06/06/2006 11:00PM

Statistics remain consistently solid as the quality of his stock improves


Hamilton Smith, 61, is a trainer regular followers of the Maryland circuit have come to depend upon for consistency and success for many years now, and in 2006 his numbers are as strong as ever. Smith has won 22 races (18 percent), finished in the money at a 57 percent clip, and boasts an overall $2.33 return on investment.

"I think I have my best stock ever this year," said Smith, who is based at Laurel Park and typically carries a stable of about 40 to 55, largely for clients who are breeders. "This time of year, our better horses are generally in the barn. We just place them in the right spots, and I think we have a lot to look forward to the rest of the year with our younger stock and grass horses. I think we could have about 10 or 12 stakes-caliber horses right now."

Humoristic and Art Fan, second and third, respectively, last time out in the Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day, are a pair of turf mares Hamilton and bettors have come to count on. Combined, the pair have 13 wins and purse earnings of more than $610,000.

"I think they are pretty evenly matched," Smith said. "Humoristic raced on the dirt when she was younger, we tried her on turf, and she's since really turned the corner and become consistent. Art Fan is bred for the grass and has basically been on that surface her whole life. She was a little erratic early in her career but has learned to rate and become a much better filly for it."

Smith's knack with fillies was also showcased when Ashley Hall and Morgan's Bailey both easily won their maiden in debut races in late May at Pimlico. Ashley Hall, a 3-year-old by Maria's Mon, rated early while wide and then moved strongly to win going away, paying $12.20. Morgan's Bailey, a 2-year-old by Lion Hearted, broke a beat slowly but quickly recovered to race with the pace and then draw out to a four-length win at 4 1/2 furlongs. She paid $10.

"Ashley Hall is a half-sister to Bandini and has a license to be a nice filly," Smith said. "Morgan's Bailey is a horse I bred and raised myself, but with our younger horses a lot of the credit goes to my brother [Franklin Smith]. He has Elloree Training Center in South Carolina and picks plenty of horses for me. I get them at the track, get them their gate cards and lip tattoos, and put them in the entries."

Smith wins at nearly 30 percent with first-time starters, 2-year-olds, and horses moving from turf to dirt. In all those categories, he also boasts very lucrative ROI numbers.

Strong statistics aside, Smith is most proud of his hard work over a period of about 30 years of training Thoroughbreds and how he has upgraded his stock.

"I've been at it all my life," Smith said. "And, up until about the last couple of years, we've been able to do a nice job with some horses with obscure pedigrees. We've gotten them to perform well and win stakes and so forth. The ones with the pedigrees should do well, but we've often gotten the job done with the ones that will make you work harder to do it. I pride myself on that."