FRANKLIN, Ky. (Thursday, Aug. 22, 2018) — Mike Smith, who 2 1/2 months ago achieved the ultimate in his Hall of Fame career by sweeping the Triple Crown aboard Justify, will be at Kentucky Downs for the first time on Thursday, Sept. 6.
The 53-year-old jockey won’t be riding but will be raising money for three charities: Old Friends equine retirement facility, which has a satellite operation at Kentucky Downs; the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, and The Giving Circle, an all-volunteer non-profit organization founded in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that seeks out communities in need to connect them with the resources to help.
Sept. 6 is Old Friends Day at Kentucky Downs, with the featured race the $250,000 Old Friends Stakes, sponsored by Redbrand. Kentucky Downs runs Sept. 1, 6, 8, 9 and 13 over America’s only European-style turf course and offers some of the largest purses in the world.
Smith will sign limited edition 18 X 24-inch Coady Photography prints of Justify’s Kentucky Derby victory for a suggested $10 donation from 1-3 p.m. CT, with the proceeds split among the three charities. The autograph session will be in the area near the Finish Line Pavilion.
“This is the perfect opportunity for the public to meet and interact with one of horse racing’s great talents and sportsmen while helping these three worthy organizations,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager. “And you get a terrific keepsake commemorating our sport’s ultimate accomplishment, the Triple Crown, which only 12 jockeys have attained.”
The California-based Smith said that he wants to give back to a sport that has been so generous to him.
“We should take advantage of the opportunity to raise some money for some wonderful causes,” he said. “If I have the time, I certainly want and look forward to doing them. I’ve been blessed to have done a couple already and they raised quite a bit of money for the PDJF. Why not try to raise all I can?”
Because he isn’t riding races, Smith says he’ll have more time to spend with race fans.
“I can just sit back, relax and enjoy the people, get everything signed that I can sign, take some pictures and meet some new friends and go to a great new place,” he said.
“I’m also a huge fan of racing, so I love to go to places I’ve never been and just watch. It’s fun. I’ve heard wonderful things about Kentucky Downs. Watching it on TV, it reminds me a lot of Europe, looking at it. I’ve never ridden there, but I’ve ridden in Europe quite a bit. The racetracks there are formed a little different, kind of go up and down. And it’s great racing, great horses running. This was just a great chance to go there and do some good for other people.”
Smith has won the Kentucky Derby twice (Justify, Giacomo in 2005), the Preakness twice (Justify, Prairie Bayou in 1993), the Belmont Stakes three times (Justify, Palace Malice in 2013, Drosselmeyer in 2010), with his record 26 Breeders’ Cup victories including the Classic four times). His career purse earnings of $314,570,579 are surpassed only by John Velazquez’s $390,243,400. The two-time Eclipse Award-winning rider was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
Smith teamed with several Old Friends residents during their racing careers, including guiding Game On Dude to four Grade 1 victories and Amazombie to a Breeders’ Cup Sprint triumph and 2011 Eclipse Award as champion sprinter. He also has the distinction of riding Zippy Chippy, the lovable loser at Old Friends’ New York facility, in the gelding’s fifth of what wound up being a record 100 defeats without victory.
“Mike Smith has been great to us,” said Michael Blowen, Old Friends’ founder and president. “He’s been to the farm. He adores Game On Dude. I have this great memory of him sitting on the fence with Game On Dude in one paddock and Amazombie next door waiting for him to come over and pet him. He also rode Zippy Chippy at Aqueduct. I’m going to bring a couple of pictures of Zippy for him to sign. How valuable will those be?”
Nominations for first five stakes announced
The first five stakes at Kentucky Downs attracted a total of 276 nominations, or an average of 55 each, ranging from 48 horses made eligible to the $750,000 Tourist Mile on the opening card Sept. 1 to the 63 nominated to the $400,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, also on Sept. 1. The names and past performances of nominees are available here for those two stakes, as well as the $400,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile and $250,000 One Dreamer, both part of the opening-day stakes quartet, and the $250,000 Old Friends, which will be held Thursday, Sept. 6.
Nominations for the remaining nine stakes spread over Sept. 8, 9 and 13 will be released early next week. Nominations for all 14 stakes closed Wednesday, Aug. 22. Horses that are not nominated still can run in Kentucky Downs stakes for a supplemental entry fee.
“While nominations are not the same thing as entries, they are a strong indication of the interest in a racing program,” said Kentucky Downs racing secretary Tyler Picklesimer. “What’s especially encouraging are all the nominations we received from California, including from such top outfits as Doug O’Neill, Neil Drysdale, Peter Miller, Richard Mandella, Simon Callaghan, Richard Baltas, Vladimir Cerin, Tim Yakteen and Dan Blacker. All regions of the country are well-represented, along with Canada, and even Ireland with Dermot Weld.
“All our stakes received purse increases this year, including the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup and the Tourist Mile now at $750,000 each. Even for horses that are not eligible for the Kentucky-bred supplements, the base purses for our stakes range from $150,000 to $400,000. With the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs this year, we have every anticipation that our stakes will be stronger than ever. Horsemen can to come to Kentucky to race with us and just stay on through the fall. ”