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G S ('Swanee') SMITH
He still rides his bike to and from the Addington course - an alert, wiry-looking old gentleman who would pass for years younger than he is, but who long since qualified as the Grand Old Man among head-quarters' personalities. G S ('Swanee')Smith was born at Naseby, Central Otago, in 1882. His father, the late J R Smith, owned a livery and coaching stable, and as a hobby raced and trained many good gallopers.
Young Smith was brought up with horses all around him or, as he puts it now: "was born on a horse." His family owned a large farm and used to run a coach service between Naseby and Ranfurly, although this was a small business compared with Cobb and Company's service from Ranfurly to the Lakes District.
At the age of nine, Smith was riding gallopers in work for his father, and he was 12 years old and weighed 4st 3lb when he won his first race, on his father's horse, The Last, in 1893. Another 'important' early win was on Jack The Flat, in the Naseby Cup (worth 40 sovs), the main event at the Maniototo Jockey Club's meeting in 1895. "Before I went to school, I remember my father putting me on a horse, and giving me a rap on the knuckles if I held the reins too high," Smith said. He recalled that in those days, the practice was to walk with the horses to all the meetings - distances of up to 150 miles on occasions. As well as Jack The Flat, Smith and his father were successfully associated with many other good winners around the Maniototo, Palmerston, Roxburgh, Naseby, Lawrence and Vincent districts. These winners included De Trop, Sebastapol and Emmason.
Smith began to put on weight, and around about 1900 left home to work on the railways in the Dunedin district. It was there, several year later, at Tahuna Park, that he saw that he saw the Australian trotting champion, Mr Buckland's Fritz, give an exhibition run. "I said to myself there and then: 'I'm gonna have one of them,' and although I remembered that my father had always told me that he would 'shoot' me if I had anything to do with trotters, I soon managed to get an amateur's licence," he said.
At the Forbury Park Trotting Club's spring meeting in 1911 - the fourth year of the club's existence - Smith produced Colleen Bawn, an aged black mare of unknown pedigree, owned by a Mr Lethaby, to win the Second Amateur Handicap. It was his first success in the game, but was a forerunner of many more. 'Swanee' recalls that he used to work Colleen Bawn in a sulky that stood higher than himself, and he had quite a job stepping up into the seat. Shortly after that success, Smith shifted to Southland, where he worked on the railways and trained in his spare time. There he won races with his own gelding, Papeete (by Sir Hector), and with a Sir Hector mare Flower o' Turi. In the saddle he won the 1919 Dunedin Handicap with a good performer in Dandy Chimes, and the same year he won the Gore Trotting Club Handicap with Barooga. Both Dandy Chimes and Barooga were by Four Chimes from an unnamed Kentucky mare. Dandy Chimes won his way out of the southern classes, and eventually entered J 'Scotty' Bryce's stable, where he was trained for several important wins in Canterbury. Other good winners trained in the far south by Smith were Harold Wallace, Last Vue, Queen's Lane, Siesa, St Mihiel and Ringway. The last two raced in his own interest.
About 1920 Smith shifted to Canterbury and set up in Buchanans Road, Sockburn. With him he brought Mr J Hamilton's good Bellman gelding, Bellfashion. In 1921-22 he produced Bellfashion to win races at Addington, Forbury Park and Washdyke. The day he won the Timaru Handicap at Washdyke, Smith was also successful with Mr T Newman's imported American stallion, Lee Norris, and Mr F Smith's Harold Dillon mare, Bundura. He also won two races at Forbury Park with Mr Newman's Petereta gelding, Peter King, while he drove Mr G W Dransfield's up-and-coming Logan Pointer gelding, Loganwood, on several occasions. In 1922-23, Smith, took over the training of Loganwood, and won the Midsummer Handicap at Addington and the Forbury Handicap with him. Another important success was in the Nelson President's Handicap with the Harold Rothschild gelding, Rothman, whom he raced in partnership with a Mr Lake.
The next season Lee Norris represented the stable successfully in the Avon Handicap at Addington, while he was beaten by a head by the late Mr M O'Brien's Pete Peter in the Addington Handicap. With Loganwood, Smith beat Bonny Logan and Pedro Pronto in the Selwyn Handicap and Locanda Mac and Whispering Willie in the Midsummer Handicap, both at Addington. Other successes came with Mr M Gorman's Jim Logan and Mr D Rodgers's Fireman. The latter paid a big dividend in the last event of the season, at Washdyke. Followers of the Smith stable enjoyed another big dividend when Mr Rodgers's Wildwood Jun. gelding, Pinevale, eighth favourite in a field of nine won the Oamaru Handicap. Bellfashion, now racing in Smith's interest, won the Railway and Linwood Handicaps at Addington. Actually, the late Sir John McKenzie's good mare, lightnin', beat Bellfashion by four lengths in the latter race, a saddle event, but Lightnin' lost the race, being declared ineligible.
Smith also produced Mr H G Hunt's Dusky Pointer to win the Nelson Cup and another event at Nelson, where his own Harold Dillon mare, Ivy Viking, won at Nelson and Wellington.
In 1925, Smith left Canterbury to return to farm in Central Otago. He was off the racing scene for 12 months, and he didn't work his way back into the picture until right at the end of the 1926-27 season, when he was successful at Ashburton with his own Denver Huon mare, 5-year-old Sadie Huon. At this time he was training at New Brighton. In 1927-28, Sadie Huon won at Geraldine and Timaru for Smith, and the following season he took over Mr F Smith's Rey de Oro gelding Agile, who was from Bundura. Agile won four races that term, after which Smith shifted to Spreydon, near the foot of the Cashmere Hills. Agile won three races including the Mace Memorial at New Brighton and the Flying Handicap (in 2.57 1/5 for the 11 furlongs) at Forbury Park, in 1934-35. Also in that term, Smith won two races with his own Rey de Oro 3-year-old Agility. Agile again won the Flying Handicap at Forbury Park in 1935-36, and this time he was seventh favourite in a field of eight. The following season, Agile, now racing in the trainer's interest, beat Todd Lonzia and Double Great in the Ashburton Boxing Day Handicap.
After winning a race with Agility the following season, Smith became associated with C S Donald, who was then at the top of the ladder and had a big staff of good horsemen helping him with his large team. Agility passed out of Smith's hands and later won the Taranaki Centennial Cup in A Holmes's interests. Donald's team at this time included Mr W L Parkinson's good Jack Potts gelding, Ferry Post. After winning a string of races early in his career, Ferry Post became tempamental, but Smith seemed to get on better with him than anyone else in the stable; and in 1940-41 he worked and drove him to win the Harper and Beach Handicaps at New Brighton. Ferry Post won another two races the following season, with Smith in the sulky again.
Smith broke a leg in a race smash on the Coast in the early 1940s and was off the scene for about two years, but he returned and joined up with the noted horseman, L A Maidens, at Addington. Maidens shifted to Australia, leaving Smith in charge of the team, which included the veteran Jack Potts gelding, Zingarrie, and the chestnut Turco. Smith promptly recovered his reputation for big dividends by piloting Zingarrie to win the Heathcote Handicap at the National meeting of that season. Zingarrie was 16-16 in a field of 18, and returned odds of better than 150 to 1. That was the last success of the gelding's career.
Turco was to be the makings of Smith as a successful trainer. Bred in 1936 by Mr J Dempster, of Nightcaps, he was by Rey de Oro from the Wrack mare, Wrackoda, who traced on the dam's side to the imported Vancleve. He was first trained by O J Dempster, and won his first race at Invercargill in 1839-40. He won several more races, and became unsound and was off the scene for two seasons before returning to race in the interests of Messrs A V Prendeville and J X Ferguson. Smith, who gained valuable knowledge from Maidens, the following season persuaded Turco to recover all of his former brilliance. After a string of placings, which included thirds to Emulous and Highland Scott and Emulous and Jack's Son at Epsom, and to Loyal Peter and Liberty Bond in the Summer Handicap at Hutt Park, he beat Liberty Bond and Loyal Nurse in the Dominion Handicap at Hutt Park and Gallant Maid and Navigate in the Harewood Handicap at Addington. One placing from his next four starts followed and then he ran out the season the winner of his last four starts. His successes were over Cameronian and Lucky Loyal in 4.21 at Addington, over Native Scott and Jack's Son in 4.18 at Addington, over Knave of Diamonds and Dundee Sandy in 2.37 4/5 at Addington, and over Countless, Dundee Sandy and Double Peter in the All-Aged Stakes at Ashburton. Smith considers Turco by far the best horse he has anything to do with. "He was a brilliant beginner, and if tucked in behind until the right moment, could out-finish the best of them," he said. Other winners prepared by Smith in 1945-46 were News Agent, Princess Maritza and D A Morland's Noble Reta (the dam of Bon Ton).
In 1946-47 Turco dead-heated with Haughty, ahead of Josedale Grattan and Countless, in the NZ Premier Sprint Championship, and then defeated Countless, Integrity and Double Peter in the Ollivier Handicap at Addington. He also gained six important placings, including a close second to Battle Colours in the Hannon Memorial. By this time Smith had taken under his wing a string of pacers and trotters, and those who he won races with in 1946-47 included Jackie Guy, Loyal Peter, Aberhall, Willie Winky, Fancy Goods, King's Messenger, Incredible, Mountmellick, Logan Ray and Convincer. Most of these horses were considered near the end of their tethers when Smith took them over, but he worked wonders with this team; such was his outstanding ability to train and drive.
The following season he took over the former southern mare, Mr R Wylie's Grattan Drive. A fine performer, she created an immediate impression under Smith by winnig over two miles at Addington in 4.17 2/5. She won two further races at Addington that term and also the Au Revoir Handicap at Forbury Park in the fast time of 2.55 for the 11 furlongs. It was during that season (1947-48)that Smith ventured to Auckland with a team to contest the InterDominion Championship series. With Loyal Peter he won a qualifing heat, but finished unplaced in the final, "through," he says, "an error of judgement." With Turco he won the Consolation Pacer's race in 3.12 2/5 and, with the Wrack trotting gelding, Willie Winkie, the outsider of a field of 10, he gained third placing in the Trotters' Grand Final. Jackie Guy, Mountmellick, King's Messenger and Mr C S Over's Red Ace were other winners from the stable that term.
Early the following season Smith trained and drove winners in Voco Power, Red Ace, Baby Grand and Grattan Drive, before piloting Jackie Guy to victory at Addington. Jackie Guy, however, was disqualified from that race, and Smith lost his driving licence on the grounds of interference. M Holmes, S A Edwards, R Young, W R Butt, D G Jones, J A Carnichael, R Stevens and others drove members of his team from them on. Later in the season, Jackie Guy won a double at Wellington and the stable was represented by other winners in Silent Knight, Trustee and Systematic. Trustee, a Quite Sure gelding and a member of the First Water family, won three races, including the Canterbury Handicap at Addington, for which he was the outsider of the field of 12 and recorded 4.15 1/5. Mr H Rattray's Grattan Loyal gelding, Systematic, was also at good odds for his two successes that term.
The next season Trustee won at Wellington when ninth favourite in a field of 12, while other winners included Systematic, Baby Grand, Jimmy Dillon, Right Royal, Dolly Fraser, Merry Man and Tiny Scott. Jimmy Dillon, an aged Quite Sure trotting gelding, raced in the interests of Mr Prendeville won three races including the NZ Trotting Free-For-All and the NZ Hambletonian Handicap. Right Royal, a speedy son of Jack Potts and Bingenique, raced by Mr W A Newton, won sprints at New Brighton and Forbury Park.
Smith won two races with the Dillon Hall gelding Popotai, in his own interests the following season, and four races with Mr C A Winter's 4-year-old Gamble horse, Gay Lyric. Other good winner produced from his stable that year were Systematic, Trustee, Tiny Scott, Dark Water and Scott Wrack. In 1951-52, he produced winners in Dark Water, the veteran Duncraig, Gay Lyric, Popotai, Systematic and Mrs A and Mrs J Darwell's Josedale Grattan gelding, Denbry, a temperamental customer at that stage of his career. The following season his major success was in the Johns Handicap at New Brighton with Denbry.
He long since gave up "pottering about with a horse or two" but his love of the game still draws like a magnet this remarkably agile octogenarian to training work and to race meetings at Addington and New Brighton. "It keeps me young," grinned Swanee.
Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 26Jun63