Multiple graded stakes winning jockey and master of the Travers Stakes, Mike Smith is the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for the week ending August 27, 2017. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America. Jockey of the Week is sponsored by Animal Element’s Foundation Detox and Product X Performance Enhancer.
After the dust settled from Travers Day and stakes action from across the country over the weekend, Mike Smith stood out as the clear choice among voters after earning victories in two Grade 1 stakes races and leading the North American jockey standings by total and stakes earnings.
Smith had mounts in four Grade 1 races at Saratoga on Saturday, and finished in the money in all four starts. His day began on Songbird in the $700,000 Personal Ensign; the pair led the short field throughout the race until they were caught just at the wire by Joel Rosario and Forever Unbridled. Rosario, the only other jockey to win two Grade 1 races over the weekend, returned to take the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkins with favorite Practical Joke as Smith and American Anthem fought through a wide trip to finish gamely for third.
Smith would find his revenge later on the card. Smith and Drefong ($4.30) were well-supported in the $600,000 Forego despite Drefong’s recent antics in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar in which Smith was unseated shortly after the start of the race. Leaving no doubts about the colt’s abilities following that race or his long layoff prior, Smith and Drefong wired the field to win impressively by four lengths in the 7-furlong sprint.
The feature race on the Saratoga card was the $1,250,000 Travers Stakes. In a familiar move, Bob Baffert brought a newcomer to the Mid-Summer Derby, West Coast, to face a full field of familiar 3-year-old faces. Smith and West Coast ($14.20) managed to get an early lead and never looked back, building an ever-growing margin between them and the rest of the field before crossing the wire over three lengths ahead of multiple Classic and Derby winners.
With his two wins, a second-place finish and a third-place finish in four stakes races, Smith was the leading rider by stakes earnings and overall earnings for the week, adding $1,180,000 to his total. His 2017 earnings currently stand at over $22 million, giving him a comfortable lead in North American jockeys by earnings including those from Dubai World Cup Day; based on earnings solely from North American starts, he is in third place with over $16 million. His career earnings exceed $302 million.
The two-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey was only off the board in one of his five starts, and was in the money for all of his Saratoga stakes appearances on Saturday. Smith won two of his five mounts last week for a win rate of 40%, and he finished in the money in 80% of his starts.