01/05/2018 12:10PM

2017 Eclipse Awards: Mike Smith

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Horse racing’s gold standard is success in Grade 1 races, and no rider won more of those last year than Mike Smith. From the inaugural Pegasus World Cup with Arrogate in January to the American Oaks with Daddys Lil Darling in December, Smith’s record of 15 such victories has made him an Eclipse Award finalist for outstanding jockey of 2017.

Smith, a 52-year-old native of Roswell, N.M., is seeking his third win in the category after taking the Eclipse in 1993 and 1994.

The 2017 racing season was yet another memorable year for Smith. By May he had won the world’s two richest races with Arrogate – the $12 million Pegasus and the $10 million Dubai World Cup – and also won the Kentucky Oaks aboard Abel Tasman.

A month after the Oaks, the Southern California-based Smith – who used to be a regular in New York – put on a clinic during Belmont Stakes Day. He won five stakes on the all-star card, led by a trio of Grade 1 events: the Ogden Phipps with Songbird, the Metropolitan Handicap with Mor Spirit, and the Acorn with Abel Tasman.

“It’s just like the good old days back in New York, getting the opportunity to ride some great horses,” Smith told Daily Racing Form’s Jim Dunleavy. “It’s just a blast. You point the good ones in the right direction, and they get the job done.”

Other good ones that got the job done with Smith at the helm include Caledonia Road in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, West Coast in the Travers, Unique Bella in the La Brea, and Drefong in the Forego.

Smith won 70 races from 275 mounts in North America in 2017, with 37 coming in graded stakes. His mounts earned more than $20.5 million.