Jockey Stewart Elliott, who goes for the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes riding atop Smarty Jones, is also celebrating four years of remaining sober. Coincidentally, his opportunity to ride the champion colt came from owners who also beat an alcohol addiction, the New York Times reported May 23.
Prior to entering rehab, Elliott had won titles on second-tier racetracks on the East Coast. But in August 2000, he was charged with aggravated assault for beating an acquaintance during a drunken episode. “I’m lucky I didn’t kill the guy,” Elliott said. “I’m lucky I’m not in jail or a bum on the street.”
After completing treatment, Elliott, 39, had two goals: to stay sober and to make a decent living. He started at Philadelphia Park racetrack. Today, he has been sober for four years and is the park’s leading rider.
Elliott rode the colt Smarty Jones to the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He goes for the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes on June 5.
Roy and Pat Chapman, who own Smarty Jones, are well aware of Elliott’s struggles with alcohol addiction. They have been sober for 28 years and gave Elliott the chance to ride a champion horse.
“You dream all your life for a horse like Smarty Jones to come along,” said Elliott. “I’m just thankful I’m clear-headed enough to know what’s been given to me, and I pray every day for the strength to never throw it away again.”