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Charles 'Tom' Sells Passes

Published: June 3, 2018 10:23 pm ET

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The Florida chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has reported that former top horseman, Charles Thomas 'Tom' Sells, passed away peacefully from a long illness on Friday, June 1 in West Alexander, Pennsylvania. He was 72.

Formally of Margate, Florida, Sells was born in 1945 at Urbana, Ohio and entered the equine arena while in high school, first as a Thoroughbred exercise rider, and then as a groom for legendary Standardbred horseman Dick Buxton on weekends and summers at the Urbana Fairgrounds during his two remaining school years.

Sells stayed with Buxton as a groom and graduated to third and then second trainer for three years traveling with the Buxton Stable, having the opportunity to handle especially trotters for Max Hempt, Gene Riegle and Hanover Shoe Farms. He recorded his initial driving win at age 20 at Scioto Downs with the Curly Smart trainee Flicking Star (1964 filly Stars Pride-Flicka Frost-Victory Song) that was bred and owned by Don Millar’s Bonnie Keek Farm.

This may have begun Sell’s affiliation with classy trotters as Flicka produced Hambletonian winners Timothy T and Christopher T plus Hambo Oaks winner Cora T.

Sells’ went to Chicago initially with two of his own trainees and four trotters and one pacer from Buxton, and then moved to the Meadows at age 30 where he began working with owners Steve Brown (Dunrovan Farm, Lexington, Kentucky) and a former Riegle client David Creighton of Hamilton, Ohio, while becoming well known as an effective catch-driver.

When asked about the best horses he developed and trained and also catch-drove, Sells cited the pacer Lacrosse Hanover that he and Creighton acquired at Harrisburg as a yearling as well as the fast-class trotters Go Get Lost (owned by Wayne Lynch and trained by Art Wirching) and the good trotter Hellava Hush.

Lacrosse Hanover (by Gamecock) raced at ages three to five for Sells earning over $118,000 with 26 victories in 83 starts. Sells was an effective catch-driver of Go Get Lost (from a half-sister to Super Bowl) -- he also campaigned that veteran in several European countries and Hellava Hush, both $1 million-plus (USD) winners. Go Get Lost defeated Mack Lobell in the 1988 leg of the Statue of Liberty and was second to Mack Lobell in the Breeders Crown. Sells also won the 2007 American-National for three-year-old colts with Prayer I Am.

Go Get Lost (U.S.) h, 1984, 1:54.3, $1,197,467, at three, was third in the Yonkers Trot. At age four, he won the Su Mac Lad, was second in Breeders Crown, Nat Ray Trot, Maple Leaf Trotting Classic, and third in International Trot. At five, he won the Horsemen’s Series/Glorys Comet Series, Su Mac Lad, was second in Grosser Preis von Bayern and third in Oslo Grand Prix. At six, he was second in the Horsemen’s Series/Glorys Comet Series.

Hellava Hush (U.S.) g, 2000, 1:51, $1,140,974, 80 29-18-12, at two was third in the Walnut Hall Cup. At three, he was second in the Transylvania Trot. At five, he was the winner of Nat Ray Trot, second in Trotting Classic Final, and third in the American-National Open Trot and Arthur J. Cutler Memorial. At six, he was second in the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial. He was sold at the 2001 Kentucky Standardbred Sale for $20,000.

Sells' career statistics are impressive, totaling 2,635 driving wins for purse earnings of $15.4 million and 184 training wins good for $972,700 purse earnings.

His career UDRS is .264 (over 1977-2015) with a peak year of .377 in 1977. Sells posted 115 driving wins in 1991 with a .291 UDRS and 111 wins in 2012 with a .313 UDRS. As a trainer, Sells posted a career .290 UTRS with a .367 peak in 1994.

The later part of his career was spent as one of the top drivers at Pompano Park, where many seasons he was in the top 10 standings.

Trainer/driver Tom Sells (center) presented with his Florida Hall of Fame induction trophy in 2016 by Florida USHWA members Thomas Hicks and Victoria Howard. (Skip Smith Photo)

He was inducted into the Florida Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2015 by the Florida chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association. He was also a member of the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association and the United States Trotting Association.

He was the loving husband of Cheryl K. Andy Sells; father of Michael Sells, Brian Sells, Shelly (Sells) Deters, Carrie Sells and the late Todd Sells; and grandfather of Thomas, Savannah, Michael Jr., Michael Deters Jr., Dylan McIntosh, Wyatt and Levi.

Sells wish to be cremated with a private service.

Please join Standardbred Canada in offering condolences to the family and friends of Tom Sells.

(With files from Florida chapter of USHWA)

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