Former Trainer Smiley Adams Dies at 67
Updated: Monday, June 23, 2003 8:58 AM
Posted: Friday, June 20, 2003 4:08 PM
William E. "Smiley" Adams, who trained Robert and Verna Lehmann's Master Derby to win the 100th running of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in 1975, died June 19 at the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in Lexington. He was 67.
Adams trained 29 stakes winners during his career, many of them for the Lehmann's Golden Chance Farm. He trained Run Dusty Run, who won the Arlington Washington Futurity (gr. I), and in 1977, ran second in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont (gr. I), and third in the Preakness to Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew
Born in Versailles, Ky., he left school at age 14 to work at the racetrack. His first job was with trainer Kirtley S. Cleveland, and he later rubbed horses for John T. Ward.
He lied about his age to enlist in the Marines at age 17. When he got out, he returned to working with horses.
At 24, Adams made his way to New York, where he was barn foreman for Jimmy Hastie. Among the horses in the stable then was multiple stakes winner Shirley Jones.
He returned to Kentucky in 1961, first training privately for brothers Jacob, Boris, and Max Litwin's Ellis Farm, and then opened a public stable. Hard times forced him to leave racing completely for several years, until he was hired as a foreman at Golden Chance's Ocala, Fla., division. Golden Chance also had a farm near Paris, Ky.
Don Combs resigned as the Golden Chance trainer shortly after Dust Commander won the 1970 Kentucky Derby. Ike Mourar, who hired Adams at the farm, took over the stable until his death in 1973, when Adams returned to the track.
Adams saddled his first stakes winner in 1974 when Paris Dust won the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at Fair Grounds. Among his subsequent stakes winners were: Arlington Handicap (gr. I) winner Spruce Needles; Phoenix Handicap and Tremont Stakes winner Golden Derby; Master Derby, who besides the Belmont, won seven other stakes including the Blue Grass (gr. I); multiple graded stakes winner Bob's Dusty; Donn Handicap (gr. II) winner Lot o' Gold.
Adams was the leading trainer at Keeneland for the 1975 and 1978 spring meetings and 1977 (tied) and 1978 fall meetings.
Adams dominated the early runnings of the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park (then Latonia). In 1977, he won both divisions of the race with Bob's Dusty and Smiley's Dream. He also won both divisions in 1978 (Five Star General and Raymond Earl) and 1980 (Spruce Needles and Major Run), and won the 1979 race with Lot o' Gold.
When the Spiral became the Jim Beam Stakes in 1982, the winner, 40-1 shot Good n' Dusty, was saddled by Adams' brother, Jasper.
Adams, who won about 750 races during his training career, is survived by his wife, Doris Whittaker Adams of Nicholasville, Ky.; three sons, Darrell, Mike and Gary; two brothers, Jasper and Raymond; a sister, Elizabeth Adams; a stepson, James Gosser; two stepdaughters, Bonnie Farioli and Marsha O'Conner; eight grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
His son Darrell currently is training 15 horses. While his father was always known as "Smiley," Darrell's nickname is "Grins."
Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. Sunday at Betts and West Funeral Home in Nicholasville. Services will be held 2 p.m. Monday with burial in Bluegrass Memorial Gardens. The Rev. Jim Harris will officiate.
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