08/04/2011 10:53AM

Del Mar: Smith, Sutherland discuss 'Battle of the Exes'

Email
Benoit & Associates

In racing’s storied history, match races have included great older males facing off in epic duels, fillies taking on males, and even Quarter Horses against Thoroughbreds. Now, they take on a new twist – a former couple in a match race at Del Mar.

For a few years, jockeys Mike Smith, 45, and Chantal Sutherland, 35, were an item and were even engaged. That ended last summer. Today, they are rival jockeys in Southern California. Sunday, they face off in a match race at Del Mar that has been dubbed the Battle of the Exes.

Last weekend, between workouts on busy mornings, Daily Racing Form interviewed them separately about the match race and their past relationship.

Ever ridden in a match race?
Smith: I grew up riding them, Quarter Horses and some Thoroughbreds [in New Mexico].
Sutherland: No. Mike taught me everything I know about match races. He grew up riding match races and told me what it was like and what he did, the tactics, never knowing we’d be in one together.

How did match racing go?
Smith: Really well, actually. It got me where I am. I actually rode a match race for [trainer] John Kimmel a few years ago.
(Smith rode the winner of a two-runner race at Belmont in July 2006, the Missy’s Mirage Stakes, which had nine entrants but lost most of its field to scratches after a surface switch and a late withdrawal at the gate.)

Before Sunday’s race, will you say anything to the other in the starting gate?
Sutherland: We probably won’t talk to each other. It’s pretty quiet between us.
Smith: There’s not much to say. We don’t talk much as it is.

Are you going to go to the lead or stalk?
Smith: I don’t know. This track makes things a bit different. You’ve got to be a little careful. You don’t want to do too much too quick. I’ll react to what’s going on.
Sutherland: I have no idea what I’ll do. I’ll probably play off him. I’ll take my cue from him.

Do you think people will be rooting for you?
Smith: We’ll both have our fans. I might get a few of the girls, but she’ll get all the guys.
Sutherland: I hope people are rooting for me.

Who is the favorite horse you are riding right now?
Smith: Mr. Commons and Amazombie. I’m anxious to see what Mr. Commons can do this year.
Sutherland: I’m excited to ride St Trinians and Game On Dude. Those are my two.

Who is your favorite horse of all-time?
Sutherland: The most fun horse I’ve ridden is Game On Dude. I won the Santa Anita Handicap on him. It was amazing.
Smith: I’ve been blessed to ride some pretty good ones.

Can you reveal any of your ex’s bad habits?
Sutherland: He’s a got a little OCD. He really gets upset if the toothpaste is not rolled up from the bottom. He’s perfect and clean, really easy to live with. He hated when I’d walk around and eat. I’d put crumbs on the floor, and he’d follow me around with the shop-vac.
Smith: None that I can think of.

Can you reveal any of your ex’s best habits?
Sutherland: He’s such a sweet and caring person. He was always surprising me with gifts, Louis Vuitton, Rolex. He was a rock star like that.
Smith: None that I can think of.

Chantal, did you ever pick up the check?
Sutherland: Sometimes, but Mike took care of everything. I just had to show up. Chivalry still works for Mike.

Mike, did you always open doors for Chantal?
Smith: Yeah, sometimes. I’m pretty old school.

When you’re not in a race, and the other one is riding, do you still root?
Sutherland: Yes, I’d root for him. It broke my heart when Zenyatta got beat.
Smith: Somewhere down deep, yes.

Are you dating anyone?
Sutherland: No. I’m single. I’m dating Game On Dude. He’s my boyfriend.
Smith: No.

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