A tribute to Tomáš Hurt
This tribute to Tomáš Hurt, whose recent death on his 38th birthday has greatly saddened the Czech horseracing community, was written by Martin Cáp, and first appeared in Czech language on the jezdci.cz portal https://www.jezdci.cz/clanky/zemrel-tomas-hurt-sampion-jehoz-osudem-byl-benesovsky-cerny-les/
One of our best jockeys over fences in the first years of the new millennium, who rode Hagard and Decent Fellow, was also a successful trainer and a devoted organizer of horse races. Tomáš Hurt passed away suddenly on his 38th birthday. Paradoxically, the most famous race in Tomáš Hurt’s career as a rider was the one that brought him the biggest disappointment. At the age of 18, it was his first ride in the Velka Pardubicka. However, his great dream on that rainy day, October 8th, 2000, lasted only a few tens of seconds. Hagard, a headstrong gelding, which had earlier won the Velká Benešovská on his home track, and had beaten Belovodsk in the third qualification race for the Velka Pardubicka, carried the hopes of all Benešov. However, the horse refused to budge when the starter brought down his flag.
"It was a great disappointment. I’d been looking forward to the Velka for such a long time, but when Hagard decided that he wasn’t going to run, he didn’t run, and that was that!" Tomáš recalled years later. After a brief eternity, the eight-year-old got moving, but by then the rest of the field was disappearing into the distance. The young rider gave up the vain struggle after the second fence – it just wouldn’t have been possible to take the Taxis in that isolation.
He could not have known then that, seven years later, at the same place and in the same race, he would have his biggest success as a rider. In 2007, as a stand-in jockey, he was engaged at the last moment to ride the previous year’s winner, Decent Fellow, and with a well-judged run he finished second behind Sixteen.
A few days ago, on May 2nd, the Czech racing community was shaken by the news that Tomáš Hurt had died. On his 38th birthday, and at a time when he was full of personal and professional plans. All too soon, his life came to end. He had been one of the most successful jumps jockeys of the early years of the 21st century, and then a leading trainer. He was a man who moved with so much intensity and ardour in his field of work, it was as if he sensed that fate had not destined him to have a great deal of time.
A meteor, who was a champion at the age of twenty
He was born in Dunajská Streda, in present-day Slovakia, the son of a well-known jockey and trainer, Jiří Hurt. He followed his father into the profession, and also remained with him in their horseracing home. The name of the Hurt family was inseparably linked with the Benešov Black Forest racecourse and training centre, and the fate of Tomáš Hurt was likewise tied up with Benešov.
He first rode as a teenager with an amateur licence. On his 15th birthday, on May 1st 1997, he finished sixth on Nozaret at Lysá nad Labem, and three months later he celebrated his first win, on Vandra, at Karlovy Vary. His first rides were on horses trained by his father, with whom he had a close but rather complicated relationship.
The episode with Hagard took place at a time when Tomáš Hurt was beginning to get more opportunities to ride for other trainers and owners. At the age of twenty, he was champion jockey over fences, with 15 winning rides, and two years later he finished in second place in the championship.
He showed repeatedly that he was one of our top riders, but weight problems and his well-known bad luck held him back, and were the reasons why this one-time meteor did not, in the end, ever become one of the fixed stars. When he hung up his boots in 2008, he had marked up wins on Hagard, and also in a Velka Pardubicka qualification race on Hastaven, and in the First of May Steeplechase at Lysá on Mandarino. According to the Jockey Club’s statistics, he rode 109 winners, 89 of them over obstacles.
He trained, and also organized race days
He was then starting out as a trainer. At home in the Black Forest, on the edge of Benešov, he set out with support from Jarka and Petr Trachta, in whom he found, in many ways, his second racing family, to train what began as a small stable of horses. Success soon came along.
In just his second year as a trainer, he prepared Duplo, which ran in the colours of the Long Field syndicate and sensationally took third place in the Czech Derby, at odds of 770:10 (76 to 1). Duplo never established himself as a top horse, but for many seasons he continued to be what is known in racing parlance as a reliable "useful horse ".He continued running on the flat until the age of 11, and his full brother, Dekolt, also won a series of races.
Most of the horses that Tomáš Hurt trained were Polish-bred, and collaboration with the Moszna stud became a part of his professional signature. Other examples were Magma, a winner of the Winter Queen Stakes, and Norridge, another good-class filly, the sprinter Charihazard, and the inconspicuous hero, Adjutant, which won the Crystal Cup and the EŽ Praha Gold Cup in the colours of another Benešov syndicate, Lorenzo Winfield Syndicate. Czech-bred Lenzir and Lunaret were also popular winners, among many others.
In the course of thirteen years as a trainer, Tomáš Hurt trained 105 winners. The last horse that he saddled in a race was Čamilla, in July last year. After leaving Benešov, he weighed up his options for a while, until he started working this year for Josef Váňa, snr.
The key to the reason why he was one of the most popular figures in Czech horseracing was his open and friendly manner. Although he operated in the highly competitive horseracing milieu, he never thought only about himself. Together with the Trachtas, he organized race meetings for a number of seasons at Benešov. It was never too much for him to get onto his tractor and deal with some detail. Thanks to him, remarkably, the specific features and the inadequacies of the track in the Black Forest were made good by the friendly and hospitable atmosphere.
Tomáš’s last great wish, to start up a family, was sadly never fulfilled.