Jockey Smith poised for lu­cra­tive pay­day at Breed­ers’ Cup

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Mike Far­rell

The ride is far from over for Mike Smith, even at age 51.

The jockey known as “Big Money Mike” is poised for an­other lu­cra­tive week­end in the Breed­ers’ Cup at Santa Anita with live mounts in the $2 mil­lion Distaff with the un­beaten Song­bird on Fri­day and in the $6 mil­lion Clas­sic on Satur­day aboard Travers win­ner Ar­ro­gate.

“These kind of horses are cer­tainly keep­ing me around,” Smith said. “I’ve been here longer than I ever thought I would be. It’s been in­cred­i­ble. I don’t look back on it too much. I’m look­ing for­ward to this week­end.

“I’m very blessed to have ac­com­plished what I’ve ac­com­plished, but I still want to add to it.”

The Hall of Famer has al­ready won over 5,300 races, and his mounts have earned $279 mil­lion in a ca­reer that started in New Mex­ico in 1982.

He has won most ma­jor North Amer­i­can stakes races, in­clud­ing the 2005 Ken­tucky Derby with 50-1 shot Gi­a­como.

But the Breed­ers’ Cup is where Smith shines. He holds the records for wins (22) and purse earn­ings ($28.9 mil­lion) in the sea­son-end­ing cham­pi­onships.

A ma­jor con­ces­sion to the pas­sage of time is a se­lec­tive ap­proach. Smith doesn’t ride as many races as in the past, seek­ing qual­ity over quan­tity.

He has had only 275 mounts this year head­ing into Breed­ers’ Cup week­end, yet he leads all Amer­i­can-based rid­ers in av­er­age earn­ings per race at $26,969.

If the money is down, Smith is there.

When Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baf­fert sent Ar­ro­gate to the Saratoga for the $1.25 mil­lion Travers, he needed a jockey for the gray colt’s first stakes race.

Rid­ing the horse for the first time, Smith guided Ar­ro­gate to a 13 ½-length vic­tory in track record time.

“When I reached back and touched him one time, I couldn’t be­lieve how he took off,” Smith said. “I was in awe of what he did.”

Ar­ro­gate is the 5-2 sec­ond choice in the Clas­sic be­hind even-money fa­vorite Cal­i­for­nia Chrome.

Song­bird, the 6-5 fa­vorite in the Distaff, puts an 11-for-11 record on the line, with Smith in the sad­dle for every vic­tory.

“She’s prob­a­bly got to run harder than she’s ever run be­fore, but I think she’s ready to do some­thing like that,” Smith said.

Sev­eral years ago, Baf­fert’s wife, Jill, helped Smith or­ga­nize his tro­phy room.

With ev­ery­thing pol­ished and pre­sented, son Bode Baf­fert was awed by the sight.

“Bode looked at all the tro­phies and said ‘Daddy, why does Mike Smith have more tro­phies that you do?”’ Bob Baf­fert said. “I told him I’m try­ing to catch up. I’m a lit­tle bit be­hind.”

So are most jock­eys, when it comes to chas­ing “Big Money Mike.”

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