Harford County native and noted steeplechase and flat track trainer Thomas H. Voss was inducted posthumously into the National Racing Museum’s Hall of Fame on Friday at Fasig-Tipton’s Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs,N.Y.
The Voss family was supported in their acceptance of the honor bestowed upon the late horseman, by a large contingent of friends and racing fans who had traveled to the historic racing center from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine and other points.
During the induction ceremony, Joe Clancy, editor of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred and co-editor/publisher of The Saratoga Special and of the former Steeplechase Times spoke about Tom Voss at the request of Voss’ widow, Mimi.
Speaking of his encounters with Voss over years of covering the trainer’s career Clancy’s remarks were both amusing and sincerely poignant as he painted a perfect picture of the man Voss was.
Clancy’s remarks were followed by those of Tom Voss’ son, Sam, who expressed his family’s appreciation for the honor bestowed upon his father.
Also attending the ceremony were Voss' daughter, Elizabeth Voss Murray, his son-in-law Garrett Murray, granddaughter Genevieve Murray and stepson Matthew McKnight.
Born in Maryland, Tom Voss spent his life training thoroughbred racehorses for both the steeplechase and flat track circuits.
The son and grandson of horsemen, Tom Voss’ equestrian roots lie in New York’s Long Island where his grandfather and great uncles rode steeplechase races, foxhunted and played polo before relocating to the My Lady’s Manor area of Harford and Baltimore counties.
At age 15 Voss trained his first horse, albeit under an assumed name as he was not officially old enough to hold a trainer’s license.
Voss was fortunate to have grown up at his family’s Atlanta Hall Farm under the tutelage of former steeplechase rider and Voss family stable manager Walter “Wassie” Ball. Other early influences in his life were trainers/jockeys Burley Cocks and Alfred P. “Paddy” Smithwick, who would precede Tom Voss into the Hall of Fame.
Voss’ first year as a licensed trainer was 1973. In 1975 he trained and rode Aruhappy for the win at the My Lady’s Manor Point-to-Point. From there he went on to a career as the trainer of horses on the flat.
Midway through the 1990s he began to focus on the ‘chasers. At the time of his death on Jan. 21, 2014, Voss’ career stats were 4,773 overall starts with 2,048 of those over fences. His horses earned 706 first place finishes (395 over fences), 616 seconds (341 over fences), and 595 third place finishes (266 over fences). His total career earnings were $17, 397, 203 of which $8,868,201 were garnered in steeplechase races.
He was the National Steeplechase Association’s leader in wins in 1997, 2000-2002, and 2009. He is ranked third in all time steeplechase earnings, ranked in the top five in steeplechase wins 16 times and in earnings 13 times.
He won 30 graded stakes races with 10 Grade 1 events. He was the trainer of 2010 Eclipse Award winner Slipaway and NSA champions Approaching Squall, Ginz, Ironfist, Left Unsaid, Planets Aligned and Soaringoverseattle.
On the flat Voss’ most noted runner was the chestnut gelding John’s Call who he trained to win in Saratoga’s Sword Dancer and Belmont Park’s Turf Classic in 2000. John’s Call had lifetime career earnings of $1,571,267.
The 2017 Hall of Fame Class also included Hal “Sonny” Via’s steeplechaser, Good Night Shirt, trained by Harford County resident (and Voss’ friend) Jack Fisher and now retired on Fisher’s farm near Ladew Gardens.
Other inductees were the late John R. Gaines, founder of the Breeder’s Cup series of races; Ogden Mills Phipps former chairman of the Jockey Club; Martin J. Winn of Churchill Downs; champion filly, Goldikova and jockeys Garret Gomez (posthumously); Triple Crown winner Victor Espinoza; and Javier Castellano.
Bronze plaques commemorating the careers of all the inductees will be placed in the wall of honor at the National Racing Museum, which is across the street from the historic Saratoga Race Track.