Hall of Fame Jockey Charlie "Choo Choo" Smith Dies
The legendary rider was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2005.
December 4, 2015
Los Alamitos Racecourse has reported the death of longtime jockey and American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame member Charlie “Choo Choo” Smith.
Smith died Monday morning. He won more than 800 races and was the nation’s leading Quarter Horse rider six times. He also was leading rider at Los Alamitos 11 times.
Smith was inducted into the AQH Hall of Fame in 2005. He became a jockey in 1957, but his riding career was halted temporarily when he sustained a broken collarbone the following year. Smith returned to the saddle in ’59, when he won 45 races and ranked in the top-10 nationally.
Smith was the only jockey to ever ride world champion Jet Deck, a stallion who won 14 stakes races and broke six track records. Smith’s riding career ended in 1974.
“I’ve ridden a lot of good horses, but I’ve never ridden anything that feels like this horse,” Smith said of Jet Deck in 1963. “When he is running, you feel nothing but power under you.
“I’ve had a good life,” Smith said. “I never really gambled much. I was raised up in Oklahoma, 35 miles from the highway. Nobody had any money. I had to quit school to feed the cattle.
“I was the only kid in my family who didn’t get an education,” he added. “For somebody who didn’t get an education, I did pretty good, and it’s because of racehorses. Without racing, I’d have been a carpenter in Tulsa. I invested in some things that made me a little money, but it’s racehorses that did it for me.”
Click here to watch an interview with Smith, conducted by Los Alamitos publicity director Orlando Gutierrez six years ago.
Funeral services are set for December 15 at Forest Lawn, 4471 Lincoln Avenue in Cypress, California, beginning at 11:30 a.m.
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