Santa Anita Press Release


Mike Smith is not one to count his chickens before they’re hatched, or his victories

before the race is official, for that matter.

But the 52-year-old riding great, a member of the Hall of Fame since 2003, realizes full well that undefeated Justify is heavily favored and thus expected to become history’s 13th Triple Crown winner when the Belmont Stakes is run for the 150th time a week from today on June 9.

But calm and collected as is his wont, he’s not about to become obsessed about it.

“At this point, there’s not much to think about,” Smith said when asked his views on the classic seven days hence. “You can think all day long, but they haven’t even drawn the race. After that, you start thinking about strategy and so on, but right now, thinking too much would just drive you nuts.

“You can’t help but daydream here and there, but on the whole, you just try to stay cool and calm. You just have one race to win, so really, you make it simple. You don’t try to think any harder than what you should.”

Winning the Preakness by what appeared to be a diminishing half-length, the smallest margin of victory in his five-race career, Justify has his doubters for the mile and a half Belmont, longest of the Triple Crown races by a quarter mile.

But despite the relatively narrow degree of success, Smith allowed as to how he hadn’t put the pedal fully to the metal on Justify in the Preakness.

“I’m sure the mile and a half is going to benefit some, and hurt some, too,” Smith said. “We won’t know until we do it. No one’s done it yet, so thinking about it now for no reason is meaningless. You’ve just got to go out there and see if they do it.

“It comes down to whether he’s going to handle it or he’s not . . . but he acts like he should. His energy level is good, it’s high, he’s galloping out very well from his last two races.

“I don’t see why he wouldn’t handle it.”