Crompton “Tommy” Smith Jr., a steeplechase jockey and trainer who helped to transform Jay Trump from a failed flat horse into a steeplechase star on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, died Tuesday, March 5, in Baltimore. The well-liked horseman was 74.
“The Green Spring Valley Hounds has lost a great friend,” the Maryland-based hunt said in a message to its members. “A terrific horseman, he was the first American to win the English Grand National at Aintree, and was a five-time winner of the Maryland Hunt Cup. He was a wonderful supporter of racing, hunting, and the countryside, and faced adversity with courage and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with Frances, Alix and Bill.”
A memorial service was held at St.Thomas Church in Reisterstown, Md., on March 8.
His grandfather, Virginia sportsman Harry Worcester Smith, and his father, Crompton Smith Sr., were noted amateur jockeys in their eras, and the younger Smith followed in their footsteps. He attended Taft School and dropped out of Princeton to pursue his amateur steeplechase career.
He rode sparingly, but he frequently won the races that mattered most. His first major victory was in the 1959 Maryland Hunt Cup when he rode H. Robertson Fenwick’s Fluctuate to a two-length score. Fluctuate won the following year with Mikey Smithwick aboard, but Smith came back to win the 1961 Hunt Cup on Simple Samson.
In 1960, Smith’s godmother, Cincinnati horsewoman Mary C. Stephenson, asked him to find a suitable horse for hunting. For $2,000, Smith found Jay Trump, an obscurely bred gelding who had failed on the flat at Charles Town Races and Shenandoah Downs.
Regarded as a rogue, Jay Trump became more tractable as Smith rode him in the hunting field, and he made his debut with a win in the 1962 Western Run Plate at the Grand National meet in Butler, Md. He subsequently won the Radnor Hunt Cup. Jay Trump and Smith began 1963 with a second-place finish to Janon Fisher’s Mountain Dew in the Grand National and then won the Hunt Cup by four lengths over Mountain Dew a week later. On firm turf, Jay Trump established a Hunt Cup record of 8:42 1/5 for its four miles.
The following year, Smith rode Jay Trump to a sweep of the Maryland timber classics, winning the My Lady’s Manor and Grand National before an easy victory over Mountain Dew in the Hunt Cup. Beginning in 1964, Smithwick was listed as Jay Trump’s trainer for his American starts.
The Stateside triumphs warranted a trip to England for the Grand National at Aintree, and both Jay Trump and Smith prepared for the race of a lifetime under Fred Winter, a legendary steeplechase jockey and trainer. Although slow away from the tape because he did not like the crowded company of 46 other starters, Jay Trump took the inside route, sailed through the last fence, and held off favored Freddie to win by three-quarters of a length.
In 1966, Jay Trump and Smith resumed their Maryland timber exploits with a second victory in the My Lady’s Manor, a second-place finish to Mountain Dew in the Grand National, and an eight-length win over their longtime rival Mountain Dew rival in the Hunt Cup. Inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1971, Jay Trump died in 1988 and is buried at the Kentucky Horse Park.