Thomas Horne Voss, a nationally known thoroughbred trainer and a lifelong Maryland horseman, died of an apparent heart attack Tuesday at his Monkton home. He was 63.
Mr. Voss trained his horses at Atlanta Hall, a 1,200-acre farm in Monkton, where he developed a state-of-the-art thoroughbred racing training center for both flat runners and jumpers.
"He was extremely intuitive when it came to understanding the psyche of horses and loved them with all of his heart and soul," said Ross Peddicord, executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board. "He was also instrumental in mentoring many top steeplechase trainers and jockeys, who also went on to win national championships."
Born in Baltimore, Mr. Voss was the son of Edward Somerville Voss Jr. and Jeneward Bryson Voss. His grandmother, Elsa Horne, a painter and sculptor, was a member of a family who owned a leading Pittsburgh department store. A great-uncle, Franklin Voss, was a much-respected equine painter.
Mr. Voss attended St. James Academy in Monkton, the Harford Day School and was a 1968 graduate of Hereford High School.
"Tom and I won our first unrecognized race at the old Bel Air Racetrack," said a close friend, John Bosley "J.B." Secor of Monkton. "We were 15 and 13. We both had ponies."
Mr. Voss briefly attended Wilmington College but left school to devote himself to horses. He received his trainer's license in 1973.
"He was a complicated personality with a wry sense of humor and a sardonic wit, one of our state's great characters as well as a quintessential horseman," said Mr. Peddicord.
Mr. Voss was named the country's leading steeplechase trainer for five years and served as joint master of foxhounds at the Elkridge-Harford Hunt for 21 years. He twice trained the winner of the Maryland Hunt Cup and took top honors at leading steeplechase events throughout the country.
Each spring, he hosted the Elkridge-Harford Point-to-Point Races. The Saturday event is an early timber race in Maryland's season.
"Tom was a gifted horseman," said Albert J.A. Young, president of the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club and a friend, who also lives in Monkton. "While he could pretend to have a tough exterior, he had a love of children and animals that betrayed that."
Mr. Young recalled that Mr. Voss was one of a few trainers who would train steeplechase racing prospects by first taking them on a fox hunt over the hills of Harford County.
"He was a beautiful rider," said Mr. Young.
Mr. Voss' grandparents moved to Maryland in 1936 from Long Island, where fox hunting and steeplechase riding were then being crowded out by suburban development. His grandfather, E.S. Voss Sr., bought Atlanta Hall Farm, then a 900-acre tract located in Harford and Baltimore counties. The farm, which is dotted with barns painted a light shade of yellow called primrose, was expanded by Mr. Voss.
The Voss racing colors, employed on jockey silks, are that same shade of yellow and black.
"We rode ponies, hunters and show horses together," said Patrick Smithwick, who also lives in Monkton. "As a young man, he inhaled everything he could about the horse business. ... He was highly observant and he would notice every little detail. He loved to jump. ... At the end of the day, he'd take off, leave a fox hunt and [jump] over gates and fences all the way home."
At 16, he worked for Mr. Smithwick's grandfather, A.P. "Paddy" Smithwick, and exercised horses at Delaware Park and Pimlico.
"He learned the old-fashioned way, driving a van, putting bandages on a horses and mucking all stalls. He was perceptive and did not like small talk," said Patrick Smithwick.
Known as Tom, he won national attention in racing circles as the trainer of John's Call, a horse that seemed to win more races as he aged. At 9, John's Call won the Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga in 2000. Sports writers hailed John's Call as the oldest horse to win a Grade I race on a flat surface.
"He had a public persona that was contrary to the man that dwelt within," said a friend, Billy Santoro, a trainer at Prospect Farm in Baltimore County. "He was an avid reader and a history buff. And when racing, Tom might spare you one sentence of advice. You could win races from that sentence."
Mr. Voss was also active in environmental causes and in land preservation.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. James Episcopal Church, 3100 Monkton Road, where he was a member.
Survivors include his wife of 38 years, the former Mary "Mimi" P. Fraticelli; a son, Samuel Thomas Voss; a daughter, Elizabeth Voss Murray; his mother, Jeneward Voss, all of Monkton; a stepson, Matthew McKnight of White Hall; two grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun