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Thomas H. Voss

Thomas H. Voss
Induction Year: 
Sept. 19, 1950, Monkton, Md.
Jan. 21, 2014, Monkton, Md.
Career Years: 
Number of Starters: 
Number of Winners: 
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Never one to seek praise or concern himself with press clippings, Tom Voss was singularly focused on the care and development of racehorses throughout his remarkable and diverse career as a thoroughbred trainer.


For Voss, the job itself was reward enough. The honors and respect from his peers, however, proved to be constant throughout the journey. A native of Monkton, Md., whose family pedigree suggested he would be involved with horses in some capacity, Voss worked diligently to become one of the most accomplished steeplechase trainers in the sport’s history.


A five-time National Steeplechase Association leader in wins and a three-time leader in earnings, Voss ranked third all time in career earnings with $8,868,201 when he died in 2014 at the age of 63. Voss, who trained Eclipse Award winner Slip Away and seven other NSA champions, won a total of 706 races (394 steeplechase events) and had total purse earnings of $17,397,203.


Voss was born into a family with an impressive legacy relating to horses. His grandfather, Edward, moved the family from Long Island, N.Y., to Monkton, Md., in 1936. He operated Atlanta Hill Farm there and served as Master of the Elkridge-Harford Hounds for more than 30 years.


Edward Voss also rode in point-to-points through the late 1950s and campaigned several steeplechasers. He was one of five siblings, all of whom were talented artists. One of the siblings, Franklin Voss, became renowned as arguably the greatest American equine artist in history, painting masterpieces of greats such as Man o’ War, Seabiscuit and Citation, among others. Tom’s father, Eddie Voss, was an accomplished rider and foxhunter who was associated with Hall of Fame horsemen such as Mikey and Paddy Smithwick before dying of a stroke at age 38.


Tom Voss grew up on the farm and was always around horses. He learned the ropes from horsemen such as Wassie Ball, Kenny Field and Hall of Famers Burley Cocks and Paddy Smithwick. In 1966, at the age of 15, Voss trained his mother’s Idea Fija to a victory in a flat race at Fair Hill, Md. The horse ran under the name of R. E. Grayson because Voss was not old enough to get a license.


Voss rode in point-to-points and studied political science at Wilmington College before dropping out to focus on horses. He became a licensed trainer in 1973 and two years later had his breakthrough when he rode and trained Aruhapy to win at My Lady’s Manor in Monkton. Voss eventually took over the 900-acre Atlanta Hall and centralized his operations there.


Throughout the 1980s, Voss was predominately a flat trainer with a few steeplechasers sprinkled into the mix. In the mid-1990s, Voss started to become a force in the jump game. He finished fourth among steeplechase trainers in wins in both 1995 and 1996 and topped $500,000 in earnings for the first time in the latter year. Voss led the NSA standings in wins for the first time in 1997. He also topped the leaderboard in wins in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2011 and in earnings in 1997, 2002 and 2009. Overall, he finished in the top five in wins 16 times and in earnings 15 times.


With his reputation as an elite steeplechase trainer firmly established, Voss became a national name in 2000 through his work with John’s Call, a popular 9-year-old gelding originally purchased for $4,000 as a yearling. Voss prepared John’s Call to win Grade 1 turf races in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga and the Turf Classic at Belmont. He also came up just short of a third Grade 1 victory and a likely Eclipse Award when he finished a game third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. John’s Call was retired after his 10-year-old campaign having won or placed in 30 of his 40 career starts with earnings of $1,571,267.


In 2010, Voss trained Slip Away to an Eclipse Award-winning steeplechase campaign, which included victories in the Colonial Cup (by 25¾ lengths) and Temple Gwathmey (by nine lengths). Voss conditioned seven other NSA champions: Approaching Squall (1998 novice champion), Ginz (2005 champion 3-year-old), Guelph (2005 novice champion and 2005 and 2008 champion filly/mare), Ironfist (2000 timber champion), Left Unsaid (2009 novice champion), Planet’s Aligned (2007 novice champion) and Soaringoverseattle (1997 novice champion).


Other Grade 1 steeplechase victories for Voss included the Grand National (2009), Supreme Hurdle (2007), Joe Aitcheson Hurdle (2002), Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase (2001), Atlanta Cup (1998), Appleton Hurdle (1998) and the New York Turf Writers Cup (1996). Additional graded steeplechase wins for Voss included the Marcellus Frost Hurdle (2009), Appleton Hurdle (2006, 2007), Crown Royal Hurdle (2005, 2007), A. P. Smithwick Memorial (1997, 2003), David L. Zeke Ferguson Memorial (2003), National Hunt Cup Hurdle Handicap (1996, 1998) and the Noel Laing Hurdle (1996, 1997). He won a total of 30 graded stakes between steeplechase and flat racing.


Voss also served on the NSA’s board of directors and spent time as the organization’s secretary. His daughter, Elizabeth Voss, has followed in her father’s footsteps as a trainer. She has won Grade 1 stakes each of the past three years. The Voss legacy appears to be in good hands.