Sweet Home Dixie swept past her rivals on the far turn and powered through the stretch to run her win streak to five races and give trainer Hamilton Smith his 2,000th career victory Friday at Laurel Park.
Bred an owned by Smith's older brother and ridden by Maryland's 2019 champion jockey Trevor McCarthy, Sweet Home Dixie ($4.60) ran one mile in 1:40.44 over a fast main track to capture the starter allowance for fillies and mares 4 and up by five lengths.
Sweet Home Dixie was bred in South Carolina, where Franklin 'Goree' Smith owns and operates the Elloree Training Center. Her sire is Done Talking, the 2012 Illinois Derby (G2) winner that provided Hamilton Smith with his lone trip to the Kentucky Derby (G1).
“It's a great thing to happen, I can tell you that,” Smith said. “When I got started I never thought I'd be around to win 2,000 races. I'm really glad to win it with a South Carolina-bred, and my brother's horse. I had a lot of help along way. I'm proud of it, I really am.
“Everything worked out great. It's pretty unique, I have to admit,” he added. “We got started years ago down there, my brother and I, and we were getting on yearlings when we were 11 and 12 years old and we've been working together ever since. It's been a pleasure.”
McCarthy settled Sweet Home Dixie in fourth down the backstretch as 78-1 long shot Yes Mz Adah posted fractions of 24.22 and 47.98 seconds. McCarthy swung the 4-year-old filly outside on the turn, ranged up to the leaders and coasted past for her sixth career win, all at Laurel.
“We put the blinkers on her and she hasn't been beaten since,” Smith said. “She tries hard.”
The 74-year-old Smith was one of seven siblings growing up in Lone Star, S.C., helping tend to nearly 1,800 acres of soybeans, corn and livestock that comprised his father Dudley's farm. He got an early introduction to racing from older brothers, John Edward, a jockey in the 1940s and 1950s who later turned to training, and Frank, nicknamed 'Goree' by their father.
A horse identifier at Penn National before hanging up his shingle, Smith registered his first winner April 22, 1977 at Suffolk Downs and earned his first stakes triumph with John's Roll in the 1980 Timonium Futurity.
Starting in 1999, when he set career highs with 101 wins and $2.07 million in purse earnings, Smith has gone on to win or share five meet training titles at Laurel Park, the most recent coming at the 2016 summer stand. He has reached $1 million in seasonal earnings for 22 consecutive years, starting in 1998.
Smith has earned nearly $41 million in career purses from more than 13,000 starters, all without an assistant. His son, Jason, has essentially been filling that role in recent years.
Smith ranks Done Talking among his best horses. Done Talking was raised by his brother and provided Smith with his lone trip to a Triple Crown race. After surviving a serious bout with colic that nearly cost him his life the winter before his 3-year-old year, Done Talking finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) behind I'll Have Another.
Other top horses trained by Smith include 2005 and 2007 Violet (G3) winner Humoristic; 2009 Virginia Oaks (G3) winner Blind Date; Dr. Michael Harrison's 2014 and 2018 Maryland Million Turf winner Talk Show Man; 2000 Maryland-bred Horse of the Year Gin Talking, a three-time stakes winner for Smith as a 2-year-old; and Big Rut, who won seven stakes for Smith between 1996 and 1998.
“I've had five or six horses that really stick with me as far as what they accomplished,” Smith said. “It's just been hard work mostly and being conscientious of what you're doing. I've had some good help along the way and it means a lot. Naturally, you have to get the right kind of stock.”
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