07/03/2013 2:46PM

Hot Sire: Smarty Jones back in the limelight with first Grade 1 winner

Dual classic winner and champion Smarty Jones was represented by his first U.S. Grade 1 winner, as Centralintelligence won the Triple Bend Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.

The result of last week’s Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park brought satisfaction to astute handicappers who selected 8-1 shot Centralinteligence and watched the 5-year-old gelding pull away to a 3 1/2-length victory.

It did not take long, however, for a secondary wave of enthusiasm to rise following Centralinteligence’s first stakes win, as remarks disseminated throughout social media celebrating the first Grade 1 winner for 2004 champion and dual classic winner Smarty Jones.

Centralinteligence, a hard-trying West Coast-based runner with some nice performances in the allowance ranks during 2011 and early 2012, missed almost a year of racing due to knee chips following a sixth-place finish in last year’s Triple Bend. The gelding returned with a fourth-place finish in a five-furlong stakes at Hollywood in mid-May, then improved to second behind Comma to the Top in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at six furlongs May 27.

Stretched out again to seven furlongs in the Triple Bend, Centralinteligence powered past pacesetter Comma to the Top in midstretch and won going away in 1:21.57, posting a flashy 108 Beyer Speed Figure.

It is not surprising to see a wellspring of support for Smarty Jones, who remains a very popular horse among racing fans. Superior horses emerge each year, and some remain at top form long enough to draw interest and even affection from casual fans and the general public, but Smarty Jones stirred something more. His achievements in the spring of 2004, and the storylines behind his connections, place the Pennsylvania-bred son of Elusive Quality in the company of Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Barbaro, and Funny Cide as the most popular North American racehorses of the young century.

Centralinteligence was bred by Patricia Chapman, who, along with her late husband, Roy, owned and bred Smarty Jones at their Someday Farm in New Hope, Pa. Smarty Jones’s rise from Philadelphia Park (now Parx Racing) and his dominance in Oaklawn’s prep races for the Chapmans and trainer John Servis in the spring of 2004 gave him an underdog aura that built on the success of his 2003 predecessor, Funny Cide, and the popularity of the Hollywood movie “Seabiscuit,” released in the previous summer of 2003.

Smarty Jones’s commanding win in the Kentucky Derby and his thorough demolition of the Preakness field fueled a dizzying media whirlwind and set the stage for a record crowd at Belmont Park on June 4, 2004. The events of that day created a lasting memory for those in attendance when the crowd’s ear-shattering roar as the horse turned for home was silenced in an instant after the rallying Birdstone swept to the lead inside the final sixteenth.

Smarty Jones never raced again after his only defeat, retiring in August after veterinarians diagnosed chronic bruising in his ankle joints. It can be argued that the amount of public interest in horse racing that swelled during the weeks between the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Belmont has not been matched since.

Syndicated for a reported $39 million, and with the Chapmans retaining majority ownership, Smarty Jones began his stud career in 2005 at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky. Smarty Jones’s pedigree played a role in his outsider status; his sire, Grade 3 winner Elusive Quality, by Gone West, was well regarded at the time but hardly elite, and his dam, the Smile mare I’ll Get Along, was a multiple stakes winner on the Mid-Atlantic circuit who was early in her broodmare career.

Smarty Jones (aided by a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn owner Charles Cella) made Elusive Quality the leading North American sire by earnings in 2004, and the stallion has gone on to enjoy international success, being represented by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass, top European filly Elusive Kate, Grade 1 winner Quality Road, and Australian champion Sepoy, to mention a few.

A lot of factors come into play in the formation of a successful stud career, but the bottom line, as with everything in athletics, comes down to performance, and it is safe to say that Smarty Jones’s initial foals did not meet expectations when they hit the racetrack. He only had two Grade 3 or Group 3 winners – Gilded Gem and Keiai Gebera, the latter in Japan – from his 2006 crop, although Be Smart did finish second in the 2008 Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland.

His second crop included Backtalk, the winner of the Grade 2 Sanford and Grade 3 Bashford Manor as a 2-year-old in 2009 and a colt who held a lot of promise heading into his 3-year-old season. Backtalk did not build on that success, although he remained a useful runner through his last start in 2011. He now stands at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla.

Centralinteligence is from Smarty Jones’s third crop, which includes solid Grade 3 winner Rogue Romance and Australian-bred Better Life, a dual champion in Singapore. Following the 2010 breeding season, Smarty Jones returned to his native state and stands for a fee of $7,500 at Northview Pennsylvania, a division of Northview Stallion Station, while shuttling to Uruguay.

Centralinteligence’s dam, the unraced Seattle Slew mare Shootforthestars, has produced seven other winners, including the Grade 2-placed General Consensus, the stakes-placed Golden Rainbow, and My Elusive Star. Shootforthestars is out of the Grade 3 winner and Grade 1-placed Lotta Dancing, by Alydar, who also has produced Super Derby winner and sire Fantasticat.

Given Centralinteligence’s improvement since his return to racing for trainer Ron Ellis this spring, the gelding has a solid chance to add to both his own résumé and that of his sire in the months ahead.