BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Boca Grande resident and horsewoman extraordinaire Pat Chapman was honored this month by the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association with the greatest honor that they bestow – the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Chapman said she was flummoxed when she heard the news that she had been given the prestigious award but for those of us who know her, it truly doesn’t come as a surprise.
Not only has Pat been breeding and selling top-quality thoroughbreds since the 1980s, and is the catalyst for one of the most legendary racehorses of all time, Smarty Jones, she is one of the kindest and most appreciative people on the planet.
Pat and her late husband, Roy “Chappy” Chapman got into the business not long after they met.Chappy was a car salesman and owner of Chapman Auto Group in Philadelphia, and Patricia was a social worker at the time.
“I met Chappy in 1976,” she said, in her acceptance speech. “He had a horse, and I would go to the barn with him and watch him ride and follow along in the car with the fox hunts. He eventually asked if she wanted to learn to ride and I said YES. Oh boy, did I. And a’hunting we would go, for many years.”
Years later, in the mid-80s, Pat said that Chappy told her he had always wanted a racehorse. She said, ‘Let’s do it.’ Their first horse in Maryland was named Small Victories, and he won their first race for them.
His second race, though, taught the Chapmans about the loss that can be experienced in the industry.
“If our second race had been our first, I might not be here,” Pat said, wistfully. “He broke his leg.”
But they were hooked. They started to make a name for their business, Someday Farm of New Hope, Pennsylvania, and through their first years they won and lost a lot of races and claimed and lost a lot of horses. It was a time of learning, but Pat’s enthusiasm never wavered. As she said, she still remembers the thrill of winning even a small race.
“A win is a win,” Pat said. “And it keeps you in there trying.”
In 1993 they moved their horses to trainer Bob Camac, and bought a filly Pat named I’ll Get Along, because her dam’s name was Don’t Worry About Me. She was a good horse for the Chapmans, winning 12 races and more than $280,000.
On the advice of Camac, the Chapmans bred I’ll Get Along to a freshman sire named Elusive Quality. On February 28, 2001, they had a foal that the Chapmans named Smarty Jones, named after Pat’s mother Mildred Jones, nicknamed “Smarty.” Pat’s mother’s birthday was also February 28. It was I’ll Get Along’s second foal.
What started out as a tremendous year for the Chapmans turned into a nightmare, though, as in December of 2001 Camac and his wife were murdered by Camac’s stepson. It was such a tremendous blow to Pat and her husband, Chappy wanted to get out of the business. Pat was determined to keep going though, after a bit of restructuring of their business. They sold Someday Farm and all of their horses except two … and one of the ones they kept was Smarty Jones. There were many offers to buy Smarty Jones, and Pat knew they had something special. In 2003 they hired trainer John Servis for the feisty little thoroughbred, and one of the greatest relationships in horseracing history began.
It was on a rainy Saturday, May 1, 2004, at Churchill Downs when the undersized colt Smarty Jones ran through the mud for a 23/4-length victory in the 130th running of the Kentucky Derby. Smarty won the second leg of the Triple Crown – the Preakness – on May 15 of that year, by a record margin of 11½ lengths, becoming the first odds-on favorite to win the race since Spectacular Bid in 1979. On June 5 Smarty left the gate at the Belmont Stakes running strong, but as luck would have it he didn’t have quite enough energy left to win. A thoroughbred named Birdsong took first, at odds of 36-1.
Pat admits she never thought Someday Farms would make it all the way to the Triple Crown, even though the name came from their greatest hope that, in fact, they would make it to that event. It wasn’t until Smarty came along that the thought of having an almost-Triple crown winner in their stable was possible.
“A homebred named Smarty Jones – SJ – and a trainer named John Service – JS – had their destinies crossed in some grand scheme and came together at a time when our country really needed champions,” Pat said. “I am just one small part of a grand picture.”
Smarty is the most well-known horse from their stables, but Pat said they have had many. For instance, Steeplechase horse Uncle Merlin won the Maryland Hunting Cup in 1989, after five of his eight opponents went down on a slippery track. It was considered to be as close to perfect a time and race for Uncle Merlin as had ever been seen on that track.
Pat is still very influential in the business in many ways, actively breeding and racing horses in Pennsylvania. She and Smarty have been credited as being vitally important in getting casino gambling legalized in Pennsylvania: Some say it never would have happened with Smarty Jones.
It was Servis who presented Pat with the Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this month. “Pat has dedicated more than 40 years to the Pennsylvania horse industry, starting out with fox hunting and moving to the racing and breeding industry,” Servis said in his speech. “Smarty Jones and Pat Chapman changed racing at Oaklawn Park forever. She not only changed Oaklawn Park but racing in Pennsylvania as well. Someday Farm produced some of the best racehorses for the state, as well as for the United States. Pat is a true philanthropist, with charities and with her time. Her generosity extends from management to backside personnel. She has not only been a client of mine for more than 20 years, but a dear friend of my family as well.”
In her acceptance speech thanked everyone from the veterinarians to the farriers, the transporters, the videographers, the jockeys, grooms and all the backstretch workers.
“I thank each and every one of you, because you are all a part of what made it possible for me to be here accepting this award,” she said. Thank you, thank you.”
Pat gave thanks to Alcoholic Anonymous, and said that her decision to make her life alcohol free many years ago changed everything.
“If recovery from addictions was not possible, I wouldn’t be here,” she said. If anyone is struggling, please remember, recovery is possible.”
“How fortunate am I? I am still in awe to receive this distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award. Chappy, this is for you; I wouldn’t be here if not for you. And John Servis and Smarty Jones, I wouldn’t be here if it were not for you.”