Donald “Curly” Smith had been born to be in the racing business.
“My mother and father were both in racehorse families,” Curly said. “My father was a jockey, then became a trainer and owner. My mother’s family was in the Thoroughbred racing business. Her brothers were all trainers.”
After having served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, Curly had trained horses for a couple of years before becoming a jockey’s agent, responsible for helping jockeys find mounts.
“I did that for four or five years, then a man called Edward Burke gave me a job at Los Alamitos (Race Course in California) in 1960,” Curly said of the man for whom the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity is named.
“I became racing secretary in 1969, and it just evolved into different promotions,” Curly said. “I stayed racing secretary all the time and became director of racing and then vice president of racing.”
While he had been serving in different positions, he had remained racing secretary as well, writing races and working closely with trainers to help fill those races, one of the biggest challenges of the job.
“I always had one philosophy: If the racing commission or the state board of racing made a rule, that rule was to be followed,” Curly said. “And if I didn’t like the rule, then I would go in front of the racing commission and say why, but if they kept the rule, then the rule was for everybody, not just one person or one group of people.”
Curly also had helped create the AQHA Racing Council and had served on the first American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame selection committee in 1982.
“I had a great life in Quarter Horse racing,” he said. “I don’t feel like I wasted one moment. I enjoyed all the people in Quarter Horse racing. Never did I go to the job one day and say, ‘I wish I was doing something else.’ I enjoyed my job all the way along.”
Donald “Curly” Smith was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2014. He passed away on December 29, 2014.
Biography updated as of December 2014.