HALLANDALE BEACH, FL—Heather Smullen has developed an extensive resume during her racing career. She can now add ‘winning trainer’ to her list of accomplishments.

Smullen saddled her first winner as a head trainer Thursday at Gulfstream Park, where Quester put her in the winner’s circle following a length victory in the seventh-race feature, a $50,000 maiden optional claiming going a mile on the turf for Florida-bred 3-year-olds and older. Robert and Lawana Low’s Quester, a 3-year-old son of Into Mischief, was Smullen’s fourth starter since she went out on her own in April.

“It feels great. I’ve been really lucky. I have a lot of owners and managers and people who have supported me over the years. I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to have nice horses,” she said.

Smullen was the regular exercise rider for Florida-bred Caledonia Road, winner of the 2017 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner and 2-year-old filly champion filly, while working as an assistant for trainer Ralph Nicks. She also was the regular work rider for 2020 Curlin Florida Derby (G1), Belmont Stakes (G1), and Runhappy Travers (G1)-winner Tiz the Law.

Smullen’s exercise riding career came to an end following an accident on Labor Day morning at Saratoga in 2022 that left her with a broken fibula and tibia in her right leg. She has served at Gulfstream Park as an assistant for Arindel Farm as well as for trainers Dale Romans and Phil Serpe over the past several years.

“I’ve worked as an assistant for about 20 years,” Smullen, a niece of Tagg’s assistant trainer Robin Smullen, said. “I’ve been lucky to have been around good horses.”

Smullen currently has a stable of 12 horses at Gulfstream and is looking to add more.

Return to the May 30 issue of Wire to Wire