Madison Scott grew up like many young riders, taking weekly lessons while dreaming of a horse of her own. But Scott's passion ran deeper than a teenage infatuation, and when she became the foremost expert on her favorite superstar equine, her dreams started coming true.
It all started when Scott was 10 and didn't know a starting gate from a stirrup iron. In 2004, Smarty Jones had enthralled racing fans and the general public alike with his comeback story of recovering from a fractured skull to become the first undefeated Kentucky Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977.
The Pennsylvania-bred (Elusive Quality—Ill Get Along, Smile) went on to win the Preakness Stakes (Md.) by a record 11 1/2 lengths. By the time the Belmont Stakes (N.Y.) rolled around, he'd already made the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Scott was outside her Austin, Texas, home playing when her father, Paul Scott, hollered for her to come watch history on television. Those 2 1/2 minutes would change her life. While Madison watched Smarty Jones finish a heartbreaking second, something in her brain clicked.
"That was it," said Madison, who’d never watched a horse race before that one. "I fell head over heels for Smarty and for the sport."
Madison started sending letters to Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., where Smarty Jones stood at stud after retiring, having earned $7,613,155 during his career. At first she sent fan mail, songs and drawings, and the staff at Three Chimneys sent back letters or photos of Smarty.
His first foals started running in 2008, and that's when Scott's obsession took off. She tracked which horses were running when and sent articles that mentioned Smarty Jones' offspring to the staff. They quickly came to see her as a helpful research assistant and traded whatever bits of information they'd found with her.
"She wasn't your typical horse-crazy young girl," said Jen Roytz, the marketing and communications director at Three Chimneys. "She knows her facts, and she knows her stats, and she's a horse lover without being eccentric about it. When she would email us with statistics about Smarty Jones, they'd go through me. To be honest, she had some stats I hadn't noticed that I started using in ads."
The Next Generation
In 2009, Smarty Jones' owner, Patricia Chapman, invited Madison and her mother to fly from Austin to Midway to meet Smarty Jones.
"She coordinated and paid for the whole thing," said Madison. "They found it pretty interesting that this random teenager from Texas had so much passion for this horse. I spent the best week of my life running around the bluegrass, meeting the best breeders in the world. I got to stand next to Smarty Jones and Mrs. Chapman—it was just incredible."
Later that week Madison and her mother Lori went to dinner with Robert Clay, the owner of Three Chimneys, who casually mentioned he had a Smarty Jones 2-year-old out of Santaria (Star de Naskra—Act of Magic, Halo) in need of a name. Clay had the idea of naming the colt to honor Smarty Jones' many fans, especially Madison. The name Madison and Lori came up with, Mad For Smarty, did just that.
Madison kept an especially close eye on Mad For Smarty, who ran 19 times and won three races, with earnings topping $100,000. In November, after a two-year career, he tore a sesamoidian ligament, and he went to Three Chimneys for rehabilitation. A few weeks later over lunch at a restaurant, Lori dropped the bombshell: Roytz had called and offered to give Mad For Smarty to Madison.
"My first reaction was, 'Well, that's nice, but we can't have him,' " recalled Madison, now 17.
She'd taken up riding six years earlier and was taking lessons at a local hunter/jumper stable. After years of begging, she’d resigned herself to sticking with lessons, as her family couldn't afford to board a horse. But Lori had spoken to Suzanne Warmack, Madison's trainer at Bel Canto Farms, and Warmack agreed to let her work off her expenses. Within six weeks Madison was unloading Mad For Smarty from the trailer from Kentucky.
"His personality has been absolutely wonderful," said Madison. "He's a sweetheart, and you can hug him, and he's always sticking his head out of his stall to see what's going on. He's been great, and I feel so incredibly lucky. I can't thank everyone at Three Chimneys enough."
A Dream Come True
While Madison's never had a project horse of her own, she's had plenty of education to prepare her for the opportunity. She's spent time working with horses at the Lone Star Outreach Program, a facility that helps transition ex-racehorses to new careers and find them new homes. She also spent a summer as a hot walker and groom for Hamilton Smith at Colonial Downs (Va.) through the Kids To Colonial program. Madison counted that experience as invaluable toward working with her new horse.
"I know what's normal for him, and I'm not going to push him to change until he's ready," she said. "Being a racehorse, Mad For Smarty knows how to do regular horse things, but his knowledge is very narrow. What he knows how to do, he does quite well: being tied in a stall, standing for being bathed, getting on the trailer. These are things a racehorse does all the time. So part of my job to help him transition is to figure out what he knows and doesn't, and help him round out his knowledge. For example, he's never been crosstied before, so that's something we're working on slowly."
When Mad For Smarty, 5, arrived Jan. 7, he was sound enough for turnout, but he won't be ready to go under tack until later this spring. Until then, Madison's been working with him on the ground, when she's not teaching beginning riding lessons and doing barn chores to pay off his board.
A senior in high school, Madison's set her sights on a long-term career in the industry, hoping to pair a college major in animal science or equine science with a degree in marketing. Her dream job would be working in the Thoroughbred breeding industry in the marketing department, ideally at Three Chimneys.
"I hope she does take my job," said Roytz. "For Madison it was never a fantasy of loving one horse; her love of this horse had developed her passion for racing. She's very driven and knows she wants to be a part of the industry, and she's earned herself a good support system in the industry. She'll definitely be one to watch."
If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. The original version of "A Passion For Smarty Jones Leads To A Fairytale Ending For Madison Scott" ran in the Feb. 20, 2012, Show Jumping issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.