Ten-year-old Madison Scott was playing in the backyard of her Texas home when her father yelled for her to hurry and come inside; history was in the making.
The television in the Scott family’s living room was tuned to The Belmont Stakes, the third and final race of the legendary Triple Crown.
And on that June day in 2004, sports fans like her father, who didn’t usually follow horse racing, paused to watch chestnut colt Smarty Jones make a flying bid at winning what hadn’t been won in decades.
“My dad called me in to watch. He said a horse was going to win the Triple Crown, and that it was something to remember, and it was something to see,” Scott says.
In losing the great race that day, coming in second to Birdstone, Smarty Jones won something else; he captured the heart of a passionate girl whose young life would change indelibly after that race.
Mad for Smarty
Sire: Smarty Jones
Foal date: Feb. 27, 2007
Career earnings: $115,619Young Madison Scott started by writing letters. Then she penned songs, drew pictures and sent birthday cards—all addressed to the dazzling racehorse who resided at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky.
“By 2008, I was sending weekly emails to Three Chimneys Farm, and they always wrote back to me. They were amazing!” Scott says.
By the time she was 14, the fervent interest in all-things Smarty really grabbed hold. She subscribed to horseracing magazine The Blood-Horse—“I think I must have been one of their youngest subscribers!”— and she began to systematically follow the race careers of Smarty’s first crop of 88 foals.
She created a “virtual stable” that allowed her to keep track of all the races and standings of the superstar’s progeny, and every chance she got, she watched horseracing simulcasts.
And while her “non-horsey” parents watched from the sidelines, a bit bemused by their daughter’s zeal for the sport, admiration and respect for the child’s interest grew at Three Chimneys Farm, where, eventually, word of Scott’s passion for Smarty reached the horse’s owner, Patricia Chapman.
Chapman and Three Chimneys were so delighted by the girl’s passion that in July 2009 they flew her and her mother Lori Scott in for a visit.
For a week, they were ushered around Lexington, Ky., meeting everyone from Three Chimneys owner Robert Clay to Smarty Jones, and the racehorse’s owner.
“It was the most incredible experience of my life,” Scott says. “We’d drive down roads where, on either side, the greatest horses in the world were grazing. It was like a dream come true!”
Incredibly, while visiting the farm, Scott and her mother were asked to help name one of Smarty Jones’ colts. “Robert Clay told us he wanted a name that would honor his father, and all of his fans, but also reflect back on me,” she says.
In short order, the moniker Mad for Smartywas given the two-year-old.
“My mother actually came up with the name. Mad reflects both me, it’s ‘Mad’ for Madison, and all of the fans who were crazy for Smarty Jones,” she says.
When the week came to a close and Scott and her mother flew back home to Texas, the young girl was bursting with happiness.
She kept up a correspondence with Smarty’s owner, even visiting her once in Pennsylvania, and naturally, she paid extra close attention to Mad for Smarty.
“He did much better than the average racehorse,” she says with pride. “He ran in a graded stakes race and other stakes races and won over $100,000. He was definitely paying his way at the racetrack.”
Toward the end of September 2011, however, a ligament injury forced the retirement of Mad for Smarty. He returned home to Three Chimneys Farm to recuperate, and as he healed, Scott’s parents and Three Chimneys representatives began to talk.
Her parents were offered the opportunity to take Mad for Smarty, for free, and after weighing the financial ramifications of the decision, they enthusiastically agreed that the retired racehorse should live out his days with them, the family who named him.
On Jan. 7, an enormous horse trailer arrived at Bel Canto Farmsin Wimberley, Texas to deliver Mad for Smarty to the young fan, who was speechless that day.
When handed the lead rope to Mad for Smarty’s halter, words failed.
With tears in her eyes, and the materialization of her childhood dreams walking quietly beside her, Scott led her new horse for a 30 minute stroll before finally settling him into his new stall.
She will work hard for the privilege of horse ownership, taking a job feeding, grooming, and cleaning at her barn to defray costs. And will begin retraining Mad for Smarty in the new discipline of hunter/jumper this spring.
And she will pinch herself for several more weeks to come.
“I’m so grateful to the incredible people at Three Chimneys, and to my parents,” Scott says. “And I’m so proud to have this horse, and to know that my passion and dedication helped lead me to him.” — Originally published on Jan. 24, 2012. #TBT
*A followup story was written in November 2012: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2012/11/23/a-blissful-year-spent-with-smarty-jones-son/. Look for another update soon!