Remembering Robin Smith Astaire

Back in 1973, jockeys like Laffit Pincay and Sandy Hawley where at the top of the jockey standings. Years later both would be inducted into the Hall of Fame but for me one of the most memorable riders of that time never won a riding title or a major stakes race. Yet she was one of the first, if not the first, female rider to compete competitively on the NYRA circuit. Her name was Robin Smith.

I can’t remember how much in purses Pincay won that year or how many races Hawley won but I vividly remember those cold days at Aqueduct in the winter and spring of 1973. Secretariat had served notice that he was back in a big way with a victory in the Bay Shore and Robin Smith was sending shock waves through the male dominated sport with her winning rides on Alfred Vanderbilt’s, North Sea in the Paumonok (defeating Secretariat’s future conquerer, Onion) and a few weeks later the Westchester Handicap. Unfairly, rumors of goldigging followed Smith, as she allegedly had a relationship with Vanderbilt. Although I never read about it in the Form.

I still remember a palpable sense of disbelief as Robin Smith strode back to the winners circle after winning the Westchester which was a respected handicap in those days. In those days before Julie Krone, a woman winning a stakes race in New York was as if the world had been turned upside down. Smith’s career faded as the 70s closed and shortly thereafter she married legendary dancer and racing fan, Fred Astaire, who was fifty years her senior. I haven’t heard or seen an article in the racing media about her in many years but for a few weeks there in the spring of 1973, Robin Smith turned the racing world upside down.



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4 responses to “Remembering Robin Smith Astaire

  1. Superfecta

    I recall an interview with her a year or two after Astaire’s death; when asked if she would consider remarrying (particularly given her age), she replied, ‘I’ve had my man.’

    For some reason, that’s always stuck in my head. An interesting woman.

  2. Tote Board Brad

    I’ve heard her name mentioned in the run down of women riders, but never knew anything about her. Thanks for coloring some of it in. I feel like I don’t get enough of this type of reading in. Most is either sugared over glossy nostaligia, or what just happened news without benefit of context with the past. I also like the quote provided by your fellow keystoner. good stuff.

  3. ayres orchids

    Just for the record, Astaire was about 43 years her senior–still, quite an age difference!

  4. Terry Ward

    look here, when Fred Astaire was ancient he married Robin Somebody who was a pretty, diminutive jockey; she was 19, a real May-December love, I mean she was young and pretty and a delight to see and be with, I’m guessing, and, well, he was Fred Astaire, 80 or not…in fact, this may be very common knowledge I don’t know, but as she sat with him and he lay dying, she loved him so that she crawled in bed beside him and held onto him as he passed over the threshold of afterlife. I don’t think that’s apocrypha…

    TWard, Terry

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