06/02/2004 11:00PM

Mapping out the next phase


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Smarty Jones's owners are committed to racing him at 4 and making him available for his fans to see after he retires to stud in Kentucky.

Those are two important stipulations Roy and Pat Chapman are making as they consider offers for the Triple Crown hopeful's breeding rights, according to George Isaacs, who is handling negotiations for the Chapmans. Isaacs said the couple plans to retain 50 percent of their Elusive Quality colt, and the contenders for the rest include "a who's who of Kentucky farms," as Isaacs put it.

Bloodstock market insiders have put the colt's value at between $20 million and $30 million.

In recent years, farms that have bought such expensive young horses have used large books of mares and Southern Hemisphere shuttling to help recoup the purchase price faster. The Chapmans, though, have indicated that they want Smarty Jones handled in a more traditional way.

"There are three criteria the Chapmans expressed to me before we started talking to the very interested participants from Kentucky," said Isaacs, who also is general manager for Arthur Appleton's Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla., where Smarty Jones was broken. "One, they didn't want the horse to be overbred. Two, they want to make sure the farm he stands at, especially if he wins the Triple Crown, has a very open-arms visitor policy so the general public has access to see him. Three, if the horse continues to run well at the highest level of competition, he will run at 4."

The Chapmans, he added, are "absolutely" opposed to shuttling Smarty Jones to the Southern Hemisphere.

"Philosophically, we want to find the right fit for the Chapmans and Smarty Jones," Isaacs said.

Isaacs said the negotiation process will begin in earnest after the June 5 Belmont Stakes, and a deal likely will be completed in June. "There's no timetable, but I know it would be a great relief to the Chapmans to find the right future home for Smarty Jones and get that off their plate, so to speak," Isaacs said. "This is akin to a long-term marriage, so we have to make sure it's a good fit."

Isaacs has been involved in the Smarty Jones story almost from its beginning. The colt arrived at Bridlewood in January 2002 and left as a 2-year-old in July 2003.

"This is kind of a dream come true for me," Isaacs said of his current assignment to negotiate the stallion deal. "I feel humble that they asked me to represent them and take such a responsibility."

She knew him when

Debbie Given, who attended Smarty Jones's birth in Pennsylvania in 2001, will be at the Smarty Party at Belmont on June 5. Given managed the Chapmans' Someday Farm near New Hope, Pa., for nine years until the couple sold the property in late 2001.

"I'd still be there if they hadn't sold the farm," said Given, 49.

Given now works at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, one of the nation's leading equine hospitals. She has remained close to the Chapmans, though, and when Roy Chapman called her last year to tell her the tough-minded colt she remembered was turning out to be something special, Given listened.

"After his second race, Mr. Chapman called me and said he'd been afraid to call me before because he didn't want to jinx it," Given said. "There was some mention of the Kentucky Derby, but he didn't want to say it too loud, because he didn't want to jinx it."

The Chapmans made arrangements for Given to attend the Derby and the Preakness, and she will travel from her home in Fair Hill, Md., for the Belmont as well.