Smart as Jim looks for more Oregon Championship Day success
Smart as Jim will be making his fourth Oregon Championship Day start this Sunday when he competes in the $7,500 Oregon Bred Fall Starter Handicap on Sunday November 17th. Smart as Jim won the race last year and has won eleven of his thirty-five career starts. The fact that he’s still alive to race is not something his owner and trainer Michael “Bubba” Bullene ever takes for granted.
“Every time Jim runs I get a little emotional,” said Bullene. “Because of how close we were to losing him.”
Bullene bought Smart as Jim privately from trainer John Holmes at Emerald Downs after the horse’s third place finish on April 15, 2011. He brought the horse down to Portland Meadows that summer to train him and on July 12, 2011, sent the horse out onto the track with rider Tim Neal aboard for a work out. During the workout, Smart as Jim suffered a condylar fracture, a very serious injury to the horses ankle area.
“I was worried we were going to have to put him down initially when I saw he was hurt,” said Bullene. “But we decided to go ahead with the surgery and Dr. Solomon Benarroch did an amazing job and really helped me out with the horse. He put two screws in his ankle and we gave the horse six months off to heal.”
Smart as Jim missed Oregon Championship Day for the first time in 2011. In 2009 he was third in the Bill Wineberg Stakes and in 2010 he finished fourth in the Oregon His Stakes for three year olds. After his six months off and with his ankle healed up, Bullene brought him back to the races on February 15, 2012 at Portland Meadows. He ran last of six as the even money favorite.
“I think maybe I just brought him back too fast for that one,” said Bullene. “So we laid him off again and decided to bring him into the Summer Meet of 2012 at Portland Meadows very slowly.”
Smart as Jim returned again on August 3, 2012 with a fifth place performance at the $1,600 claiming level. Then on August 19th he ran second at that same level. Finally on September 12, 2012, Smart as Jim was back in the winner’s circle for the first time in 17 months when he scored in a six furlong event. Smart as Jim has racked up four more wins since that score on September 12th, as he continues to run well since coming back from his injury.
“This horse just tries every time and he’s so honest,” said Bullene. “And because he’s an Oregon bred and because of the Oregon bred bonuses, he’s made some good money too.”
Smart as Jim has done his best work here at Portland Meadows, as he’s racked up ten of his eleven career wins here. He has ten wins, five seconds, and six thirds from twenty nine starts at Portland Meadows.
“He just loves it here,” said Bullene. “The surface is just easy on him and it’s his home. I love this horse, he’s just like family.”
Jim even has his own custom made sign in the barn next to his stall (Pictured at right). Even though trainers will rarely say a horse is their favorite, watching Bullene interact with Smart as Jim, it’s hard to deny the bond they have is special.
Smart as Jim took home last year’s Oregon Bred Fall Starter Handicap on Oregon Championship Day and will look to defend his crown when he takes on five rivals. The Oregon Bred Fall Starter Handicap is the 8th race at Portland Meadows on Oregon Championship Day, Sunday November 17th.