08/01/2004 11:00PM

Smarty Jones retired to stud

Smarty Jones's Kentucky Derby victory and failed Triple Crown bid captivated the nation.

Turn out the lights, the Smarty party's over.

Smarty Jones, whose meteoric rise this spring in the 3-year-old division, subsequent Kentucky Derby victory, and bid for the Triple Crown made him the most popular horse in the sport, was retired on Monday, after a racing career that encompassed just seven months and nine races.

has chronic bruising in all four fetlock, or ankle, joints. According to Dr. Larry Bramlage, who consulted on the case, "Horses come back from this injury all the time." But several months of rest are needed, and by then the 2005 breeding season would have begun. Faced with the economic pressures of a $39 million syndication, owners Pat and Roy Chapman - along with Robert Clay, owner of Three Chimneys Farm, where Smarty Jones will stand at stud - decided to retire the colt.

"It's a very difficult decision," Pat Chapman said in a conference call. "But if anything else happened, it would break our hearts."

The Chapmans bred Smarty Jones at their Someday Farm in Pennsylvania.

"I'm sick over it, but I think we made the right decision," Roy Chapman said.

Clay acknowledged that economics played a part in the decision. Although a stud value has yet to be set for Smarty Jones, if he stands for a fee of $75,000 and is bred to 100 mares per year, he would earn $7.5 million annually, far more than he could earn on the racetrack, and with less risk. Smarty Jones won 8 of 9 starts and earned $7,613,155.

A stud fee will be set "within 30 days," Clay said.

"There's no hiding that economic decisions played a factor," Clay said. "The horse needs a minimum of three months' rest. Then there's the option of whether to race at 4 or not." If Smarty Jones did not progress satisfactorily in his training early next year, and was then retired, "then we've missed the breeding season," Clay said.

Smarty Jones was taken out of training last week with what was described as a bruised front foot. According to trainer John Servis, Smarty Jones was subsequently taken to the Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in

New Jersey for further examination. A nuclear scan conducted Thursday revealed the bruising to the bottom of the cannon bones. Bramlage called the fetlock joint the "shock absorber for a horse."

Servis contacted Clay on Friday morning with the results. He and the Chapmans consulted several veterinarians over the weekend before making their decision on Monday.

"The risks are minor," Bramlage said. "We bring horses back from this injury all the time. This is accumulated inflammation. He has to have a break to catch up with the wear and tear.

"It's sort of like spraining an ankle," Bramlage said. "The more you keep moving, the faster it resolves. If you put him in a field, it would resolve in short order. There are no structural problems on the radiographs. His chances for a full recovery are excellent.

"He needs a break, which entails putting him in a field. He has bone bruises in all four cannon bones. He has deep bone bruises that he needs to get over."

Bramlage echoed Clay's contention that if Smarty Jones did not come back as well as he left, "you've already committed to [missing] the breeding season."

Smarty Jones will take up residence in the Three Chimneys Farm stall that had been occupied by Seattle Slew. At Three Chimneys, Smarty Jones will join two other classic winners, Point Given and Silver Charm. He is expected to be sent there within a month.

"We plan on being very open and fan-friendly regarding visitation in years to come," Clay said.

Before heading to stud in Kentucky, Smarty Jones is expected to make at least one public appearance. Servis said Monmouth Park has contacted him about parading Smarty Jones this Sunday, the day of the Haskell Invitational. Philadelphia Park, where Smarty Jones was based, also would like the colt to parade there.

Servis wanted to get Smarty Jones back to the races this fall. He gave the colt a break after his lone career loss, in the Belmont Stakes, with the hope of a fall campaign whose main goal was the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park.

"We gave him time off," Servis said. "He didn't come back the way we hoped. It's been a tough week for me."

In addition to Smarty Jones's retirement, Servis was dealing with the death of his godson, David Reid. The son of noted bloodstock agent Mark Reid, David Reid drowned 1 1/2 weeks ago. He was 20.

Smarty Jones, a son of Elusive Quality and the Smile mare I'll Get Along, began his racing career Nov. 9, 2003, with a victory against maidens at Philadelphia Park. He won his next seven starts, including the Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes, all with jockey Stewart Elliott aboard. His victory in the Kentucky Derby combined with earlier victories in the Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park earned him a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn Park.

Smarty Jones was in line for another $5 million bonus, and a shot at immortality, in the June 5 Belmont Stakes. He went into the Belmont with a perfect 8-for-8 record. He was seeking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, and his quest brought a record crowd of 120,139 to Belmont Park.

But his bid for the Triple Crown sweep came up short. Smarty Jones tired in the final furlong and finished second to Birdstone in what turned out to be his career finale.