On April 7, Done Talking, a Skeedattle Associates homebred trained by Hamilton Smith, upset the Illinois Derby (G3) at odds of 12-1 and likely secured a berth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. It was a major victory for the South Carolina-born conditioner, but he’s hardly an overnight success. In fact, horses trained by Smith have won over 1,600 races and total prize money of nearly $30 million. He won four Colonial Downs training titles in five years, from 2006 to 2010, and he’s conditioned numerous stakes winners, among them Blind Date, Gin Talking, and Case of the Blues. We chatted with Ham Smith in the wake of the Illinois Derby victory.
Was this the biggest win of your career?
Yes, it was.
Done Talking was beaten 20 in the Gotham. What happened?
That’s a good question. He was a little bit dull in the paddock, but he’s a laid-back horse, so I wasn’t thinking anything of it. When he came back, the jockey didn’t have any excuse for him. But he asked twice to ride him back next time.
Pretty unusual for a jock to ask to ride a horse back who just lost by 20, isn’t it?
That’s what I was thinking.
Is the Derby the race you’d really like to win?
The Derby’s the most prestigious race in the world. There are others with more money or whatever, but it’s at the top of most people’s list, and I feel the same way. I’d love to win it.
Are you going to get into the Derby field? [Ed. note: We conducted the interview on Friday, April 13. Through races of April 14, Done Talking remains #18 on the graded earnings lsit.]
As of right now, it looks that way. We’re eighteenth, but there’s two or three ahead of us who aren’t going to go. But there’s also some behind us who could get ahead of us, so this weekend will tell the story.
The figs will say you can’t win the Derby. Why do you think you can?
The Beyer figures and all that, they don’t mean as much to me as they do to the handicappers and the story-writers. He’s got the right running style for the Derby; he sits back and makes his run. That’s what we wanted him to do in the Illinois Derby, was to only run the last three-eighths or so. When the rider asked him, he came running, and that’s what he’ll need to do in Kentucky. I don’t think the mile-and-a-quarter distance should be a problem. Both of his races at a mile-and-an-eighth were good. He was the only one running at the end of the Remsen, and obviously he closed well in the Illinois Derby.
Are you going to keep Sheldon Russell aboard?
Yes. He’s going to stay on as long as he can. He rode the horse good, and the horse responded, so it was a good race.
When did you realize he was this kind of horse?
When he was a yearling, we sent him down to my brother’s farm in South Carolina. He’s been doing this a long time and has had a lot of good horses through there, and he told me this horse was as good as anything he’s had in the last 10 years. He’s a smart colt, and he does everything right. His better races are in front of him, and if that’s the case, he’ll do OK.