Tommy J Smith Australian Trainer
T. J Smith was born in 1916 To Become Champion Race Horse Trainer
A thoroughbred trainer performs something of a juggling act, coaxing top performance from horses known more for their high strung temperaments than for their co-operation, massaging the egos of jockeys that can at times exhibit diva-like tendencies, and produce results year upon year while persuading horse owners to foot the bill for the entire operation.
His results speak for themselves.
One gentleman who did all this and more to an astounding degree is immediately recognizable when his name, Tommy Smith, is mentioned. tommy j smith
The horses with which he is associated fill the record books of Australian racing history and it is certain that his contributions will never be forgotten.
T. J Smith was born in 1916 in New South Wales.
Those demanding times found him working for his dad, driving draft teams and breaking horses by the time he was seven, so education was out of the question.
He did love to ride, however, and his imagination tended toward a future as a jockey.
Tommy's Career Starts Early In Life
He left home when he was but 13 to see if Sydney or Melbourne could facilitate his jockey ambitions, but while he may have had the ability, he soon grew beyond the size and weight limits of a thoroughbred jockey, so he tried his hand at hurdles. A crash that fortunately cost him no more than a broken hip was the end of his time as a jockey.
Fast forward to 1941, and we find Smith receiving a trainer’s license. He was 25, had no connections, no education, and few possessions, other than a horse named Bragger.
Smith trained Bragger while he rented two stalls at Kensington racecourse, one for the horse and one for himself. The horse, foaled in 1936, won 13 races for Smith that year, with the most prestigious being the Tramway.
Smith's Career To Be Reckoned With
He began to develop a reputation as a trainer with which to be reckoned, but he achieved notoriety too soon, adopting a lifestyle replete with expensive clothes, fancy cars and heavy drinking, all of which threatened to turn Smith into a has been that never really was before his time.
Bragger, however, was to prove the savior of the trainer, continuing to race and win up until he was a ten-year-old. He died in a stable fire, but those five years were sufficient to provide Smith with an opportunity to mend his ways.
The next horse that moved Smith’s career in a positive direction was Playboy, a descendant of Carbine. That galloper was to supply the courtesy of Smith’s first race that would go on to become a Group 1 event, the 1949 AJC Derby. The interesting facet to that victory was that Playboy came home at 100/1 odds, and Smith had backed his own horse, earning a substantial payday.
Playboy Continues To Win
Playboy continued his winning ways in 1950, notching the Fisher Plate, the Hill Stakes, the Craven Plate and the St. Leger Stakes.
1950’s low point would have been when Smith was given a five year ban for not preventing a two-year-old horse in his charge from being doped. He dodged that bullet on the appeal and walked away with nothing more than a severe reprimand for the incident.
To say that T.J. Smith’s career began a strong positive trend at this point would be something of an understatement.
He won the first of 33 consecutive Sydney Trainers’ premierships in 1953. He skipped that distinction in the 1985-86 season and then won again in 1987-88, a feat that would seem possible only in American horse racing, if even there.
This span of over three decades included Toparoa’s 1955 Melbourne Cup victory where he beat none other than Rising Fast. Smith also trained Redcraze that won the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Cup between the years of 1955-57. He also prepared Tulloch that needs no further exposition. Gunsynd and Kingston Town also owe some of their achievements to Smith’s ministrations.
Smith's 2nd Melbourne Cup
A second Melbourne Cup came along in 1981, courtesy of Just A Dash. A few pertinent statistics includes 279 victories in what were to become Group 1 races in the latter stages of Smith’s career, with highlights represented by four Caulfield Cups, seven W.S. Cox Plates and two Melbourne Cups.
The training methods he developed are still popular today. He was a staunch proponent or keeping his horses in form rather than spelling them.
He was a pioneer in the field of nutrition, using protein in his horses’ diets to promote muscle development and rapid recovery.
T.J. Smith died in 1998, leaving behind a record that is more than substantial enough to have provided adequate careers for at least a dozen more-than-adequate trainers. He was, of course, properly inducted as part of the inaugural class of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, unfortunately posthumously by just a few years and it would have obviously delighted him to see his daughter Gai likewise honoured in 2007.
Royal Randwick in Sydney annually holds the T.J Smith Stakes, a Group 1 sprint event in his honour.