STAN Smith celebrates his 90th birthday today.
As a birthday treat, Smith yesterday spent his first day at a Ballarat race meeting in more than 60 years.
His son David organised the surprise outing from Melbourne to allow Stan to reflect on some memories from his days as a jockey – something Smith senior had no trouble doing once on course.
Stan Smith did not have the best of starts to his apprenticeship at the start of World War II.
He had a serious fall while riding trackwork as a 16-year-old and was unconscious for nine days.
Smith still carries a scar on his scalp, and was required to have surgery to remove blood clots.
Smith said Ballarat was a regular destination with his master Peter Fergus in the war years.
Race meetings were rare – just a handful a month – with Ballarat one of the few venues that continued to operate in difficult times when there were ‘raceless’ Saturdays.
Smith said the biggest and most memorable day of his relatively short career came at the Miners Racecourse in Redan – now the site of Ballarat and District Trotting Club’s Bray Raceway.
“I rode four winners,” he said with a smile.
He rode the last four winners on a program and then stretched the sequence to five by riding the first winner at the next meeting on the track.
Smith’s riding career did not extend for long, with weight problems bringing it to an end in his early twenties.
“It would have been different on today’s weight scales.”
Smith unfortunately no longer has any memorabilia from his riding days – it was lost in a house fire.
However, being at Dowling Forest Racecourse again after so many years was more than enough to help bring memories from those early days flooding back.