Bryan Smart has built an enviable reputation as a top class trainer.
Having trained very successfully in Lambourn for 12 years Bryan, Vicky and daughter Beth relocated to the historic Hambleton House in North Yorkshire in October 2002. Bryan and his team have worked very hard to bring this historic racing yard back to its former glory and have trained many winners including a number of 'Group races' including a Group 1 win for Tangerine Trees at Longchamp and Group 2 wins with Monsieur Bond at York, Hellvelyn at Royal Ascot and Moviesta in the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
Bryan does not come from a racing family - in fact his story is really one of unlikely but fortuitous events and meetings which led him to become the successful trainer that he is today.
Born in Royston near Barnsley his father and his grandfather were coal miners and his mother worked in a shirt factory. Even from an early age Bryan was certain he was not going to follow the family tradition and go down the mines but he did find an affinity with the pit ponies and many a time he could be found riding them around the field with a bridle made of string and no saddle. Although his friends thought it a little strange, his parents encouraged him to ride and he soon joined up with a dealer near his home who took him on the Northern show jumping circuit where he learned to ride all sorts of horses and ponies.
After seeing an advert in Horse and Hound to work with sick, lame and lazy racehorses, Bryan found himself leaving school at the age of 15 to start work the very next day for Jenny Pitman near Lambourn in Berkshire, who herself was just starting out in her career as a Point to Point Trainer.
Bryan rode a number of winners for Mrs Pitman as an amateur before turning professional. Corbiere was one of the most notable horses he rode winning six races on him in his early career. Other successes came in The Massey Ferguson Gold Cup on Bueche Giorod and the Midlands Grand National on Whatafella. Bryan became a key member of Mrs Pitman's team at Weathercock house and would often start work at 5am to feed and check the horses before going racing and was responsible for the feeding and medical care of her team of horses as well as being her stable jockey. During the summer months Bryan worked for Ken Cundell and also broke in yearlings for Paul Cole. He would also spend time travelling around with vet Barry Park learning about all the injuries and ailments that they attended.
Later, Bryan moved to Uplands to join the great Fred Winter, whilst remaining first jockey to Mrs Pitman. Bryan considers Fred Winter as his great mentor and racing hero and someone he will always be grateful to for the experience he gained whilst working for him. He rode many horses for Fred Winter both at home on the gallops and at the racecourse. Bryan rode over 200 winners during his career which was sadly brought to a premature end when he suffered a serious fall at Huntingdon in 1982 breaking his leg, foot and skull. After recuperating, Bryan and his wife moved to Wales where they trained point to pointers for four years. They were so successful and became so feared by the bookmakers that their horses usually started favourite!
In 1986 Bryan was encouraged by some of his owners to return to Lambourn to take out a full license and this he did starting with a few jumpers and building up to over 30 horses from his base at Hill House. Sadly, a couple of years later following his divorce, Bryan's string was reduced to only a handful of horses and things were looking bleak to say the least. However, with true Yorkshire grit and determination Bryan managed to stay afloat and in 1990 he met his present wife Victoria who was the Equine Sport Therapist to Lord Huntingdon's string and also an amateur rider and point to point jockey. Together they set out to make the business work and Bryan spent many Sundays on the eventing circuit using his skills as a rider and trainer to help a number of eminent event riders with their show jumping.
Amongst those he trained are former British Team member Rodney Powell and Australian Olympic Gold medallist Andrew Hoy. Vicky was also involved with the physiotherapy of the event horses and together they paid off the debts and set about filling the yard up with horses. In spite of his background in National Hunt racing Bryan began to attract more flat horses and soon he trained his first flat winner - two year old filly Sharp Gazelle who won a Maiden Auction Race at Bath. The owners' of Sharp Gazelle were a small partnership of businessmen and they collectively "skint the bookies!!"
"I'll never forget that day - it was like the turning point for us and thanks to a steady stream of home bred horses we managed to improve on our score each year." Then in 1996 through his connections with eventing and show jumping Bryan was introduced to Luis Alvarez Cervera, himself an Olympic medallist for Spain, who sent him Sil Sila. She was a sweet filly by Marju and showed she had something special but she had an offset knee and could be lazy at home. If you were a gallop watcher you certainly wouldn't have picked her out as a future classic winner. However there was something about her that made her special and Sil Sila duly won her maiden at Warwick followed by the Listed Radley Stakes at Newbury - her only two starts as a two year old. The following year Sil Sila won the Group 1 Prix de Diane Hermes (French Oaks) at Chantilly beating the winner of the Irish Guineas Matiya. The race was run in the third fastest time ever and the fastest time for ten years.
Bryan's string increased to about thirty horses with the emphasis on the flat and the quality also improved, thanks in a large part to Bryan's good eye for a horse, particularly at the yearling sales. In 1998 he trained the winner and the third horse home in the inaugural running of the Doncaster St Leger Sales race with 2 year olds Boomerang Blade and Patriot winning over £200,000 in prize money in one day.
Then in 1999 he won another valuable 2 year old Sales Race - The Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury with Don Puccini. Over the next two years Bryan's success as a flat trainer continued and in March 2000 Bryan and his team moved to Berkeley House Stables in Upper Lambourn where he increased the size and quality of his string. He enjoyed a very successful couple of seasons culminating in a total of 27 winners in 2001 and 2002 with the highlight winning The Stewards Cup at Glorious Goodwood with Bond Boy in August 2002.
During the summer of 2002 it became clear that Bryan would need to expand his facilities once again and at the end of October the Smart team moved north to take over historic Hambleton House in North Yorkshire. The former base of Les Eyre, Hambleton has been associated with racing since the early part of the 17th century.
Situated at the top of Sutton Bank on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, with no immediate neighbours, the 40 horses that moved from Lambourn were quickly joined by others and the yard was soon filled to capacity, new owners and existing ones putting their faith in Bryan's ability to train winners and get the best possible results from each individual horse.
Bryan has proved over the years that he has an exceptional eye for a horse and has bought relatively cheap yearlings and produced them to win races at the highest level. He is known for loving speed and has an excellent record with sprinters but also enjoys finding the key to horses that might have fallen out of love with the game. He takes pride in being able to iron out little quirks and the unique location and fantastic facilities at Hambleton House means that each horse can be treated as an individual. While he loves watching his 2 year olds grow and develop Bryan is equally good at getting the best out of his older horses and at the age of 8yo Bond Boy won Musselburgh's richest race of the year ‘The Scottish Sprint Cup’ bringing the prize money earned by this grand old servant to over £186,000. Tangerine Trees is another great example of Bryan allowing a horse to develop and mature in his own time as this Group 1 winner only won his first race at Wolverhampton at the age of 3yo before going on to much greater things with every year that passed culminating in the Prix de l’Abbaye in France. He ran a total of 54 times and won over £275,000 in prize money before finally retiring at 11 years old.
Although he rarely takes a day off Bryan does enjoy a bit of judging and is on the ride panel for Sport Horse Breeding, the British Show Hack and Cob Association and the British Show Pony Society. Daughter Beth has enjoyed growing up around racehorses but she has made her mark riding in the show ring and these days she is forging a career in the show jumping world and competes regularly on her horses Sandors Legacy and Cludo IV.
When making the move North the aim was to create a top class, professional training facility where attention to detail is paramount and each horse is able to reach their full potential. High in the Hambleton hills surrounded by peace and tranquillity, Bryan and Vicky believe that they have done just that and that they haven’t done it alone. They have a strong Christian faith and know that their move here was not just a material one but was very much a leap of faith.
‘The racing world is full of ups and downs and there is no doubt that without our faith life would be much harder when the going gets tough. We are truly blessed to be living in God’s Own Country!!’
'Having had a lifelong love of all things equine in 2012 I decided to get involved in racing flat horses as an owner. On spotting an advert for shared ownership in a two year old with Bryan Smart at Hambleton House I paid a visit. On meeting Bryan and his staff who were all helpful and clearly very knowledgeable I was hooked. The last seven years have been a marvellous journey having had over 20 winners including a Group 1 and a Listed race which is in no small way down to a master trainer. On my journey I have met some wonderful people many of whom are now friends.
Team Smart are truly the custodians of the dream factory!!!'
Lovely to see Compton River and the other 2 year olds cantering up in the sunshine this morning - they are looking wonderful - spring is in the air!
Best thing I have ever done is join a syndicate with Bryan Smart racing - 7 winners I have been involved in. You're made welcome and all staff are friendly and always ready to answer questions - a great set up by all.
Welfare of the race horses is paramount for the Smarts. Fantastic trainer and a great team including Kevin and Becks!! Highly recommend investing at this yard.
What a great morning spent at Bryan Smart's stables watched the 2 year olds breezing up the grass gallops, the grass gallop was like walking on a deep pile carpet then a great breakfast no better place to be on a lovely spring morning - thanks for a great morning Bryan Smart racing.
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