SportsProf

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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Smarty Jones Retires

I had posted about Smarty Jones before, during his fun run for the Triple Crown, and unfortunately the Philadelphia-bred horse didn't do enough to merit a place in horse racing's pantheon. Perhaps his close loss at The Belmont was fated because Philadelphia fans stand only third in line to Red Sox' and Cubs' fans in terms of overall frustration. Smarty Jones gave the average Philadelphian more hope in the sports world than they had enjoyed in a while, only to see that hope dashed with an ever too familiar finish.

Because of recurring bruising to his heels, Smarty Jones retired this past weekend (actually, he's not Mr. Ed, and he cannot talk, so his owners announced the decision for him) and will retire to the appropriate Elysian Fields for horses -- a stud farm. While you didn't win the Triple Crown, Smarty, you did give even passing horse fans a thrill and created the first major stir about horse racing in quite a long time. Thanks for giving us a very fun six weeks starting in early May. We will miss you.

The Sports Economist has written some good stuff about Smarty, his retirement and the economics of horse racing (and why race horses get retired so quickly). Horse racing can be a fun sport to watch, especially at a place like Saratoga in August (where you literally walk back in time), but it is no longer the huge spectacle it once was because basically you can find gambling anywhere. Before Las Vegas, and then after Las Vegas became entrenched but before you could pull the arm of a slot machine at an Indian reservation anywhere, horse racing was one of the most popular sports because you could place a bet legally -- and many did. But today you can find casinos and legal betting anywhere, and, like many other things in life, horse racing just isn't what it used to be.

Until, of course, the next great horse comes along and wins the Triple Crown.

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