Tommy J. Smith
Thomas John Smith AM MBE (September 3, 1916 - September 2, 1998 ) also known as Tommy Smith or T. J. Smith was a leading trainer of thoroughbred racehorses based in Sydney, Australia. He is acknowledged for his record number of Sydney Trainers Premierships and for training many champion racehorses including Tulloch, Gunsynd and Kingston Town.
Born in Jembaicumbene (near Braidwood, New South Wales) and raised at the small town of Goolgowi in the Riverina district of New South Wales, young Tommy had a tough childhood. His father Neil Smith was a hard working, but also a hard drinking man, and worked Tommy extremely hard as a young boy. Educated for only a short time at the convent school in Narrandera and at the state school at Goolgowi, Tommy worked like a man with his father from the age of seven , driving bullock teams and breaking in horses, whilst his contemporaries played with toys. When Tommy looked back on his life, he would always recall with regret the lack of formal education that he received.
Tommy left home, and the tough existence that he had endured, at age thirteen, and as a young teenager he went to work in stables, trying to become a jockey in Melbourne and then Sydney. He also worked for the country squire, Mack Sawyer at Wagga. After becoming too heavy to ride in flat races Tommy started riding over the hurdles. After a bad race fall, in which he broke his hip, and with limited success as a jockey, Tommy realised he would not make it into the big league.
Living hard and working hard, Tommy broke in a rogue galloper and called him Bragger: after himself. At this time Tommy registered himself as a trainer and registered his silks of green and blue, which were to become famous in later years. He rented horse boxes in Kensington, housing Bragger in one box, whilst he lived in the other. Bragger proved to be quite a success in races in Sydney and country New South Wales. It was said that Tommy loved Bragger above all his champions. Bragger set him on the road to stardom and Tommy won many races with him. But, when Bragger went for a spell, Tommy blew all of his winnings on flashy suits, hired cars and drinking. Almost broke, Tommy was saved when Bragger returned from his spell and won, and again set up Tommy. After this episode Tommy never went broke again. Bragger continued to win races until he was a ten year old, when he had to be destroyed after becoming caught in a float fire. Tommy was devastated.
Braggers success meant that Tommy was soon establishing himself as a major trainer in Sydney and, when Playboy won the 1949 AJC Derby, beating the regally bred Delta, people stood up and took notice of the young upstart trainer. Always having an eye for publicity, Tommy never missed a chance to promote himself in the newspapers.
Tommy continued to rise in the training ranks and in season 1952-1953, won the Sydney Trainers Premiership, beating rival trainer Maurice McCarten. T. J., as he was now known, went on to win the Sydney Trainers Premiership for a further thirty-two consecutive years: An outstanding historical achievement which may never be bettered.
Success continued for Tommy after his initial Premiership success and in 1955, he won the Melbourne Cup with Toparoa, defeating the champion Rising Fast. He went on to win the Melbourne Cup again with Just a Dash in 1981. During his long career Tommy trained many champions such as Redcraze (1956 Caulfield Cup, 1957 Cox Plate), Gunsynd (1972 Cox Plate and Doncaster Handicap), Kingston Town (1980, 1981 and 1982 Cox Plates) and the mighty Tulloch (1957 Caulfield Cup, 1960 Cox Plate).
Tulloch was undoubtedly the greatest horse Tommy trained. Following a brilliant season as a three year old he tragically contracted a virus which kept him from the racecourse for two years. Through Tommy's care and perseverance and the genius of his vet Dr. Percy Sykes, they brought Tulloch back from near death in one of racing's greatest stories. Tulloch went on to win 36 of his 53 race starts and set race records for the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup. In winning the 1957 AJC Derby he took 2 seconds off Phar Lap’s race record. In honour of his champion, Tommy named his main stables Tulloch Lodge
Tommy also trained many winners of Australia's richest and most prestigious two year old race The Golden Slipper including the brilliant filly Bounding Away, whom Tommy bred, owned and trained. Tommy also won the nations top Weight for Age race the W.S. Cox Plate seven times. When Tommy retired he had trained over 7000 winners including 279 Group 1 winners.
Tommy and his wife Valerie had one daughter Gai, now Gai Waterhouse, who, after a short acting career in England (where she appeared in Doctor Who), took out a trainers licence. Gai is now not only the leading female trainer in Australia, but is the leading trainer in Sydney and Australia. She has won five Sydney Training Premierships after a little over ten years in training. Her top horses have won her a host of races. Her best horses include, Nothin' Leica Dane, Te Akau Nick, Juggler, All Our Mob, Dance Hero, Northern Meteor and her Stable Star is Manhattan Rain.
Tommy retired from full time training in the early 1990s, and handed control of Tulloch Lodge to his daughter Gai, while continuing to provide the occasional fatherly advice. Tommy died in 1998. Along with Bart Cummings and Colin Hayes, he is considered to be one of the great Australian thoroughbred trainers.
- Turf Monthly - August, 1977, Vol. 24, No. 44, pages 4–8. Tommy Smith - 25 years Australia's leading trainer by Arn Rogers.