Let’s Hear It for Mike Smith

By Art Parker

He became a licensed jockey when he was 16 years old. Today he is nearly 50. He has won most every race imaginable and has won more Breeders’ Cup races than any jockey in history. In 1994, he was given the Mike Venezia Memorial Award for “extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship.”

Mike Smith is his name. All of us with any reasonable amount of activity in the world of horse racing know of this native of New Mexico and of his success.

With all of that said it is easy to understand why he did what he did.

At the recent Charlestown Classic (Grade II) Smith pulled up his horse about halfway around the track. He was aboard the great gelding and probably the best horse in America, Shared Belief, who was the odds-on choice in the race.

I remember watching the race on my computer screen. I told my wife Shared Belief didn’t finish the big race. She gets upset when a horse is hurt. She first cringed while standing at the stove preparing dinner. “What happened,” she asked me with a fearful look on her face. I told her I wasn’t certain but it looked like Smith pulled up his mount and that Shared Belief appeared to get into the van without much difficulty. I told her that Smith probably thought something was wrong and immediately put a stop to the proceedings. I told her not to worry because Smith was going to take care of his mount.

The following is an excerpt published by The Blood Horse on April 20, 2015:

It turns out Mike Smith’s intuition was right.

The Hall of Fame jockey likely saved multiple grade I winner Shared Belief from further injury by pulling him up in the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) April 18, as diagnostic work performed in the following days revealed a non-displaced fracture at the point of the gelding’s right hip.

Since then we have learned that Shared Belief will get a vacation for a few months to recover. He is going to be fine and, as I understand it, we may even see him run again this year.

This entire story about Shared Belief centers on the unselfishness, professionalism and perfect ethical conduct of Mike Smith. The old pro didn’t think about money, glory or anything else. He thought something was wrong with his horse and immediately did the right thing. Smith risked being wrong and risked plenty of embarrassment, which would have hurt his business. That didn’t stop a good man from doing what is right.

Mike Smith took care of his mount.

Our sport is often subject to controversy. Our sport has the chemistry for some bad things to happen and it is a difficult sport to police. There are medication controversies and occasional unethical or illegal activities by trainers and jockeys.

But then we have a Mike Smith moment. Let’s talk about this. Let’s point at Smith and say “There is just one of the many fine people we have in the racing game.”

It is sad for what happened to Shared Belief, but since it did happen I can say I’m glad Mike Smith was in the saddle.

And Shared Belief is glad he was in the saddle too.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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