08/05/2011 9:53AM

Del Mar: Smith may have edge on Sutherland in match race

Benoit & Associates
Jockeys Chantal Sutherland and Mike Smith will square off in Sunday’s “Battle of the Exes,” a match race at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – The matchups are set, the boisterous press conference is over, and the side bet has been determined. It’s time for Sunday’s “Battle of the Exes” match race between the former couple Chantal Sutherland and Mike Smith at Del Mar.

The one-mile race is the fourth on a 10-race program. Smith, who turns 46 on Wednesday, will ride Joker Face from the inside post, while Sutherland, 35, rides Parable. Joker Face is the 3-5 favorite on the morning line, Parable is even-money. The horses are maiden claimers who are making their first starts at the meeting.

The riders, who were engaged at one time and ended their relationship last summer, took time at a Wednesday press conference to both praise and challenge each other.

Smith said the race should be a winner-take-all for the riders’ share of the purse, an agreement that Sutherland accepted. Smith was not as warm to Sutherland’s idea that if he won he should take her to dinner and that she would select the wine.

“The new girlfriend may not agree,” he said.

Sunday’s race will be Sutherland’s first match race. Smith rode match races growing up in New Mexico. In 2006, he won a two-runner race at Belmont Park, the Missy’s Mirage Stakes. The race had nine entrants and seven scratches, including one at the gate.

MORE: Press conference video and tale of the tape | Watch the race live Sunday »

For Sunday’s race, Smith seems to have the edge. Joker Face was second, beaten a neck, in a $30,000 claiming race for maidens at Hollywood Park on July 8, his fourth start. Parable was third in a $40,000 claiming race for maidens at Hollywood Park on May 21, his eighth start.

Sutherland said she learned of match races by listening to Smith talk about his New Mexico days. She still has admiration for the Hall of Famer’s skills.

“Mike is a strong rider,” Sutherland said. “He does everything, and his experience is second to none. In my mind, he’s one of the best riders I’ve ever seen.”

For his part, Smith was complimentary of Sutherland, who is riding in Southern California for the first time on a year-round basis in 2011.

“She uses her head,” Smith said. “She’s very patient. She’s getting stronger. She can bench more than some guys in the room.”

Still, there is a rivalry.

“With Mike, there is something that makes you want to kick his butt,” Sutherland said.

Smith knows what’s at stake.

“If she beats me, I’ll never hear the end of it in the jocks’ room,” he said.