11/09/2009 12:00AM

Win was, in a word, indescribable


ARCADIA, Calif. - Mike Smith wishes he would have said the right thing at the right time, a quick comment from a normally cool dude.

Instead, he admits that in the split second when Zenyatta reached the finish line of an incredibly popular win in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic, Smith could only let out a combination of a jubilant scream and bark.

"It was just pure noise," he said Sunday. "I don't know if I said anything."

No one would have heard him, anyway. There was too much cheering and commotion through the final 10 seconds of an unforgettable horse race for anything to be heard clearly.

Smith, 44, has a telegenic grin - his story was a popular part of the Animal Planet show "Jockeys" earlier this year - and he was still over the moon talking about Zenyatta on Sunday, the final day of Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. He rode two races Sunday and won one, a maiden race aboard the promising Evening Jewel.

After the race, Smith was met in the winner's circle by Laffit Pincay Jr., the retired Hall of Fame rider who was at the track for a charity presentation. Pincay, who won seven Breeders' Cup races, including the 1986 Classic with Skywalker, could not resist the chance to tease Smith.

"I thought you only won the big ones," he said.

Smith was quick to answer, "Hey, I win the little ones, too."

Smith needed 15 minutes to get back to the jockeys' room after Evening Jewel's win. Walking through the paddock gardens, he stopped to sign more than 40 autographs of Zenyatta posters and photos, racetrack caps, and even one woman's shirt. He took photos with people of all ages and never turned down anyone. The biggest problem was finding a working Sharpie to accent the big S in his signature.

"Mike, that was the greatest race I've ever seen."

"Mike, you're the best."

"Mike, thanks, man."

The most adorable fan, a girl of about 4 coached by her father, told Smith, "Good job, Mike." She was awarded with a set of riding goggles.

Smith's victory aboard Zenyatta was his 13th in a Breeders' Cup race, leaving him second behind Jerry Bailey, who won 15. Smith is fourth among jockeys in Breeders' Cup purse earnings with $16,344,760, trailing Pat Day, Bailey, and Chris McCarron.

His performance in the Classic on Saturday may have been the finest 2:00.62 in his Hall of Fame career. The way the final three-eighths unfolded, and the crowd's reaction, left even Smith stunned.

Zenyatta was ninth of 12 on the final turn when Smith chose to follow Gio Ponti past the trailing runners. Smith was getting a quick response in early stretch when he moved Zenyatta to the outside, going around eventual third-place finisher Twice Over, who was drifting to the inside. For a moment, even Zenyatta was surprised by the crowd's reaction.

"When she got to the outside, the crowd let out a roar, and she stopped running for a moment," Smith said. "She hesitated. I said, 'No, no, no.' She dug in and went on by."

Smith rode Zenyatta in the final 11 races of her 14-race career and said he never had to ask her for a full effort.

"I still didn't get to the bottom of her," he said Sunday. "If someone had been in front of her, she would have run faster."

When Zenyatta was being brought back to the winner's circle, Smith took his time. He stopped her and stood alongside an outrider for a few minutes on the final turn, waiting while the packed winner's circle was organized. It was one of the last few minutes he would sit on the back of the undefeated champion, his favorite mare.

"It was an out-of-body experience," he said. "To be part of her is incredible."