Even if you have never watched a horse race in your life, you have to watch the Belmont Stakes tomorrow.
Why? Simple: Smarty Jones.
He's the lightning-quick thoroughbred that has a chance to be the first horse to win racing's Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
The Triple Crown is tough to win. It is three races -- the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes -- for 3-year-old horses, run in three states, over three distances, in just five weeks.
If Smarty Jones wins tomorrow, he will be one of only 12 horses that have won all three races.
You should also watch the race because Smarty Jones has a great story. He even has a cool name. He was born on Feb. 28. That's also the birthday of the owner's mother. So owner Pat Chapman named the horse after his mother, Mildred. Thank goodness, he didn't name the horse Mildred. No, Chapman used his mother's nickname . . . Smarty Jones.
You should root for Smarty Jones too because he is an underdog in racing circles. You see, most big-time horses race at the famous tracks in California and Florida. Smarty's owners race their horses at the smaller, minor-league tracks around Philadelphia. And the Chapmans didn't choose a famous trainer to teach Smarty Jones to run so fast. They chose John Servis, who came from West Virginia and trained horses around the East Coast. Of course, Servis must be doing something right, because Smarty Jones has won all nine races that he has run.
Finally, the Chapmans and Servis chose a jockey, Stewart Elliott, who had come up the hard way, learning to ride horses at those same minor-league tracks. There were even years when Elliott drank too much and weighed too much, so that he couldn't ride racehorses. But he changed his life and came back. Still, when Smarty Jones was ready to run in the Kentucky Derby, lots of horse racing people figured that Servis would switch to a more experienced jockey. Servis stuck with Elliott, who had never ridden a horse in the Kentucky Derby.
"Stewy's my man," Servis said.
Stewy rode Smarty Jones brilliantly over a muddy track and through a crowded field of 18 horses to win the Kentucky Derby. Then they won leaving everyone else in the dust at the Preakness.
You see, it will not be just a horse racing around the track tomorrow. It will be a story. In fact, a bunch of stories. Smarty Jones, the wonder horse with the cool name. The Chapmans, John Servis and Stewart Elliott, racing people who have bounced around the minors for years and suddenly find themselves riding down the homestretch of a lifelong dream.
Smarty Jones is a great story. Tune in tomorrow to see if the story has a happy ending.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.