By Alicia Wincze Hughes (The Bloodhorse)
Blessed. Fortunate. Extraordinary. Extra, extra extraordinary.
Talk to jockey Mike Smith about the state of his career, and those adjectives pop into his vocabulary like a record on repeat. It’s not that the living legend is trying to be boastful. More so, it’s that his perspective has been so artfully shaped over the years that he can’t stop expressing gratitude for the golden opportunities that routinely land at his feet.
Take, for example, the series of events that turned his world upside down and back again just five weeks ago.
Grade 1 winner McKinzie, the colt he piloted to three victories and the upper echelon of this year’s 3-year-old male division, suffered an injury that knocked him out of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and off the Triple Crown trail. The gut punch was softened by the fact Smith also had the mount on McKinzie’s leggy stablemate Justify. The colt picked up the mantle in the Santa Anita Derby and gave Smith the honor of guiding the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) favorite this year.
“It just goes to show you how this game can go,” Smith said. “One minute you are on the top and you think everything is great. Then (McKinzie) gets hurt, and next thing you know, you’re down in the dumps. And in the matter of one day or a race, here comes this superstar. I’m just blessed to be a part of it.”
From Zenyatta to Songbird to Arrogate , there always seems to be a supernova warming up in Smith’s on-deck circle. And if the chestnut son of Scat Daddy he is set to ride May 5 possesses the reserve of talent his Hall of Fame pilot believes he has, it just might bring an end to one of the few realms of relative misfortune in Smith’s orbit.