01/05/2017 2:40PM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Mike Smith

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mike Smith

Just call him Mr. Breeders’ Cup.

No rider in history has won more championship races than Mike Smith, and in 2016 the jockey added to his lore when he snagged three Breeders’ Cup events, led by the $6 million Classic with Arrogate.

But the splash Smith made at Breeders’ Cup was just one aspect of his memorable year. He was aboard Arrogate for his track-record performance in the Travers, and he also teamed regularly with Songbird, who won seven of eight starts in 2016 including the Alabama and Santa Anita Oaks.

For his accomplishments, Smith, a 51-year-old native of New Mexico, is a finalist for the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey of 2016. The Hall of Fame rider has won the Eclipse twice, in 1993 and 1994.

:: Eclipse Awards: 2016 finalists with profiles

Smith’s big Breeders’ Cup started with the Friday program, when he captured the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with Tamarkuz. He racked up his other two championship races the next day, first taking the Filly and Mare Sprint with Finest City. Smith and Arrogate then reeled in California Chrome in the Classic.

“I wound up cutting the corner going into the far turn, and he really picked it up,” Smith told Daily Racing Form. “Then I got outside, and he was relentless. He’s got some stamina.”

Songbird also was relentless. After winning her four starts at 2, she added seven additional wins at 3. All of her victories last year came in graded stakes, by a combined margin of 38 lengths.

“I had the best of the best riders call me after she’s run, a lot of them retired, saying she might be the best filly they’ve ever seen,” Smith said in an interview with David Grening of Daily Racing Form.

“What she does that’s the norm for her is very difficult, it seems like, for other fillies, which is mechanics, which is the way she does things. She just gets over the ground so effortless.”

Smith in 2016 won 55 races from 335 mounts, with 22 of his victories coming in graded stakes. He tied with Florent Geroux for the most Grade 1 stakes wins last year, with 10. Smith’s mounts earned $13,352,530.