Tom Smith

Tom Smith

Original Name Robert Thomas
Birth
Georgia, USA
Death 23 Jan 1957 (aged 78)
Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Sunrise Slope, Lot 6121, Space 4
Memorial ID 7728270 · View Source
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Horse trainer. Tom Smith twice led the nation's trainers in earnings while equines in his charge won 29 stakes races. Their ranks included Kayak II, Lord Boswell, Porter's Cap and War Jeep. Very little is known about Tom Smith's early years and how he surfaced from birth in the state of Georgia to the still untamed western portion of the country while still in his early teens. In 1936, Charles S. Howard, a man who had become wealthy by selling horseless carriages called Buick cars helped end the reign of the horse as a means of transportation in America then turned to horse racing as a diversion. Howard assembled a ragtag group to aid him in the sport. He hired Tom Smith, already an eccentric, enigmatic old man of fifty seven saddled with the moniker "Silent Sam" as his trainer who in turn recommended purchasing an ill mannered un-trainable no-account thoroughbred called Seabiscuit who seemed unworthy of his feed. Smith found and recommended hiring an unknown often injured, blind in one eye jockey named John Pollard. Seabiscuit became the hope of Depression era America, embraced by thousands of down on their luck and jobless individuals. Not only was Seabiscuit trained by Smith propelled into fame, but many other equine as well from the Ridgewood Farm stables located near Willis, California became standouts. Kayak II (won both the Gold Cup Race at Hollywood Park and the Santa Anita Handicap), Noor and Fair Truckle were but a few. Smith was well qualified having worked around horses from age thirteen as a wild horse tamer breaking mustangs which were sent to Britain as warhorses for service in their many wars. Upon reaching age twenty, he found steady employment with a Colorado horse ranch which spanned many years. He was involved in every phase of horse rearing. Smith was instrumental in breaking horses for use during cattle drives and other work on the range. He treated their injuries and illnesses, trimmed hooves and manned the forge and anvil while making horseshoes. Leaving ranch life, he found employment with a firm that supplied horses for racing and rodeos. He was charged with training, shoeing and the health of a group of racehorses with a lot of success which led to a foreman job with a wild west show (C.B. Irwin's Wild West Show and racing stable) operating in the summer then becoming a racing stable in winter. One of his duties was handling horses in relay races and matches. Smith devised new methods for training horses and treating their injures. When Irwin's show closed, Smith was allied with Charles S. Howard. Old age and infirmities engulfed Howard and the horseman simply faded away from racing forcing Smith to seek employment with Elizabeth Arden Graham owner of the Maine Chance Farm (defunct) Lexington, Kentucky. He continued with much success and was instrumental in training such thoroughbreds as Star Pilot and Beaugay. Charged with horse doping in 1945, The Jockey Club found him guilty and rendered as punishment a one year suspension from racing. After a year away from horses, the Maine Chance Farm promptly reinstated him and Smith repaid them for their loyalty by training Jet Pilot who became a Kentucky Derby winner in 1947. Old age became a factor and he passed into obscurity but remained active training horses at Santa Anita Park until suffering a stroke at age 78. He spend his last days confined to a nursing home in Los Angeles where he passed away. A small private graveside service was held at Forest Lawn Glendale with only his family in attendance. Legacy...His reputation ruined, Smith was excluded from racing's Hall of Fame for more than forty years after his death. Finally he was honored as an outstanding trainer and inducted into the Thoroughbred Hall of Fame in Saratoga, New York in 200l. The forgotten trainer was regenerated to fame with the release of the book "Seabiscuit: An American Legend," by Laura Hillenbrand which became a best seller and a subsequent movie "Seabiscuit" made by Universal Studio. In both, Tom Smith was featured prominently.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: James Lacy
  • Added: 1 Aug 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7728270
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Tom Smith (20 May 1878–23 Jan 1957), Find a Grave Memorial no. 7728270, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .