Action Hero, UK Trainer Bill Smith

At the Darley Awards 

Bill Smith was in Houston for the 2012 Darley Awards where he served as co-host.

Todd Moak, Randy Gault and Bill Smith in Texas

Smith has been a constant in the 25 years that the Darley Racing Cup Awards have been honoring Arabian racing heroes. “I’ve hardly missed one Darley Awards, from Victoria Secret’s day, back in 1993 when they started in Los Alamitos,” he said.

While in the United States, Smith was happily looking at horses to take back to race in England.

“Arabian Racing in the UK has become hugely popular”, said Smith. “We have Ascot and Newbury, both with Grade 1 tracks and good money races, thanks to the UAE and Qatar. Ascot has a $100,000 4 year-old race in July. Newbury, just south of London, has Dubai Day, this year on September 23 due to the dates of Ramadan and the London Olympics.”

“Dubai Day is a serious race day sponsored by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Shadwell Stud with $200,000 in prize money.  It’s a fantastic days’ racing.  It’s England’s Arabian Showcase, the Arabian equivalent of Royal Ascot. Sheikh Hamdan is a huge race horse supporter. For Dubai Day, in addition to serious racing, we see about 18,000 people, and there are free gifts and a drawing for a Holiday in Dubai.”

“In the last five years, Qatar has joined Dubai and has itself become a force in racing. They’ve raised the profile of Arabian racing. It’s amazing how it is accepted and doing so well. They are supporting racing around the world in a huge way.”

“We run maidens every week in the UK,” Smith continued. “Our 7 furlong is a softer race, an easier race. The tracks are mostly turf and we race both left and right, and up and downhill.”

Denise Gault of RaceStreet Management is excited about an exchange of talent across the pond: “I have a lot of confidence in the program that campaigns these horses abroad and introduces American horses to the European community in their playing field. We would like to invite owners and trainer to bring their horses to the US. I know that there are often too many horses for the race entries. We would be happy to have them come and race in Delaware and Churchill Downs.”

Smith detailed the added benefits of racing outside of the United States.

“If they do well in Europe they will sell to the Middle East. They must prove themselves.  Not just top horses are going, but every scale on the racing group can be sold,” he finished.

Michelle Morgan of Texas Mandolyn Hill Farms is already onboard the program. “I wanted to work with Bill and I know that they have some shorter races for the horses. We’ve already had some success.”

Jane and Ray Teutsch of Estralita and Soaring Eagle Ranch are sending over the mare owned by the Teutsch and Hammad Partnership, six year old TM Super Bird (Burning Sand x Heaven Kan Wait by Virgule Al Maury), the 2012 Darley Award, older mare of the year.

“Ray, Faisal and I made the decision to send Super Bird to Bill and have her race over there because we felt she had done everything there was to do here in the USA, having just won the Darley Champion Older Mare of the year.  We want to showcase her against the best in the world and have her there so that Bill can take her anywhere from his vantage point in England. Bill knows his way around the world’s racetracks with many years of experience and his sterling reputation. We have every confidence that Bill will maximize the opportunities for Super Bird’s success. Also, we plan to have fun by going abroad to watch her from time to time. We also see this as a first step in promoting our Djet Set de Falgas progeny internationally, especially since the few that have been exported are beginning to win abroad.”

Smith is positive about the Burning Sand bred horses.

“The Burning Sands are doing so well on French mares. Burning Sand brings some speed and the French line puts a bit of stamina in them. With the two, you’ve got everything.”

Smith’s introduction to Arabian racing in the United States began when he attended the first US Arabian auction and purchased American horses for Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was beginning a world wide Arabian racing presence.

“I started in the US with the first auction in Los Angeles in 1992,” he said. “I’ve bought a lot of American horses over the years, many for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and his brother, Sh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai.”

Smith advanced Sheikh Mohammed’s racing program in the US with the stallions, Virgule Al Marury, Tomanchie and Flaming Streak and also used Wiking extensively in the breeding program. He also purchased endurance horses, many of them ex-race horses, for Sheikh Mohammed, who early on had developed a passion for the sport in which he could compete.

“Sheikh Mohammed is very hands on,” Smith continued. “He and his sons. They have always ridden in the endurance rides and they have done well. He and his boys have had many Championships. A high moment was in 2010 when he came in second at the Kentucky World Equestrian Games Endurance Championship. He now rides and trains some of his own endurance mounts in Newmarket in the summer. That’s what he loves.”

Sheikh Mohammed’s US Darley Stud and his interests in the United States gave new hope to the flagging Arabian racing industry and confidence to breeders, trainers, owners and participants.  At one time, he was the single largest owner of Arabian race horses in the country and was three times awarded the US Darley Racing Cup Award Champion Breeder. In 2006, Sh Mohammed decided to concentrate on his Thoroughbred racing interests, and began the dispersal of his Arabians in the US. Many of his standout Arabians were sold to different owners to race on nearly every track in America.

Smith the jump jockey

Bill and Kelly Smith

Smith still retains much of the svelte look of his former days as one of England’s top National hunt jockeys. A rider for 20 years, he rode for the Queen Mother’s stable, giving her 65 wins from 1974 to 1984. In a tribute to the Queen Mother, Smith said, “I rode for her for ten years and she was one of the nicest owners you could ever wish to ride for.”

Bill and wife, Kelly, train horses on their Kelanne Stud in Southern England near Portsmouth. This coastal complex is two farms totaling 300 acres. One farm has the track and grass gallops and the other is the breeding operation. Smith explains that the farm is named after the first big winner he rode as a jockey.

 

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