Tommy Smith: Jockey involved in one of the greatest finishes to the Grand National

 

The amateur jockey Tommy Smith became the first American to win the Grand National on a horse born, bred and owned in the United States – the plucky eight-year-old Jay Trump – in a dramatic finish in 1965. Jockey and horse became legends in the US for a race memorable not only for one of the closest finishes in its history but for the fact that it looked like being the last Grand National, since the Aintree course was up for sale to property developers.

Amateur riders had won the National before and American-bred horses had also triumphed, notably Sergeant Murphy in 1923 and Battleship (son of the great Man o' War) in 1938, but Smith, Jay Trump and Smith's godmother Mary Stephenson were the first US horse/jockey/owner combination to win. It wasn't quite an all-American victory since Smith and Stephenson had brought their horse to England a year earlier to be trained specifically for the National, by the great former jockey Fred Winter in his first season as a trainer. Winter had won the race twice in the saddle and would also go on to train the 1966 winner, Anglo. Smith had come over with Jay Trump to make the gelding feel at home, and to be trained himself by Winter to tackle the mighty course.

On 27 March 1965 Smith and Jay Trump were neck and neck in the run-in with the race favourite, the Scottish-trained Freddie and his jockey Pat McCarron. “It's America and Scotland as they reach the last fence,” said the BBC commentator Peter O'Sullevan. Approaching the last, Smith took a calculated risk.

He had never ridden Aintree but he had got up at dawn that day to walk the course, even climbing to spreadeagle himself on the final fence to feel the texture of its spruce. So when Freddie and McCarron loomed alongside him, Smith deliberately brushed through the loose top of that last fence to gain a vital couple of yards. Jay Trump's head, with its distinctive white diamond, dipped close to the turf on landing but Smith's bold move paid off and he drove the dark bay gelding, which he had bought on behalf of his godmother for $2,000 and had nurtured back from a life-threatening injury, to victory by three-quarters of a length. The following week's edition of Sports Illustrated carried the headline “The Jump That Won A Grand National”.

For Smith, it was his first and last attempt at the race. He ended that 1965 season with a third place on Jay Trump, behind the great mare Hyères III, in the French equivalent of the Grand National, the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at the Auteuil track. He gave up racing the following year and concentrated on his job as a health care executive in Boston until his retirement in 1995. Having survived the 1965 Grand National – in which only 14 of the 47 starters finished and which gave further voice to the animal rights activists – Smith fell from a horse during a leisure ride in 2001, an accident which left him a quadriplegic.

Although Aintree was eventually sold in 1973 to the property developer Bill Davies, he kept the Grand National going, and the race's future was secured when a Trust run by the Jockey Club (Jockey Club Racecourses) gained control in the 1980s.

Smith's life, that of his horse and that famous final jump were immortalised in the book The Will to Win – The True Story of Tommy Smith and Jay Trump (1966) by the horsewoman and author Jane McIlvaine McClary. Its foreword was by the former jockey, and best-selling author, Dick Francis, who never won a Grand National but came close on the Queen Mother's Devon Loch in 1956 when the horse inexplicably did a belly-flop a few yards from the finish line.

Crompton “Tommy” Smith, steeplechase jockey and health care executive: born Middleburg, Virginia 16 October 1937: married 1964 Frances Cochran (one son, one daughter); died Upperco, Maryland 5 March 2013.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments