Jo Ann Smith apologized for not having more time to talk. “Gotta get up at 3:30, the cat’s away and all that stuff. Down a rider and groom this week, fun time at Laurel,” she said, tongue-in-cheek.
It’s a nice problem to have. “The cat” is husband Hamilton Smith who, along with the missing groom and exercise rider, is at Churchill Downs with Derby starter Done Talking. Called Jody by all who know her, Smith is more than capable of holding down the fort. The couple built their business together, based on a no-nonsense, old school approach to training. Twin daughters Cheryle and Michelle and son Jason all grew up as part of the team. Jason will take over when his mother, both sisters and Cheryle’s 14-year-old daughter Taylor join Hammy in Louisville on Friday.
“We still have 34 other horses to take care of,” she said. “Jason is already grooming and galloping.”
But come Saturday afternoon, three generations of Smith women will don Derby hats (hand-decorated by Michelle) and watch from their box in the grandstand as Done Talking steps onto the track to the strains of “My Old Kentucky Home.” While Hammy is renowned for his deadpan stoicism, his wife knows it will be an emotional moment for all of them.
“I’m over the moon for Hammy,” Jody said. “I’ve prayed hard for this for a really long time. I think the Lord knows he’s worked hard for this all his life, and I sure believe he’s earned it. I honestly think he’s as good as any trainer in the country.”