Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Sunday, June 6, 2004

No Hollywood ending
in Smarty’s story

I woke up yesterday hoping to be enraptured by a horse.

(Wait. Does that sound bad?)

I'm speaking of the horse, of course, that magical ride the writers had taken to calling "the little red chestnut colt."

"We have to watch Smarty Jones," I said to my wife.

She looked at me like I had said we need to eat more Elmer's Glue.

"It's a horse," she said.

Of course he's a horse (of course!). He's a super horse. A wonder horse. Just like Seabiscuit, and she loved Seabiscuit. I think my wife may have run out to get the DVD on the very first day (she does things like that).

He's everybody's horse, he's mine, he's yours. He's a horse that can make you believe in dreams, just like Seabiscuit.

"That was a movie," my wife said.

"This is a movie," I said.

It was, wasn't it? It didn't need any of the extra NBC hype, the slo-mo inspirational music tear-jerkers, although that certainly didn't hurt. This horse was different. There have been a number of Triple Crown hopefuls in recent years, but this one was different.

This was the little red chestnut colt who brought everyone together, who made everybody better.

This was a movie.

"We have to watch Smarty Jones," I said.

You could see it in all the people pouring in, more than 100,000 of them, dreams in their eyes, chicken skin on their arms. There were the nuns visiting Smarty (did they say the nuns were betting on him?).

There he was sticking his tongue out while taking a bath.

There were all the letters from all those Philadelphia kids.

"He's pretty fast," one boy said. "For a horse." (For a horse? Well, I guess he is pretty slow for a Porsche 928 ...)

"I love Smarty Jones," one girl said. "I want to be just like you." (Her parents should be relieved. She could have said she wanted to be a Porsche 928.)

There was his friend, Butterscotch, trotting with him on the track.

He was going to do it, make history. He was going to run it down.

Everybody just knew it, and it felt ... it felt wonderful.

I spent most of the pre-game show choked up (I do things like that).

"He might be the horse of the century, who knows," his trainer said as TV tagged along for that final walk to the gate. "I feel good," the trainer said.

And then came the race, and the run, and the turn and the stretch.

He had the lead. Everyone in America leaned forward. He was running for all he was worth.

"Run Smarty!" my wife said.

"Go Smarty!" I said.

"Run Smarty!" my wife said.

And then ... oh. No.

The lady with the antenna on her helmet interviewed his jockey, and we watched Smarty's face.

"Was this just horse racing?" she asked.

Yeah, that's just horse racing.

"Poor Smarty," my wife said.

In a moment -- by a few feet? -- it was all over.

"I wish," I think the winning jockey said, "it didn't have to be me."

Movies shouldn't end like this.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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