02/11/2015 3:25PM

Smith fit for another run at roses

Barbara D. Livingston
Mike Smith, 49, has four legitimate Kentucky Derby prospects.

ARCADIA, Calif. – On Wednesday morning, Mike Smith was at Santa Anita to work a horse at 6:30, and though he had the rest of the day off on this non-racing day, it was hardly an off day. Smith was headed to the gym for a workout that would crush jockeys half his age.

Smith, 49, was to ride a stationary bike for 15 miles, run for three miles, then get on a rowing machine and go another three miles. And since that’s not nearly enough, he then was to go on a three-mile hike in the hills above Santa Anita, because, well, what’s another three miles after you’ve cycled, run, and rowed 21?

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That commitment to fitness is the reason Smith, who entered the Hall of Fame in 2003, has been able to remain the most sought-after big-race rider in the sport, more than two decades after he won his first Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey, and exactly 10 years since his lone Kentucky Derby win, which came aboard Giacomo.

“When the big money is down, that’s the guy you want,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said after he and Smith teamed to win last Saturday’s San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita with Shared Belief.

The demand for Smith’s services are reaching a peak during this Derby prep season. Smith and his agent, Brad Pegram, have lined up mounts on four prospects – including three members of the current Derby Watch top 20 – in four stakes at four different tracks over the next few weeks.

Smith on Saturday is scheduled to ride Summer Stakes winner Conquest Typhoon in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate. On Monday, he’s scheduled to be at Oaklawn to ride Smarty Jones winner Far Right in the Southwest. On Feb. 21, he’s off to Fair Grounds to ride Imperia, the Kentucky Jockey Club runner-up, for the first time in the Risen Star. And on March 7 he’s slated to ride Ocho Ocho Ocho, the unbeaten winner of the Delta Jackpot, in the San Felipe at Santa Anita.

“It’s a great line-up, and they all seem to be doing real well,” Smith said Wednesday morning. “Now’s the time to see who graduates and moves on. I’m really blessed. All these horses are live. There’s no, ‘Oh, he might make it.’ I want to stay with them as long as I can.”

With Smith aboard for the first time, Far Right rallied from last in the field of nine to win the one-mile Smarty Jones. Far Right finished a troubled third in the Delta Jackpot in his only start at 1 1/16 miles, the distance of the Southwest.

“I think he’ll get every bit of that distance,” Smith said. “He’s not a big horse, but he’s well made. He was finding his best stride at the end of the mile last time, and he galloped out well. We’ll find out if he can go a mile and a sixteenth. Last time, going a mile, they end at the first finish line. It’s a short stretch. This race ends at the second finish line.”

Smith said he dropped Far Right well out of it last time after studying the way Corey Lanerie rode Far Right in the Delta Jackpot.

“He settled really good for Lanerie and made a run,” Smith said. “It was the first time he settled.”

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

In the Smarty Jones, Far Right came up the rail to beat Bayerd and Mr. Z, a D. Wayne Lukas trainee who led at midstretch but then sharply veered out.

“I thought I had left my horse too much to do, but then Wayne Lukas’s horse went to the far right – pun intended – just as my horse was starting to level off and finish,” Smith said.

Smith does his homework. In addition to preparing his body in the gym on off days, he’ll prepare his mind prior to races by studying past performances and the tendencies of opposing riders. In the San Antonio on Shared Belief, “It played out like the picture I had in my head,” Smith said.

“The way I handicapped it was the way it set up,” Smith continued. “You always have a few different scenarios in your head – if Plan A doesn’t work out, you go to Plan B – but this time Plan A worked out.”

Smith has won 5,253 races, including every Triple Crown race, most recently the 2013 Belmont on Palace Malice. He leads all riders in Breeders’ Cup wins with 21, most recently last year’s Filly and Mare Sprint with Judy the Beauty. He wants more.

“I’m doing well, I’m feeling good, and I feel I’m riding really well,” Smith said. “I feel better than ever. I’m hooked on fitness. I love to train, and when it comes to riding, with experience, there’s nothing like it.”

Harlan More than 1 year ago
Any truth to the rumor that Smith and Patrick Husbands out of WO are feuding over who gave CS the better ride. I heard that the trainer thought Mike was a little light with the stick and that Husband was more effective on her in the deep stretch. They thought she just gave a little more with Husbands up. Rumor was that Smith took it very personal and blamed Husbands for stealing his mount. Probably just backside chatter.
Gary Smith More than 1 year ago
Plan B,Mike Smith will ride Bolo in the San Felipe not Ocho,Ocho,Ocho.
Tim Roberts More than 1 year ago
Nobody has ever been better on getting on good horses for the first time and winning with them. And nobody has been granted the excellent choice of mounts in big races at so many different tracks than Mike Smith. He deserves it, one of the best ever.
Jonathan Moore More than 1 year ago
Funny. I like smith, but his ride on Mucho Macho Man in the '12 Classic was bad. He got schooled by young Brian Hernandez. At least Steven's made up for it the next year. He rode the horse the way he should have been ridden.
Harlan More than 1 year ago
Not to say that Baze hasn't ridden some nice mounts, But nothing, not even Zenyata can compare to CS. as far as class and determination
mike More than 1 year ago
Are you serious?
Harlan More than 1 year ago
Maybe you should find out a bit more about who MS has ridden. Zenyata was the class of class. But CS just had something special. Never reached her full potential, but could have won the Derby if it wasn't for Calvin Borel.
Harlan More than 1 year ago
he will never catch Russell Baze. He is not willing to ride $4000 claimers six times a day, 4 days a week.
mike More than 1 year ago
So? What's wrong with that? Please tell me you would rather pad a record then go for the big money? He can't ride forever he's almost 50.
Harlan More than 1 year ago
Sorry that you didn't get the sarcasm.
Pauly Patane More than 1 year ago
Top 5 jocks of all time
Steve More than 1 year ago
Money Mike
Tim Roberts More than 1 year ago
No kidding, he makes like 100k every weekend
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
When the money is on the line , its plain and simple, you call Michael Earl Smith .....
ReddogsForever More than 1 year ago
Mike Smith has a gift with horses. You can see it in the way he approaches them, talks to them, rides them and loves them. He has another gift too. Probably the best hands of any jockey. I admire and truly wish I could meet him. The ultimate dream would be to meet him when he is riding Shared Belief. With both SB and Zenyata I have never seen such magic between jockey and horse. My intention is not to take anything away from other jockeys. There are many top flight jockeys out there right now and several who watch from another dimension. I am just a huge Mike Smith fan and admirer. His accomplishments speak for themselves. I am sure his family are equally as proud, happy and amazed as I am. Great job Mike, I hope you and Shared Belief have an enormously successful, healthy and happy year in 2015.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
Mike Smith has a gift with horses and likes to talk to them and love them, tee hee. his hands are like works of art and stuff. man, I hope I meet him too! its my ultimate dream! there are so many other jockeys who watch him with telescopes from other dimensions as well who wish they had the contacks he has too. good job Mike, ur my hero!
mike More than 1 year ago
You're exactly correct.
Ray More than 1 year ago
yes reddogsForever....we are. :)