Tommy Smith is an icon in Australian Racing history. This is Part One of TJ's story which appeared in the 1988 January Edition of Turf Monthly.
| I Thought: "Well, Here's A Record That Will Never Be Broken!" - T.J. Smith|
In the 1952-53 season, Thomas John Smith won the Sydney Trainers Premiership.
That season, Tom led-in 54 winners, seventeen clear of the runner-up, Maurice McCarten.
Australian Racing had witnessed the arrival of a new champion.
Tommy Smith went on to win 33 consecutive Sydney Trainers Premierships.
"When I got to 30, I thought: 'Well, here's a record that will never be broken!" Tommy Smith reflected recently.
"Then I won for the thirty-first time and I thought: "Let's see how far I can go."
When Brian Mayfield-Smith won the Premiership in the 1985-86 season, with 99 winners as against the 951/2 races won by Smith, an era drew to a close.
But the 'champ' went down fighting. On the final day of the season, the Tommy Smith stables landed four winners at his home track Randwick, to give Mayfield-Smith and anyone else who might think he would relinquish his title without a fight, one helluva shock.
Smith ended 1985-86 with a roar, not a whimper, as Wolverhampton won the first I Will the second, and Rajamah the third, while Newsboy stormed home in the fourth.
Unfortunately for Tom, the stable's mighty charge petered out. His last ditch attempt to overtake Brian Mayfield-Smith was lost.
Sydney had a new 'King' of the training ranks. A new 'top dog'. 'TJ' acknowledged the victory by his younger rival but vowed he'd be back.
"Mayfield-Smith has done a good training job;" Tommy Smith observed at the time. "Sure, I would like to have won again but you have to be beaten some time.
"Even the greatest horse I ever trained, Tulloch, was beaten.
"I'll be back. I'll win back my title next year!"
Of course, Tom didn't win back the Premiership. The record books show that in the 1986-87 season Mayfield-Smith retained his title and Paul Sutherland 'pipped' Tommy Smith for second spot on the ladder.
Early in 1987, Tommy Smith set out to make things right. He floated the 'Tulloch Lodge' stables as a public company. He was the first trainer in our history to place his value on the stock market and it was typical of the inventive nature of the men.
Tom attacked the yearling sales with fervour rarely seen in this country. The trainer outlaid $9.95-million in Australia and New Zealand, buying the best bloodlines available.
His most expensive yearling purchase was the $600,000 he paid out at Easter on behalf of 'Tulloch Lodge' for the filly by leading Australian sire Bletchingly out of Oaks winner Rom's Stiletto.
At $5,000, the cheapest Tulloch Lodge' buy was the filly by Yallah Native out of the Denizen (USA) mare Caryatid at the William Inglis Summer Sales.
Tommy Smith bought up yearlings by first crop sires Brondesbury, McGinty, Danzatore, Noalcholic, Salieri, Sir Dapper, Half Iced and Khairpour.
Established sires with youngsters in 'Tulloch Lodge' this season include Bletchingly, Balmerino, Biscay, Crested Wave, Godswalk, Grusvenor, Kaoru Star, Marscay, Noble Bijou, Rancher, Star Way, Vim Regal, Without Fear, Zamazaan and Sir Tristram.
The trainer intends to lead his charge back to Premiership honours with younger horses, of that you can be sure.
Candidly, Tom admits that his failure to buy well in the yearling sales arena has cost him dearly in recent years. He plans to rectify that.
"I lost the title because I didn't buy at all well," 'TJ' says frankly.
Brian Mayfield-Smith captured his second Premiership with 981/2 winners while Paul Sutherland (881/2) just edged Smith (88) out of second place.
"The horses (I had) didn't come up as well as I expected;" Tom explained. "If you don't have the good grade of horse, you have one good year and then some bad ones.
"You can't win Premierships without good yearlings, and you've got to win classics."
Ever confident, Tommy Smith expects to reclaim his crown as the 'king' of Sydney Racing, no matter how long it takes.
Of his slip from grace in the last couple of seasons, 'TJ' is philosophical: "I have bought good yearlings for 35 years so I am entitled to have a blackout."
In characteristic style, Tom, however, could not resist taking a swipe at the man currently on top:
"Brian Mayfield-Smith doesn't buy his yearlings. Les Young of Doncaster Bloodstock does. He's a good judge."
Tommy Smith reckons his famous 'eye' for a horse is now back in top working condition. With the financial backing from the 'Tulloch Lodge' company. the trainer set about buying the cream of the yearlings on offer at the sales in 1987 in order to re-establish himself as the leading trainer of classic winners in Australasia.
The advent of big money groups behind the one stable had Tommy Smith thinking about his future direction for some time. Sangster, the Arabs, an influx of money from the stock market belt and big stables moves by Geoff Chapman, Paul Sutherland, and the Ingham Brothers had to be challenged.
"Well, I'd been thinking about floating 'Tulloch Lodge' for two years," Tom said.
"I could see what was happening in the sales ring. If I wanted to be in the top bracket, it would be necessary to get hold of a 'Robert Sangster' or a 'Laurie Connell' to be able to buy the yearlings I wanted."
Discreetly, Tommy Smith mentioned his plans to a couple of people who, perhaps surprisingly, did not believe the idea would work.
"So I went to Mr. Brian Yule and explained what I had in mind and he said he would take it on:" said Tom.
The trainer was not surprised when the public over-subscribed the float of 'Tulloch Lodge'.
"Why wouldn't they go for it?" asked Tom cheekily. "With my track record for 33 years, they have a bit going for them."
'Tulloch Lodge', now very much alive and well, is the owner of the lease on all Tommy Smith's property for the next five years.
"The company takes my percentage and I usually make about $300,000 a year, so that's a healthy start."
Tom smiled and added: " Tulloch Lodge' has a nice group of horses coming up, too." There will certainly be some interesting runners to come out of the stables in 1988.
The first winner for 'Tulloch Lodge' was also a 'first' for new sire Sir Dapper.
Generation Gap, a chestnut filly, by Sir Dapper out of thc Rending Away mare Darling Take Care, a $350,000 purchase by 'Tulloch Lodge' at the 1987 highs Faster Sales, won the 1100 metres Rider Hunt Handicap.
"Every year I have had outstanding two-year-olds," Tom explained.
"For 33 years, I have had some of the best two-year-olds in Australia. If I can get another like Bounding Away, what value will that be to 'Tulloch Lodge!"
Bounding Away, the grey filly bred, owned and trained by Tommy Smith, was Australasia's first $1-million female galloper.
Recently, Bounding Away was retired. The four-year-old mare has gone to New Zealand to join the 'harem' of world champion sire Sir Tristram (Ire).
"She (Bounding Away) had shown little improvement, despite treatments for her foot problem, so I retired her." explained 'TJ' matter-of-factly.
There is little doubt that Bounding Away holds a special spot in the T.J. Smith 'bank' of Racing memoribilia.
From 21 starts, the grey recorded nine wins and six placings for $1,484,150 in prize-money. Included in her swag of Group One victories are the VATC Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m), STC Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m), AJC Champagne Stakes (1600m), AJC Flight Stakes (1600m), and the AJC Oaks (2400m). All that from a mare purchased by Smith in England 20 years ago for 300 pounds!
On his annual pilgrimage around the globe in 1963, Smith noticed Zurycida (GB), a daughter of the Nasrullah stallion Zucchero, for sale.
A half-sister to stakes-winner Tubalcain (Royal Ascot Stakes), Zurycida failed to win on the track though she was placed.
Imported to Australia by Tommy Smith, the mare became the dam of 10 foals, eight of which raced to produce seven winners including SW's Zahedi (QTC Sires' Produce Stakes), Ireland (STC Gold Cup), Planet Boy, Leilavale, and the SAJC Sires' Produce Stakes winner Who Can Say.
In 1983, the trainer sent Who Can Say, by Sovereign Edition, along to champion sire Biscay, by Star Kingdom. The result of the union was a grey filly who was destined to set Racing back on its' heels with sparkling performances at two and three years.
"There are very few mares put to Star Kingdom stallions with Nasrullah blood," observed 'TJ'.
That's why I put Who Can Say to Biscay. When I first saw Bounding Away, I had seven or eight horses and I sold quite a few of them. Robert Sangster bought a couple."
As Sangster and Smirh 'negotiated' the sale of the trainer's bloodstock the eagle-eyed Pools magnate turned his attention to the grey filly.
"What about this one?" Sangster enquired. "Not for sale," replied Tom, shaking his head.
"I intend to keep her and race her myself." The intuition of the two astute racing men bore fruit in the 1985-86 racing season when Bounding Away won the $1-million Golden Slipper Stakes.
Did Tom ever envisage Bounding Away proving the best of her sex?
"Well, I never thought she would turn out as good as she did, but I had confidence that she would be okay," he suggested.
"I always thought she would run a distance. I've only ever trained a couple of Biscay horses. I trained Lowan Star. They reckoned she would only run 1200 metres but she won twice over 2400 metres, in the AJC and QTC Oaks."
Tommy Smith thinks Bounding Away is the best of her sex he has trained. Which is quite a mouthful remembering that the Randwick 'wizard' applied the polish to such well-known members of the 'fairer sex' as Tarien, Analie, Toy Show, Denise's Joy and Show Ego.
"I think Bounding Away is the best," said Tom carefully. "I didn't think so when I first saw her but I think she is now easily the best filly I have trained."
How does Bounding Away compare with the best colts and geldings Smith has trained?
"I reckon she would beat Red Anchor," was the trainer's emphatic response. "But I don't think she would beat Kingston Town. Oh, no - he was in a class by himself."
Kingston Town is another subject altogether.
"His best win was in the AJC Derby," suggests the champion's trainer. "He took three seconds off the record."
For the moment, Tommy Smith relaxed and reflected. Just thinking about the fleet-footed black brought a smile to his face. The 'King' was truly head-and-shoulders above the rest, with the exception, of course, of Tulloch.
Kingston Town, without argument from anyone, was an out-and-out champion. From 41 starts, the gelded son of Bletchingly and Ada Hunter recorded 30 wins, five seconds, two thirds and two fourths. for prizemoney totalling $1,605,790.
Kingston Town became the first racehorse in the Southern Hemisphere to 'crack' the million dollar barrier when he won the 2400 metres Sydney Turf Club Cup at Rosehill on September 19, 1981.
Australian Racing now has seven thoroughbred 'millionaires' - Kingston Town, Manikato, Bounding Away, Bonecrusher, Myocard, Rubiton and Kensei!
It is unusual to see a horse like Kensei in that company but his seven figure winnings came via his success in the 1987 Melbourne Cup. No doubt, in the future, we will see a few more honest campaigners like Kensei in the million dollar bracket but it is unlikely any will ever surpass the deeds of the first - Kingston Town.
Unplaced at his first two-year-old start, in March, 1979, Kingston Town gave notice of things to come at his second appearance when he romped home in the 1200 metres Round Table Handicap at Rosehill, on June 30 of the same year, at the succulent odds of 33-1.
Few people took a great deal of notice of Kingston Town's win. The gelding was only one of five winners booted home by stable jockey Malcolm Johnston that afternoon. However, it wasn't long before everyone sat up to take notice of 'KT'.
Initially, even Tommy Smith was inclined to underestimate the ability of Kingston Town.
Despite the fact that the 'King' won again at his next two starts, Smith instructed Johnston to ride the stable elect Spear in the 1500 metres STC Peter Pan Stakes in September.
Johnston, with his own brand of intuition, did not want to swap mounts but bowed to 'TJ's' wishes. With John Duggan in the saddle, Kingston Town (9-4) relegated Spear (6-4f) into second place by three-and-a-half lengths.
After that, Malcolm and the 'King' were seldom separated. He partnered the champ in 26 of his thirty victories. Only suspensions prevented the jockey riding Kingston Town in later races.
"Kingston Town was a freak," reminisced Tommy Smith.
"He was never sound, right throughout his career. It is very hard to match horses 20 years apart but by jove, Kingston Town was in the Tulloch class!
"Yet, Kingston Town was a second slower in Melbourne than he was in Sydney. He was a right-handed horse, not a left-handed horse.
"But Kingston Town would have won anywhere in the world!
"Tulloch and Kingston are the best I have trained."
Kingston Town was a freak, alright. He could stop-and-start in races as his jockey required, like pushing down on the acceleration pedal in a car and then jamming on the brake. He had blistering acceleration but would settle quickly again when required, the hallmark of the greatest of gallopers.
Leg problems beset the gelding throughout his racing life and forced him to miss the Autumn Carnivals in his four, five and six-year-old seasons. But he won three Cox Plates in the Spring which stamped him as one of the 'immortals' of the Turf.
A strained tendon in the near foreleg marked the end of Kingston Town's racing. Tommy Smith tried to bring 'KT' back to the racetracks in 1985 but eventually conceded defeat and recommended a permanent retirement for the black gelding.
It was a sad day for Tommy Smith and for Australian Racing when we never saw the absolute 'best' from one of the 'greats'.
(To be continued)
Reproduced text & photos with the courtesy of Australasian Turf Monthly
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