Day At The Track

Keeping a legacy alive

02:38 AM 21 Mar 2019 NZDT
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Uppercutz winner’s circle,Harness racing
Uppercutz winner’s circle
Brad Conrad

No matter what she does, Kristina Smith carries the memory of her grandmother with her. Smith's horses always will too.

Smith, the 21-year-old daughter of trainer Randy Smith, lost her grandmother, Linda Jean Nelson, to cancer in 2015. Nelson was an inspiration to Kristina on multiple levels, including around the horses and on the racetrack. Nelson was an accomplished horsewoman, even setting the track record for trotting under saddle at Scarborough Downs in the 1970s.

So when Smith began her own training career earlier this year, it was important for her to honor her grandmother and the contributions she made to her life. Smith decided her horses would race in pink equipment, including a Buxton with Nelson's name on it, in memory of her grandmother.

Twelve days ago, an 8-year-old pacer named Uppercutz went onto the track at Miami Valley Raceway wearing that equipment and gave Smith her first win as a trainer.


photo -Kristina Smith

"My grandmother meant the world to me," Smith said. "She helped my dad raise me and she was always there for me, even when she was sick. We lost her too soon. There was so much more she could have taught me, not only with the horses but about life and being a good person because she was a prime example. I wouldn't be where I am and who I am if it wasn't for her and for that I keep her legacy alive."

Smith grew up in New England, where her dad started his stable when she was 3. She now lives near Columbus, Ohio, where she works for trainer Sandy Beatty and has her own one-horse racing stable plus a retired Standardbred owned previously by her grandmother that is now a riding horse. The trotter, Blue Boy Yankee, is no stranger to having someone on his back --- Smith raced him under saddle in 2014 and 2015.

Smith was unaware of her grandmother's under-saddle exploits when she began riding but was happy to discover the connection.

"I think it's meaningful to follow in her footsteps," Smith said.

She also is following in her father's footsteps, and in the case of Uppercutz's victory, beating him. Randy's horse A List finished third in the same race.

"Everyone was teasing him," Smith said, laughing. "But he said if he had to lose to someone he would rather lose to his daughter."

Randy found Uppercutz for his daughter, who claimed the gelding out of a race in Maine. Not surprisingly, she rides the pacer as part of his training regimen. The horse has raced eight times for Smith and posted a win and two seconds.

"I take him trail riding; I have a blast with him," Smith said. "He doesn't want to stay on the track to jog. He'll jog for about 10 minutes and try to run off the track. I've learned it's easier to ride him because he enjoys that more than jogging in a jog cart. He seems to be a horse that likes the one-on-one attention."


Uppercutz winners circle                 -photo Brad Conrad

Smith does not intend to train horses on a fulltime basis. Whatever success Uppercutz enjoys on the track, Smith plans to use the profits to go to equine dentistry school.

"For the time being, just having one is good," Smith said. "I've always wanted to have my own smaller stable. I probably wouldn't want to have more than three racehorses plus the riding horse. The smaller the better. It's very time consuming to do everything the right way. I'd rather have a smaller stable and have every horse get the attention they need. I was always told quality is better than quantity."

No matter what she does, Smith will continue to use the lessons she learned from her grandmother and father along the way.

"I was definitely very fortunate to have them to teach me," Smith said. "My dad would always say to me growing up, 'I just want you to be the best you can be.' That's what I strive to do. I know my grandmother looks over me and I want her to be proud."

 

Ken Weingartner

Media Relations Manager

U.S. Trotting Association

www.ustrotting.com

 

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