Hightstown, NJ — Over the years, Trevor Smith had seen his share of Grand Circuit races at Lexington’s Red Mile and watched people celebrate victories in the winner’s circle. Entering this year, he never imagined he would be one of them.
But Smith was there in the Red Mile winner’s circle Sunday after guiding Katie’s Lucky Day to victory in the $351,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity in the biggest race of his life so far. The triumph continued a career season for the 25-year-old driver, whose earnings of $2.32 million put him among the top 45 drivers in North America.
Katie’s Lucky Day, who was supplemented to the Kentucky Filly Futurity for $50,000 by owner Greg Luther of Black Magic Racing, captured the race by a nose over favorite Bella Bellini.
“That win meant everything,” said Smith, who entered this year with one Grand Circuit start to his credit. “At this point in my career, I never thought I would have the confidence to go on the big stage. I grew up kind of around the Red Mile and Lexington all my life. I can remember being there at 10, 11 years old, all the summers spent there and watching all the (Kentucky) Futurities and Filly Futurities and all the great people that won.
“Just to be in it was one thing. To win it, it’s a feeling I don’t think I will ever feel again just because of the importance and the surprise of it and everything that went into it. I never thought I would be in that place with an Ohio-bred trotter that I drove 28 out of her 30 starts. It meant the world. I don’t have the right words to explain it. I’m still in awe.”
The fact Smith has been with Katie’s Lucky Day nearly every step of the way made their win all the more special. He recalled driving the filly in her first start, when she trotted 2:13.1 in a race for 2-year-old female trotters at the Pickaway County Fair in Circleville.
“From 2:13 to (1):50.4,” Smith said with a laugh, referring to the winning time in the Kentucky Filly Futurity. “We’re not done yet, though.”
Smith, who resides in Washington Court House, Ohio, began his driving career in 2015. Although he grew up around harness racing — he is the son of Kathy Smith and trainer Jeff Smith, and his older brother Tyler was the youngest driver in history to reach 1,000 and 2,000 wins and now has more than 3,700 — Trevor’s focus was on playing basketball and other sports. He planned to play basketball in college, but a broken leg his sophomore year of high school put an end to that idea.
He attended college in the hopes of finding a career path, but left school his sophomore year. As it turned out, his path had been in front of him all along.
“This was never on my radar growing up,” Smith said. “Sports were my No. 1 in high school and middle school. Tyler was always in the barn; I was always on the court or the field. When school wasn’t going, I would help dad, but it was never something I wanted to do (as a career).
“My sophomore year in college, I was struggling with where I wanted to go. Tyler was begging me to drive. He had seen me train and he would always say I was better than him. So, I left school. I drove 23 races at the fairs my first year. The next year, I went to Miami Valley (Raceway) to qualify, and it was all over. I don’t know, it was just a different setting being there, and everything sort of came full circle.”
Smith, though, did have a love of horses well before getting involved in the sport. He got his first horse, a Quarter Horse, around the age of 9 as a gift from a woman who had helped care for him through a serious respiratory illness as a young child.
“His name was Sugar,” said Smith, who from the ages of 10 to 15 showed Quarter Horses. “I would be able to walk him in the yard with no lead, no nothing, and it was like a friendship I never had. I felt like you could get that with every horse. That was just the first one I got to come in direct contact with and take care of. The love for the horse has always been there.”
Smith entered Thursday with 614 career wins, including a career-high 173 so far this year. This is his fourth consecutive campaign with more than $1 million in purses. His previous high came last year when he totaled $1.63 million.
“My expectations coming into this year were, honestly, to make enough to pay my rent,” Smith said. “It’s been tough. I kind of feel like I have my foot in the door, but I don’t have it enough to where I can be comfortable. Coming into the year, I knew I had to go every place I could, stay as positive as I could, and just try to stay above water. Keep my name out there and keep trying.
“I never in a million years would have dreamed I’d have the year that I’ve had. I just knew I had to keep progressing on everything I’ve done. That was basically my attitude, to keep getting better at the little things and the drives will come. I never really expected too much, but in the back of my head, I still wanted to be in every race. I was getting better at trying not to let it bother me. I think that’s what allowed most of the things that transpired this year, just taking it slowly.”
Smith was the regular driver of Katie’s Lucky Day in 2020, when she was owned and trained by Bill Cottongim. He remained with the filly after Black Magic Racing purchased her in April and Todd Luther took over the conditioning of the 3-year-old. Smith also began driving other horses more frequently for the Luthers, and has won 49 races with them this season.
“I didn’t have Todd Luther’s account until Miami Valley this year because of Katie’s Lucky Day,” Smith said. “It just went step by step, just kept building more and more. It was a lot of luck. I’m very thankful for the opportunities.”
Katie’s Lucky Day has won 15 of 30 career races, hit the board 11 additional times, and earned $512,416. She is expected to be supplemented to the Breeders Crown next week. Perhaps Smith and the filly will create another memory, but regardless, Smith will never forget this past Sunday.
“There is no greater feeling,” Smith said. “You look into the crowd, the grandstand is filled, and they’re all screaming for Katie and me, and it’s just, wow. It’s amazing. I was able to soak most of it in. I was able to enjoy every part of Sunday, every single part. It was quite the experience.”