The fans also experienced no small bit of nostalgia on Smarty Jones Day, wearing their old Smarty shirts and watching replays of all those memorable wins in 2004. What they did not experience was the unveiling of the promised Smarty Jones statue. According to track officials, there were "transportation issues." It is expected the statue will arrive sometime this month, perhaps in time for the Pennsylvania Derby.
Smarty's owner (Pat Chapman), trainer (John Servis) and jockey (Stewart Elliott) were all there. Servis started a few horses. Elliott rode a few. And Chapman presented the trophy to the winner of the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes.
That was Thiskyhasnolimit, a 3-year-old that exploded in the stretch at 8-1 and won by 2 lengths, running the mile-and-70 yards in 1:40.49. Steve Asmussen, the man who has overseen the Horse of the Year the last 3 years and annually wins more races than any trainer in America, trains the colt. In 2010, Asmussen has sent 14 horses to Parx and won with 11 of them.
The day's biggest winner was jockey Jamie Theriot. He won that $15,000 claimer with On The Level. He won the $250,000 Turf Monster with the amazing Chamberlain Bridge. And he won the Smarty on Thiskyhasnolimit, a colt that could run back in the Pa. Derby.
"[If the colt runs], we'll be back," Theriot promised before heading to the airport for a night flight to Louisville, Ky.
Chamberlain Bridge, who came very wide and just would not lose, won the grass dash for the second consecutive year for trainer Bret Calhoun. He ran the 5 furlongs in 56.63 seconds. The 6-year-old was claimed for $25,000 in his second start exactly 3 years ago. Calhoun claimed the horse for $35,000 in March 2008. With yesterday's win, the horse has gone over $1 million.
"You hate to get fanned that wide on the turn, but it was the right trip for him," said Calhoun, who is based in Kentucky. "We like coming to Pennsylvania."
Chamberlain Bridge will be pointed for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.
Servis and Elliott teamed up with Strapping Groom in the Smarty. The colt led early, but hit the wall and finished last.
"At least I'll win one today," Servis laughed as he watched a replay of the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
"This is very exciting," Servis said after the Smarty Jones. "I'm really happy with what Philadelphia Park's done. The place looks great. It looks like a top-shelf race track. Hopefully, this will kick-start us off into a new beginning."
And there were all those Smarty memories.
"It was fun to sit and watch the races," Servis said.
Chapman got a huge cheer from the fans when she was introduced before the trophy presentation.
"It's wonderful to see all the fans back here," she said. "This is what racing should be like. You look around and see this crowd."
Seeing all that Smarty gear, Chapman said, "Just brings it all back."
Smarty was gearing up for his first race about this time 7 years ago. Nobody knew then a champion was hanging out on the backstretch at what always will be known, despite the name change, as the "Pha."
Yesterday was the start of the biggest month of racing in the history of the track by any name. Each of the next four Saturdays will feature giant purses, culminating with the $1 million Pa. Derby on Sept. 25 and the $750,000 Cotillion Stakes on Oct. 2.
Smarty Jones and the slot machines made all this happen. Promoted correctly, the track has a chance to own September each year on the East Coast. The first act got solid reviews.