While the decision to make a career training horses took some time, Jason Smith didn't have to wait long to get his first winner.
Smith, 38, sent out Bay of Rocks for his maiden victory Sept. 28 at Laurel Park and in the process beat a pair of horses trained by his father, Laurel-based Hamilton Smith, including runner-up Unequivocal.
“It was a proud moment. I was happy for him, but I don't think I was as happy as he was,” Smith, 72 and a winner of 1,943 career races, said. “It's something that will help give him some self-confidence and that's what it's all about.”
Bay of Rocks, a 2-year-old Maryland-bred son of Great Notion, won the maiden claiming event in 59.35 seconds for five furlongs on the main track. He was bred by Smith's parents and is co-owned by mother and son.
“It was incredibly exciting. More than anything I felt immense gratitude toward both of my parents. I learned everything I know about horses from them,” Jason Smith said. “My mother taught me pretty much everything about caring for them and my father taught me everything about conditioning. Without their help and support there's no way I would have been standing there.”
Jason Smith said he felt good about Bay of Rocks, whose four races this year since July 9 account for all of the fledgling trainer's starts. Smith has one other horse, Hard Rockin Blues, a 3-year-old Great Notion filly winless in seven career starts but unraced this year, also bred by his parents and co-owned with his mother.
“His first start he ran pretty green. He was a little under the weather for his second start and got a little tired. The third start up there at Timonium he stumbled coming out of the gate,” Smith said. “But, he was very sharp going into the last one and I was very confident. I knew he'd run well but I wasn't sure I'd be able to beat my dad's horse.”
Unequivocal, also making his fourth start, used a late bid to be second, beaten three-quarters of a length as the 9-5 favorite. Bay of Rocks was second choice in a field of eight at 3-1.
Jason Smith grew up around the barn, started walking hots at age 12 and continues to gallop horses for his father. His uncle, Frank 'Goree' Smith, has owned and operated the famed Elloree Training Center in South Carolina since 1973.
“I definitely grew up with it. When I was a toddler they tell me they used to put me in the water bucket and let me splash around,” he said. “I've been going back and forth for years. I've been working with computers since I was about 8 years old and kind of went that way, and I do that on the side. It took me a long time before I realized [training] was something I loved and wanted to do, and here we are.”
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