The Legendary Jay Trump – Steeplechase Wonder

Jay Trump was the result of an unplanned breeding between dam Be Trump (thought to be infertile) and sire Tonga Prince, when the two were pastured together. Foaled in 1957, the strong colt with a white diamond on his forehead was named for his mother and his owner Jay Sensenich. Jay Trump was raised in “ShantyTown”, a stable area between two race tracks in West Virginia. His racing debut at a local track was a near disaster: the jockey’s whip struck the horse in the eye, the horse collided with a post, and both horse and rider were severely injured. Word spread that Jay Trump was a rogue – too dangerous to ride.


Tommy Smith grew up in the horse country of Virginia, surrounded by equestrians. After graduating from Taft, and while still enrolled in Princeton, Tommy entered many steeplechase races. Leaving college to pursue a riding career, he won the 1959 Maryland Hunt Cup, and in 1960 gained the Martini and Rossi Award as leading point-to-point rider in the United States.


Mary Stephenson, a friend of Tommy Smith’s mother, followed his progress in her frequent trips East from Indian Hill to foxhunt and attend hunt meetings. A member of the Camargo Hunt and an avid rider, Mrs. Stephenson had never before owned a racing thoroughbred; but she asked Smith to find her a sound horse that could compete. In “ShantyTown” in 1960, Smith purchased Jay Trump from Sensenich for $2000. After being moved to a Maryland farm, owned by Bobby Fenwick, the gelding was trained as a hunter and in dressage. Smith was advised by Edward Stephenson, Mrs. Stephenson’s son, in all aspects of Jay Trump’s early training. During visits to Maryland, Mrs. Stephenson and her granddaughter would hack or hunt on Jay Trump.


Jay Trump won his first race in 1962, followed by 3 successive victories in the Virginia point-to-point circuit.


Despite odds of 110 to 6, Jay Trump won the Grand National on March 27, 1965. Twelfth after the first circuit, he used his superb jumping ability to move up on the favorite, avoiding fallen horses by changing angles mid-jump like a hunter and exhibiting the handiness he had acquired from dressage. After an astonishing race, Jay Trump was proclaimed by Britain’s newspapers as a “nothing runner… (who has become) the kingpin of the world’s jumpers.” An unprecedented triumph, it was the first and only time a horse that was American bred, owned, and ridden had won the Aintree Grand National.


Jay Trump returned to the U.S. a national celebrity. The following spring, after winning the Maryland Hunt Cup for the third time, the bay horse retired to Mrs. Stephenson’s Meshewa Farm, where he lived until 1988, cared for by her granddaughter, Serena. After his death, Jay Trump was buried at the finish line of Kentucky Horse Park’s steeplechase course–a worthy champion, an exceptional mount, and a peerless horse in steeplechasing history.