by Allison Conte
Cover photo by Jose Luis Villegas
Ohio native Tyler Smith is the youngest driver to win 1,000 races and is only gaining momentum. This year he launched onto the Grand Circuit scene with talented three-year-old pacer Let’s Drink On It. The pair will be heading ‘home’ to the Little Brown Jug on September 18th.
What got you started in harness racing?
My family, everybody, my whole family’s been into it and I just fell in love with it from the beginning.
When did you know you wanted to be a driver?
Ever since I can remember, I loved going to the barn and being around horses and just, you know, it’s all I know.
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
There’s a couple. Probably being the youngest to get to 1,000 (wins).
And your most disappointing moment?
(Laughs) Yeah a lot, there’s a lot of them. Probably just losing races. I hate losing races. I know everybody does, but for some reason I take it really hard.
What’s your life like outside of harness racing?
(Laughs) That’s all it is. I’m racing seven days a week. When I get done tonight I’m driving back home and then I’m heading to The Meadows Saturday and then Lexington Sunday and Cleveland Monday. It’s just on the road and ridin’.
Did you ever imagine that you would be competing in the Little Brown Jug?
No it’s a dream come true. You know I thought maybe when I was forty I’d hope to have a shot, but being 21 and having an opportunity like that, to drive in it … some people just want to win the Hambletonian, but to me just the opportunity to be in the Little Brown Jug is an amazing feeling.
Is the Jug different to you than other big races?
Oh yeah, being from Ohio … the Jug, it’s just special.
What do you remember about going to the Little Brown Jug when you were younger?
I used to skip, I’d take off five days during Jug week and skip school.
What’s your favorite thing about the Little Brown Jug?
Just the excitement, and I love it. My biggest thing about the Jug is how many people show up there. That’s one thing I wish harness racing would get back to is as many people showing up to the track. You know, it’s so exciting and it’s so special and a lot of people show up.
What does Let’s Drink On It mean to you?
He’s the first good horse I’ve got. To be able to be there, not many 21-year-olds from Ohio get an opportunity to follow a colt around. He’s a no-luck horse, that’s for sure. Every time we get in a big race he has no luck. He draws outside, but you know, he’s a special horse to me. He’s the first horse that took me places. He’s just got no luck, but hopefully, hopefully when we get to the Jug he draws inside. But every big race he’s drawn outside and they go a slow half, or you know, it just never works out for him to have the opportunity.
Of course Let’s Drink On It is special to you, but is there another horse that stands out?
Actually he’s a ten claimer and I only drove him about seven times, but Dontgetbyme. Just because he got me my 1,000th win and I won like six in a row with him. Even though he’s only a ten claimer, he was special to me.
Biggest goal for the future?
Just to stay healthy and win races. My biggest thing is to keep winning races. But I would love to win the Little Brown Jug.
Something about yourself that fans might not know?
Hmmm… I don’t know. (Laughs) I’m boring. I have no life, just racing.
This interview is part of our new weekly features of faces in the sport, from fans to owners, trainers to grooms.
This year’s 69th Annual Little Brown Jug is brought to you by Fazoli’s