John & Barbara Smicklas
Year Inducted: 2011
Few horse owners have contributed more to Oklahoma Thoroughbred racing than John & Barbara Smicklas. A native of Chicago, John Smicklas developed his relationship with horses first through the sport of polo and then with owning and breeding Thoroughbreds. Smicklas first ventured into racing in 1972. A longtime automobile dealer, and founder of Smicklas Chevrolet in Oklahoma City, Smicklas and his wife Barbara built their racing operation from their Riverlane Farm in Norman, Okla.
No More Hard Times, Brush With Pride, Belle of Cozzene, Zee Oh Six and others comprised a group of winners that dominated many events over the history of racing in Oklahoma City, helping John & Barbara Smicklas win more stakes races at Remington Park than any other owners. One of their most beloved runners was No More Hard Times, the gallant Oklahoma-bred gelding who became a fan favorite at Remington Park. Trained by Chuck Taliaferro, No More Hard Times established a pair of turf course records during his local career at distances of one mile and 1-1/16 miles. His mile record of 1:33.80, set in his first race off a nine-month layoff in 1992, still stands. No More Hard Times won 18 races from 49 lifetime starts with earnings of almost $400,000. He captured six stakes races at Remington Park before retiring in late 1993. No More Hard Times returned to the track in 1997 to lead the post parade for a stakes race named in his honor. He spent the rest of his life in leisurely enjoyment at the Smicklas’ farm in Norman.
Another notable Smicklas color-bearer was Brush With Pride. Versatile over both the main track and turf, Brush With Pride excelled at Remington Park and many other locales in his five years of competition from 1995-1999. Trained by Steve Hobby, the gelded son of Broad Brush from the Troy Our Boy mare Piazza’s Pride preferred longer distances. Through a 35-race career, only three were at less than a mile and while he was in the money in that trio of sprints, all of his 14 lifetime wins were accomplished at a mile or more. Brush With Pride was a late bloomer, not winning his first race until he was a 4-year-old. He posted his first stakes victory in the Oklahoma Classics Turf in 1996 and competed against stakes company almost exclusively for the remainder of his career. Brush With Pride won three consecutive stakes races at Remington Park in the fall of 1997. Adaptable until the end of his campaign, Brush With Pride won four straight stakes races to conclude his career, winning the 1998 Remington Green over the turf, followed by his second Oklahoma Classic triumph, and then a win in the Autumn Classic Handicap. His final win came in his only start at age 7, the Grade 3 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park in 1999. Brush With Pride won 14 races overall, eight at Remington Park, finishing second and third six times each for career earnings through 35 races of $548,615. Brush With Pride was ridden in all of his stakes victories by jockey Tim Doocy.
Arguably the most accomplished of the Smicklas runners was Belle of Cozzene. She never finished out of the money in six Remington Park races, winning three with a pair of seconds and one third. All three local wins were stakes victories. An Oklahoma-bred, she was a multiple stakes winner away from Oklahoma as well, Belle Of Cozzene won the Oaklawn Breeders’ Cup Handicap, the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap and the Grade 3 Arlington Matron Handicap. She finished her racing career with a win in the 1997 Sundance Stakes during the inaugural season at Lone Star Park, before going on to a successful broodmare career. Belle Of Cozzene started 22 times, winning nine races with three seconds and three thirds for overall earnings of $522,455.
Zee Oh Six was the final multiple-major stakes winner for the Smicklas racing business. The Oklahoma-bred gelding loved to go to the front early in his best races and dared his competition to try to catch him, which rarely happened at Remington Park. By 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup from the Little Current mare Belle Of Killarney, Zee Oh Six won the Oklahoma Classics Cup three times, over a span of six years (2002-2007), scoring victories in 2002, 2005 and 2006. He was second in the top Oklahoma Classics race in 2004 and finished third in 2007. He was off the board in sixth in his other attempt in the race in 2003.
In addition to his scores against state-breds in the Oklahoma Classics, Zee Oh Six also won against open company at Remington Park in the 2004 Remington Green and in the 2005 Governor’s Cup.
Zee Oh Six raced 44 times with 12 victories, eight seconds and two more thirds for total earnings of $423,905. At Remington Park, Zee Oh Six won 10 of his 22 attempts, with local earnings of $334,825.
John Smicklas also contributed his time, energy and resources to the betterment of Oklahoma racing by serving as a member of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission and through his political involvement in the successful effort to bring casinos to the state’s horse racing facilities. John Smicklas passed away in late 2018.