Saturday was opening day of the winter meet at Santa Anita Park. It proved to be a memorable one for jockey Mike Smith.
In the process of Winning four of seven Stakes races on the card, Smith bested Jerry Bailey as the all-time leader among jockeys for Grade 1 Wins in North America.
Smith surpassed his fellow Hall of Famer, with Win number 217, when OMAHA BEACH cruised to Victory in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes.
“It is very humbling,” Smith told reporters after his Win in the Malibu. “I am a very blessed man and when you are blessed, opportunities arise, like I get to ride for Mr. (Richard) Mandella and all kinds of things happen.”
“Wow,” he said. “You shocked me right there to be honest with you. You’re blessed to Win one in this sport; 217, man I can’t even tell you.”
Of the jockeys that have Won at least 100 or more Grade 1 races, only three (not including Smith) are currently riding – John Velazquez (197), Javier Castellano (120) and Kent Desormeaux (120).
The 54 year-old Smith went on to talk about Bailey; “…Jerry is someone that comes from my hometown. I was born in New Mexico but raised in Texas in El Paso where he’s from. His father was my dentist. I went to the same high school that he did.”
“When his high school gave him an honor, I was in the grandstand watching him. I wasn’t even riding yet; I was just a kid. He’s always meant a lot to me, so to surpass him means a whole lot.”