William Arthur Smith was born at Ballarat, Victoria, in 1928. At the age of thirteen he moved to Epsom to work in the stables of Ted Temby and then in February 1943 he was indentured to Wally O’Dwyer.
As a natural lightweight, Smith crafted his early career around this lifelong advantage. Smith’s best win as an apprentice was on the Lou Robertson trained horse, Air Marshall, which he rode to victory at 100-1 in the 1947 VRC Standish Handicap. In 1949 the chairman of the WATC, W.J. Winterbottom, was looking for a talented lightweight jockey. He brought Smith across to Perth and gave him the winning ride on Royal Academy in the prestigious King’s Cup.
In the mid 1950s Billy moved to the North Island of New Zealand, winning many feature races, including three Derbies. Smith was a very popular jockey and with the support local trainers he was able to annex the Jockey’s Premiership for five seasons.
Smith returned to Melbourne for the 1960 spring carnival and the Centenary Melbourne Cup on the 50-1 chance, the New Zealand mare High Jinx. Smith’s victory in the Cup led to him re-establish himself in Melbourne for the next decade. He was Melbourne’s premier jockey in season 1960-61. During this decade he rode with great success, winning all the major Cup races including the VATC Caulfield Cup (1961), the WATC Perth Cup (1962), the AJC Sydney Cup (1963) and the QTC Brisbane Cup (1968)
During his long career Smith was associated with the outstanding gallopers Winfreux and Begonia Belle. He rode Winfreux to victory in the MVRC Feehan Stakes, the QTC Stradbroke Handicap and the BATC Doomben 10,000. Begonia Belle won the VRC Newmarket Handicap, and the MCRC Alister Clark Stakes.
On retiring from permanent race riding in season 1982-83 Billy Smith had claimed over fifty feature race wins, eighteen of them at Group 1 level. Smith’s motto, “have saddle, will travel” also saw him ride with success in Mauritius.
“He has lovely hands, and as a result all horses go kindly for him. … He has perfect balance and control, and being a natural lightweight he should have an outstanding career. And not only is he a good rider; he's a little gentleman." (Smith’s ‘master’, trainer J.A. Walsh, 1949)
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