Birdstone- what happened?

I remember how he snatched the Belmont from Smarty Jones and his colts did him proud in 2009 but since then what happened? He was pensioned from stud at only 19? Why? When in 2009 his colts did so well two lightning strikes that year I would expect more exposure but it did not seem to turn out that way.

Maybe it is true and Birds Aren’t Real.

What happened to Birdstone is what happens to most sires: the majority of his foals weren’t anything special, so buyers and breeders lost interest.

What was peculiar about the Birdstone situation is that he had a rich owner behind him who was adamant about giving him every chance. After all, he proved several times he could get a big horse when the stars aligned. So instead of getting sold to another state or overseas, they stood him for free to good producing mares from good families.

I don’t know if they pensioned him because of the minimal interest from mare owners or if there were other factors at play (like the estate of his owner?
). But I think it’s a happy ending in the sense that the horse held his job a very long time and got to stay in Kentucky the whole time. That is becoming increasingly rare.


So this is memory and could be corrected …

Birdstone was of course with Smarty Jones in the KY Derby won by Smarty. It was one of the sloppiest Derby tracks in history, they were splashing everywhere. It poured rain for 2 hours before the race. I remember the workers and officials hovering over the saturated track surface before the Derby went to post. It hadn’t been helped by the prior races.

I read that Birdstone lost 3 shoes in that Derby and still finished 8th out of 18 starters. He was the only horse in the race to lose that many shoes.

Birdstone did not go to the Preakness. He raced in the Belmont and won a close one over Smarty.

A what-if to wonder about …

Not to take anything away from Birdstone, Smarty was 100x the horse Birdstone was. Just watch Stu Elliott ride if you ever forget why Smarty Jones’ stud fee opened at $100k. While Birdstone crossed the wire first on Belmont day, Smarty Jones could have, should have won that race. There are so few times you can say that in horse racing.

Both horses could be case studies in trying to make a stallion of average sire power into something they are not. Two of the most bizarrely managed stallions of recent times.


What happened to Smarty Jones at stud?.

He’s still at stud. Bounced around a lot. KY to PA, then back to KY, then back to PA again. Also some time in South America. He’s stood at 4 or 5 different farms in North America at this point.

Everyone has always had too high of expectations for the guy as a sire, even to this day.

Birdstone was bred and raced by Marylou Whitney, one of the last “old families.” She gave him every chance, and after he had some stellar runners she still insisted that Gainesway keep his stud fee low so mom & pop breed-to-race breeders could always afford him. Despite his successful runners, he was never commercially popular and he pretty much produced himself…small, plain, compact type who didn’t really improve his mares. The lower stud fee was sort of a double edged sword for commercial breeders…yes he was affordable, but sales buyers who see a $5k stud fee aren’t as likely to pay big bucks for his yearlings.

But, he was Marylou’s pet and he was never leaving Kentucky. Better to pension him to a quieter life, than put him in the stallion barn with all the other riled up busy boys, when he may only get a small handful of mares.


Who owns him now? Has he been sold to all of those places, or do the couple that bred him still own him by chance?

The story was that they were not high-dollar racehorse people at all. But when Smarty Jones showed his speed somehow they were able to bootstrap their way up the race classes.

The Chapmans retained majority ownership of him. Much like Marylou Whitney did for Birdstone, they have supported him with their own mares and have had some decent runners. But two polar opposite strategies: Birdstone stood for an advertised fee of free to approved mares in the last part of his career. Smarty’s fees have been every amount of money under the sun. $100k, then $50k, then free fell down to $4k, but then Calument had him back at $10k, now back to $3,500.

The Chapmans lived in my hometown. Mr. Chapman passed away quite a few years ago. That horse is and was family to them. I just don’t think they got the best advice in managing his stud career.

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It’s wonderful that Smarty is still such a part of their world.

By now he probably doesn’t have the name recognition in the general public. But probably some owners might think it was cool to have his name as a sire.

I see he is now 20/21 years old. He could live quite a long time still. But I’m sure Smarty considers himself to be living a relaxed life by now. :slight_smile: