05/31/2011 10:02PM

In Celebration of Mike Smith

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Each time we shot a 'hot' jock for our calendar, it seemed, we were asked if we’d photographed Mike Smith yet. By the time Mike finally pulled off his shirt for the lens, I figured the reality couldn’t match the legend. Wrong!

We all know Hall of Fame jockey Mike E. Smith is a great rider and, even fully clothed, many consider him the sexiest jockey in racing.  He has unusually bright eyes, dimples, an endearing smile and an uplifting attitude – coupled with the fact that he not only piloted Zenyatta, but his eyes can well up with emotion just talking about her. 

I’ve had more than two decades to snap his portrait, and, in my opinion, our friend Mike is looking better than ever.

Above and below:  Mike Smith, age 24, at the 1990 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.  He had moved to New York the previous year.  On this day, he rode Thirty Six Red to victory (below) to score his first Grade I win.

Above and below:  The up-and-coming young rider at Saratoga in 1990.

Above:  Mike at Saratoga in 1991.  Below:  Mike - already very popular - gets a cake for his 27th birthday, in the Saratoga jockeys' room, 1992.

Above:  Angel Cordero, Jr., retires - at Saratoga in 1992.  Chris Antley is in the foreground, with Mike Smith (Saratoga's leading rider that year) and Robbie Davis in background.

Above:  What a photo finish!  Lure, with Mike Smith up, on the rail, deadheats with Devil His Due (Herb McCauley) in the 1992 Gotham Stakes.  Mike rode both Lure and Devil His Due during their storied careers.

Above and below:  Mike's riding talent was no secret by the time he piloted Claiborne Farm's Lure to victory in the 1992 Breeders' Cup at Gulfstream Park (above) and the 1993 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita (below).

Above:  Mike stands out with Lure at Santa Anita, 1993.  Those who remember when Lure was racing will probably recall that he would stand out all morning long, watching the world go by, if they'd let him.

Above:  Mike - with Saratoga's kingpin jockey Angel Cordero, Jr. - upon Mike's third straight Saratoga riding title.  1993.

Above:  Devil His Due and Mike powering home in the 1993 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.

Above and below:  Mike won the 1993 Preakness aboard the popular gelding Prairie Bayou.  Below, Mike and Prairie Bayou shared a touching moment during 1993 Belmont Stakes week.

Above:  Mike and Sky Beauty, pretty as a picture, after their 1993 Acorn Stakes win.  With Mike aboard, for trainer Allen Jerkens, Sky Beauty won the Filly Triple Crown.

Above:  Mike was dejected after Holy Bull's uncharacteristically flat effort in the 1994 Kentucky Derby.  Yet Holy Bull racked up one of the strongest careers in recent times, including a win in the Travers Stakes (below, in post parade).

Mike and Holy Bull, after the 1994 Woodward (above) and the 1994 Travers (below).

Above, and below:  And then, Holy Bull's racing days were through.  Mike Smith visited the grey colt back at the barn the evening of his career-ending injury in the 1995 Donn Handicap.

Above:  Mike and the Phipps Stable combined for many stakes victories, but few as impressive at Inside Information's record-setting performance in the 1995 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Belmont.  The rains had stopped, and the sun provided a magical rainbow for a backdrop, when Mike and Inside Information returned to the winner's circle.

Above:  Mike  and Unbridled's Song were all the rage after their 1996 Florida Derby score.  Yet even Mike couldn't make up for the foot issues that plagued the steel-grey colt on Kentucky Derby day (below, note Unbridled's Song's shoes).  The 7-2 favorite finished fifth.

Above and below:  Mike had a smashing 1997 Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park, winning the Distaff with Ajina (above) and rounding out the day with an easy triumph aboard Skip Away in the Classic (below).

Above:  Coronado's Quest outlasts Victory Gallop (center) and Raffie's Majesty in one of the most exciting Travers finishes in history - 1998.  Below, Mike is overcome by emotion as he heads back to the winner's circle.

Above:  Mike piloted Azeri to a Breeders' Cup Distaff score at Arlington Park - and to 2002 Horse of the Year honors.  

Above and below:  Mike, in a shocker, wins the 2005 Kentucky Derby aboard Holy Bull's son Giacomo.

Above:  Stardom Bound wins the 2008 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita Park.

Above and below:  Mike and Proviso teamed to win the 2010 Diana Handicap at Saratoga over Shared Account (left) and Forever Together (center).

Above and below:  Another Classic victory.... Mike and Drosselmeyer heading down Grade I victory lane (above) and in the winner's circle (below) - in last year's Belmont Stakes.

Above:  Mike with the once-in-a-lifetime mare with whom he will always be associated:  2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta.  At Oaklawn Park, above and, below, winning their 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Above and below:  Hall of Fame jockey Mike E. Smith, a beloved fan favorite, looking better than ever.  Go, baby, go!

Jay Privman's Q & A with Mike Smith from December 2, 2010, which includes mention of Mike's devotion to working out.  Despite having had broken both shoulders during his career, he can bench-press an amazing 245 pounds!:

www.drf.com/news/qa-zenyattas-jockey-mike-smith

Some great Mike Smith races....

The 1992 Gotham deadheat between Lure and Devil His Due.  Watch how determined Mike and Lure are, even when the going gets tight:  www.youtube.com/watch

1992 Breeders' Cup Mile - Lure in a new course record - with nice footage of Mike: www.youtube.com/watch

The 1997 Breeders' Cup Classic (Skip Away): www.youtube.com/user/BCWorldChampionships#p/search/0/nv5tGwiTmxw

The 3-year-old Holy Bull demolishes a strong field of older horses in the 1994 Woodward.  Nice footage of Mike Smith: www.youtube.com/watch

Giacomo's 2005 Kentucky Derby: www.youtube.com/watch

Proviso in a tight finish in the 2010 Diana: www.youtube.com/watch

Zenyatta's 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic.  It doesn't get better than this: www.youtube.com/watch