Mike Smith won Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes on Friday, plus two stakes on Saturday to be named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week. The title goes to the week’s outstanding jockey in the opinion of a panel of industry experts and the public consensus. They looked at races run from December 22-28. Smith garnered 67% of the public vote.
Overall for the week, he won 3 races with 1 second and 1 third from 12 starts for earnings of $308,888. The average mutuel payout on his three winning rides was $8.07.
In the Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds, he teamed up with Horse of the Year contender Shared Belief for the colt’s third Grade I win of 2014. The only blot on Shared Belief’s record is a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic when a rough start cost him his chance in the race.
“I truly believe he would be undefeated right now if you take the start of the Breeders’ Cup Classic out of it,” Smith said. “I got beat three lengths and I lost at least seven or eight leaving the gate and on down the track.
“He broke extremely well today, which I was really, really happy with. He didn’t go real quick the first quarter-mile, but we really picked it up and from then on, it was a horse race.”
Shared Belief, the odds-on favorite, won by a neck from Conquest Two Step.
In Saturday’s Grade III Midnight Lute Stakes, Smith led all the way on Distinctiv Passion, the 7-1 second choice to win by a length and three-quarters from longshot Heir of Storm.
“I was just trying to get along with him,” Smith said. “The way to keep him going turning for home is to get along with him on the backside. If you can’t do that, they won’t finish for you. I wanted to keep him happy and I was in a great post to do that. Down the lane he was able to hold them off. I was running on fumes by the end, but you’re supposed to when you go that fast.”
Distinctiv Passion ran the six and a half furlongs in 1:14.55.
In the $75,000-added Eddie Logan Stakes for 2-year-olds going a mile on the turf, Smith took the lead on Bolo into the stretch and won by 4 1/2 lengths as the 9-5 favorite.
Smith began riding races in New Mexico at age 11 and got his jockey’s license at 16 in 1982. He earned his apprenticeship at Canterbury Downs before moving to New York in 1989. Two years later, he became one of the few Americans to win a European classic when he won the Irish 2,000 Guineas on Fourstars Allstar.
He followed that with three straight leading jockey titles in New York.
In 1993, he set a North American record for stakes wins in a year with 62. That helped win him his first Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey. In 1994, he broke his stakes-winning record with 68, including 20 Grade I races. He rode Horse of the Year Holy Bull that season and also won two Breeders’ Cup races to pick up another Eclipse Award.
Smith moved to Southern California in 2000, and in 2002 teamed up with his second Horse of the Year, Azeri.
Other career highlights have included winning the Kentucky Derby on 50-1 longshot Giacomo, and riding Zenyatta, the only horse to win two different Breeders’ Cup races.
Currently Smith is on top of the standings for both wins and earnings at Santa Anita.
JockeyTalk360.com spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, the Daily Racing Form, Equibase, the Jockeys’ Guild, the Paulick Report, the Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, Turf Publicists of America, and the public consensus.