Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Derrick Smith's dream comes true

Published:Tuesday | December 8, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
Paul Hoo (left) of Supreme Ventures Limited presents Derrick and Carlene Smith, owners of Seeking My Dream, with the SVL Diamond Mile winner’s trophy, while trainer Wayne DaCosta (right) looks on at Caymanas Park on Saturday.

Those who know Derrick Smith are aware that the veteran politician shares three great affections.

First is his beloved, Carlene, his lifelong partner.

The other two affections are politics and horse racing - not necessarily in that order.

Carlene's love for her husband has been such that in a most daring move, she purchased a thoroughbred for her husband's 50th birthday in the early 1990s.

She could not have foreseen that the great honour would have been returned multifolds on her 47th wedding anniversary.

The birthday present called Mr Sensational was worth every cent and more, but so was the anniversary gift.

It was on the eve of his 47th wedding anniversary that Derrick Smith won $6.5 million, the biggest purse in Jamaica's horse-racing history.

On Saturday, even after the race, Smith dedicated it all to the love of his life.

Carlene, he said, was with him all the way, if not physically, spiritually.

Smith recalled that Carlene got the idea to surprise him one morning while listening to the post-race analyses of a Kentucky Derby run.

"During an interview with the winner, the wife of the gentleman who owned the winning horse explained that she had bought it for her husband as a birthday gift.

"Outside of my knowledge, she called my trainer, Wayne DaCosta, and instructed him to find a horse capable of being a champion and to forget about the cost," he said, recalling how he became owner of Mr Sensational.

Meanwhile, Saturday's historic feat was effected by the thoroughbred aptly named Seeking My Dream.

Like Mr Sensational, Seeking My Dream was unearthed by DaCosta, the current champion trainer.

CHOOSING A NAME

Smith said he had named the horse in the knowledge that the prestigious Jamaica Derby - the biggest prize in horse racing - had eluded him even with the great Mr Sensational over four decades.

Seeking My Dream has copped the Jamaica Derby and more, creating history as he did on Saturday with a win at the inaugural running of the Diamond Mile at Caymanas Park, which attracted the richest purse in the history of horse racing in Jamaica.

"It means a whole lot to me because thoroughbred has been in my blood since 1958," Smith told The Gleaner.

He said it all started when an uncle of his (now deceased), who lived in Fair Prospect in eastern Portland, came to Kingston to attend racing at Knutsford Park.

"He was a racing enthusiast himself."

Smith accompanied his uncle and was hooked.

"As a country man who had come to town with an interest in horse racing, I was a second-former at Calabar High School and he took me, and that was it."

It did not make matters easier when Smith knocked heads with a classmate by the name of Chester Belnavis, whose family owned racehorses.

"They were champion owners at the time, so the fact that we were in the same form at school, with both having an interest in racing, we both had something in common," said Smith. "And it grew from there."

Smith recalled first acquiring a racehorse in 1976.

"I remember clearly. It was the year of the state of emergency and a police friend of mine who is now overseas leased a horse, as I was not in a position to buy and maintain a horse."

By his account, Smith and his partner had to wait for two years before his horse made the winner's enclosure.

"That renewed the excitement and involvement in thoroughbred."

Smith was prompted to acquire a thoroughbred once and for all.

He recalled that it was after that he, Carlene, and his eldest son, Derrick, better known as 'Dino', went out to a thoroughbred farm in Bowden Estates, St Thomas.

"I selected and bought the horse and named it Senator D, as I was a senator," said Smith. "That horse won many races for me at Caymanas Park and it went on and on ... . It has been a long stretch."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com