Louisville, Ky. Roy and Pat Chapman always wanted to win big races, so they named their stable Someday Farm.
That day arrived on a rainy Saturday at Churchill Downs when their undersized colt Smarty Jones ran through the mud for a 23/4-length victory in the Kentucky Derby.
"We never raced at this level; never thought we'd be here until we met Smarty," Chapman said.
That happened Feb. 28, 2001, the day the chestnut colt was born at Someday Farm in Chester County, Pa. He was named Smarty Jones after Pat Chapman's mother, Mildred Jones, who was nicknamed Smarty by her grandparents and also was born on a Feb. 28.
But tragedy struck that December. Their trainer, Bobby Camac, and his wife were shot to death, and Camac's stepson was charged with double murder.
Camac had sued the stepson, Wade Russell, over allegations that Russell defrauded him of about $70,000 in a check-forgery scheme. No trial has been scheduled.
Distraught and concerned about Roy Chapman's deteriorating health, the couple disbanded their breeding operation after the slayings and sold all their horses except two: a 2-year-old and Smarty Jones.
At the time, the Chapmans had offers to sell Smarty Jones. But Pat, who buys horses based on the look in their eyes, told her husband, "Let's keep him."
"We just liked him," said 77-year-old Roy Chapman, who struggles for breath because of emphysema. "To see a horse that was born on the farm that we had and look at the stall he was born in, I'm still a little nervous."
In 2003, Smarty Jones was sent to small-time Philadelphia Park, where John Servis took over his training. Servis had been well regarded by Camac.
"Without John Servis and Smarty's talents, we would not be here," Roy Chapman said.
He requires oxygen and uses a wheelchair to get around, although he stood up for a better view when the Derby began.
What a beautiful view it was. Smarty Jones stalked pacesetter Lion Heart for much of the 11/4 miles, then pounced on him turning for home.
The Chapmans have been in the sport since the 1980s, but the big-time tracks and major money races always eluded them.
"I'm kind of numb," Pat Chapman said. "It's been an incredible journey."
Until Smarty Jones came along, the Chapmans' biggest boast in racing was I'll Get Along, who won 12 races and nearly $280,000 in her career. Perhaps her greatest gift was being the dam of Smarty Jones. I'll Get Along later was sold for $130,000.
The couple have since sold Someday Farm and moved to a smaller home, although they continue to breed and race in the farm's name. They own just four horses, with Smarty Jones being the star of their stable.
The Chapmans can afford to expand their operation now. The Derby victory was worth $854,800, and they received a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn Park because Smarty Jones swept the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas and Kentucky derbies.
Just before the race, Servis leaned over to Roy Chapman.
"Chap, whatever happens, we've had a great ride," he said.
"Absolutely, John, absolutely," the owner replied.