Veteran steward Todd Smith to hang up the binoculars

Todd Smith (right) chats with Hugh Bowman at Mudgee earlier this year. Photo: Racing Photography.

Racing NSW will soon lose one of their most experienced stewards with Western and Central Districts Chief Stipe Todd Smith set to hang up the binoculars. 

The 23-year veteran of the sport kicked off his career in the late 1990s and has been in his current job since 2005, overseeing countless meetings across country NSW.

When asked about his decision to pull up stumps with Racing NSW, Smith explained it was merely time for a change. 

“I’ve been doing this for a while now and I’ve just got heaps to do at home. I will get in and sort that out and work out my next step from there,” Smith said.

The popular steward has only known racing, with the Gundagai born and bred lad raised around the thoroughbred and harness racing industries. 

“I was born there in Gundy and probably lived there for the first 10 years of my life and moved away to Tamworth,” Smith said. 

“I used to go back to Gundagai every school holiday and stay at my grandparents place and Gundagai would have been the first meeting I attended.

“I was always around racing. My mother’s side of the family was into harness racing in the Tamworth area and my dad and pop were into racing. We’d be going to races every Saturday.

“That is what I was brought up with. We wouldn’t miss too many meetings, and dad and pop owned a couple of horses.”

When attending Farrer Agriculture High School in Tamworth, Smith’s interest in the sport grew before he earned a rare chance to enter the industry. 

“It was a funny story; my principal at the time, he was also a part time steward and one weekend I was at the races, and I saw him and asked him how he got into that sort of job,” Smith said. 

“The next week in math class, he pulled me out of class, drove me into town and I met the Tamworth Stewards in their office, and they said there was some part time work. 

“After that, I worked as a part time steward; doing things like swabbing and betting supervisor for 11 months and then I got a cadetship in Sydney.”

An 18-year-old Smith was then off to Sydney prior to moving around to many other racing regions and learning his craft before finally settling into the top job in Dubbo in 2005.

“In those times, you had to do your cadetship. I started in Sydney and then I was there for about 18 months, then Tamworth for three months then I went to Wagga for about 18 months,” he said.

“I went to Dubbo, and I was here for about 18 months and then I went to Queanbeyan, and I was there for about the same period and after that I moved to Dubbo and have been here ever since.”

During his time, Smith watched many talented gallopers grace the track and he said the Tracey Bartley trained Sniper’s Bullet was the best of them all.

“The best horse I watched race in the area was Sniper’s Bullet. It won its first two starts as a two-year-old in Dubbo before going on to win three Group Ones,” he said. 

“Other very good horses include King Rex (Ramornie Handicap winner), Izababe, Shiraz and Platinum Skye. Stoneyrise was a very talented horse whose career was cut short due to an accident. 

“Star of Universe, a hairy little chestnut horse that one 21 races from 190 odd starts was the toughest.”

As far as the best victory he ever watched, it came at Engonia back in 2017 when the Clint Lundholm trained Tuncoona boulted in for a big win under the guidance of Michael Hackett.  

“The easiest win I ever witnessed was by a mare called Tuncoona in an Enngonia maiden,” he said. 

“It jumped straight to the front and appeared to be going half-pace for the rest of the race before winning by eleven lengths under a hold.”

Hand in hand with the highs of the racing industry, came the darkest of lows for Smith, who was on course for the deaths of two jockeys: one being Damien Murphy at Wellington in 2007 and the second being Reece Potter at Tomingley in 2011.

“Obviously the worst things to happen that pop straight into my head are the two deaths of two riders and the serious injury to Michael Hackett,” Smith said. 

“I was the first person on the scene both times as they nearly happened directly in front of me. 

“You are not trained to deal with it, and you are not sure how you are going to handle it when it happens, so yeah, it was tough.”

Todd Smith will finish up as the head steward in the Western and Central Districts in the coming weeks after more than 20 years in the thoroughbred racing industry. Photo: Racing Photography.

As far as highlights, Smith said being around the bigger meetings and watching small committees host successful race days were right up there. 

“I can’t single out any career highlight, as it is a difficult job to have highlights in,” Smith said. 

“I really enjoyed working at the bigger cup meetings in the area every year and the Country Championships meetings. 

“I also enjoyed the once-a-year and picnic meetings, where the committees worked hard every year to make a success of what is an important annual event for a lot of communities.” 

Smith did take pride in the improvement of facilities in the Western and Central Districts during his tenure.

“Looking back, I see a lot of improvements in safety for participants and horses that I have implemented in the area since I have been here, which I would say would be a highlight,” Smith said.

“For a lot of the once-a-year clubs, at the end of the meeting I would give them a safety improvement project to complete before their next meeting, which continued to improve the safety of their tracks and facilities.”

With a career change looming, Smith will wind up in his role with Racing NSW in the coming weeks, although he hinted, he wouldn’t be completely lost to the racing industry. 

“I haven’t really got anything set in concrete at the moment,” Smith laughed. 

“I’m going to take some time off, work on my farm in Geurie but in some way, I would like to stay in racing – we will have to wait and see what happens.”