Smarty Jones was retired in August, but the owners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner were prepared to announce a possible comeback as late as
"We wanted him to run again if there was any chance," owner Pat Chapman said Wednesday night from her Florida home. "Yes, we would have put him back
in training if he was completely healthy."
Smarty Jones was retired Aug. 2 after it was discovered he had bone bruises in his feet, the effects of a grueling 3-year-old campaign that fell just
short of a Triple Crown sweep in the Belmont Stakes on June 5.
However, Chapman and her husband, Roy, were stunned during the retirement conference call when prominent veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage said "we
bring horses back from this all the time. It's not a structural problem and the prognosis for full recovery is excellent."
It was the first time the Chapmans, and trainer John Servis, had heard such a favorable prognosis, Pat Chapman said. They had been told by their vet
in New Jersey that Smarty's ailment was serious enough that retirement seemed the best option.
After Bramlage's comments they decided to wait two more months and have Smarty Jones re-examined, hoping he would be healthy enough to resume training
for a 4-year-old campaign. However, an ultrasound exam in October revealed cartilage erosion in the left ankle -- and that's when it became clear the
colt would never race again.
Smarty Jones was syndicated for nearly $40 million and stands at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky.
"People were saying we took the money and ran," Pat Chapman said.
Smarty's much questioned retirement has created a backlash against the owners and their colt, who is up for Horse of the Year honors with Ghostzapper.
The 4-year-old Ghostzapper staked his claim to the title by beating a strong field in the Breeders' Cup Classic in record time.
The Chapmans have received so much criticism, that Bramlage wrote a letter in which he takes the blame for the confusion surrounding Smarty's
retirement. He said he didn't personally examine Smarty Jones, but looked at radiographs and bone scan results at the request of Three Chimneys.
"My statement caused the problem," read part of Bramlage's letter, sent to several racing trade magazines and obtained by The Associated Press. "The
Chapmans deserve none of this. They were patient. They preferred to race the horse, however, they put the horse first when the time came to care. ...
Don't use my words to skewer them. Skewer me."