The Legendary Horse Trainer Who Lived In Cheyenne
Before Seabiscuit rode into the record books, his legendary trainer turned a Cheyenne ranch into the greatest horse farm in the world.
When Tom Smith arrived in Wyoming in 1921, his ability with the racehorses at the Laramie County Fair quickly caught the eye of Charlie "C.B." Irwin. Irwin was a showman and promoter who traveled across the country with the Irwin Brothers Cheyenne Frontier Days Wild West Show. An accomplished horse trainer in his own right, Irwin's Y-6 ranch had produced the famous bucking horses Steamboat and Teddy Roosevelt.
When Irwin hired him as a blacksmith and assistant trainer, Smith slept on a cot in the barn. In two years, they turned the stable into one of the best. In 1923, Y-6 thoroughbreds led the nation with 147 wins. After leading the country in wins again in 1930, Smith partnered with Irwin to establish his own ranch in Cheyenne. Smith's horses went on to win 29 of their first 30 races.
Following Irwin's death in 1934, Smith headed west, splitting time between race tracks in Seattle and Tijuana, Mexico. While training horses in Tijuanan, "Silent Tom", as he was known, was introduced to automobile magnet Charles Howard.
In 1936, Smith convinced Howard to buy Seabiscuit for $7.500. Plucked from relative obscurity, the three-year-old embarked on an epic string of victories, setting up a showdown with Triple Crown winner War Admiral. Dubbed the "Match of the Century", Seabiscuit pulled away down the homestretch to win by four lengths and was named the Horse of the Year in 1938.
Following his death in 1957, Smith was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. His story later inspired a best-selling book and an Academy Award-nominated movie.