew. With his Preakness win by a record 11 1/2 lengths, he was 8 for 8. He lost only one race, falling to Birdstone in the Belmont, his last start.

"I feel privileged to be able to know Mr. Chapman, and, obviously, to train Smarty for him," trainer John Servis said Friday. "It was a pleasure to train for him. The thing that stood out through the whole Smarty Jones time was that he really stood back and let me do my thing. To stand back and put the confidence in me that they did is something I'll never forget."

The Chapmans negotiated a stud deal worth $39 million, and the horse now stands at Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky.

"I really enjoyed him," Robert Clay, owner of Three Chimneys, said of Chapman. "He was sort of a character. He was a tough negotiator, but he was a kind-hearted guy under all that gruffness. The good news is, he got to see his horse win the Derby and see his first foals born."

Chapman, who also owned several automobile dealerships under the Chapman Auto Group banner, is survived by sons Michael and Randy and daughter Donna. Funeral arrangements were pending on Friday afternoon.