Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith earns 2nd Kentucky Derby win

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Mike Smith’s clean white and green silks were the most obvious indicator of how well the Kentucky Derby went for the Hall of Fame jockey aboard Justify.

Staying nearly spotless wasn’t easy in pelting rain and on a muddy, crowded track. But Smith got Justify near the lead at the start and left the other horses to deal with the muck as the pair splashed to a 2+-length victory Saturday in the 144th Run for the Roses.

Preakness Stakes: What Time, Where to Watch and More.

It was the second Derby victory for Smith, who helped Justify improve to 4-0 and become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win without racing as a 2-year-old.

The 52-year-old Smith, known as “Big Money Mike” for his performance in big races, is the second-oldest Derby winner behind Bill Shoemaker, who rode Ferdinand to victory in 1986 at age 54.

Given his conditioning and seamless trip aboard Justify, Smith seems capable of surpassing that mark.

Asked about the secret to his success, Smith said: “Just keeping riding horses like this and that’ll keep you around a long time. You don’t have to work a whole lot; they do all the work for you.”

Perhaps, but it’s hard to imagine another jockey getting so much out of a rookie on the sport’s biggest stage.

Smith, whose first Derby win came aboard Giacomo in 2005, is known as being one of the sport’s healthiest riders and a keen tactician. That helps explain why trainer Bob Baffert chose Smith to ride Justify after breaking his maiden beneath Drayden Van Dyke, and why he appeared so calm all week.

The rain and track made Baffert nervous, albeit only briefly, as Justify and Smith ran another impressive race.

“When he got away clean then I thought we had a chance,” said Baffert, who earned his fifth Derby win and first since American Pharoah’s 2015 victory on the way to the Triple Crown. “We had to get away. Then Mike took his time.”

Justify came into the Derby off a three-length win in the Santa Anita Derby and even had a March win in the mud at the California track. Despite concerns about the so-called Apollo Curse continuing, he went off as the 5-2 favorite from the No. 7 post at Churchill Downs.

Smith made sure the horse quickly delivered on the expectations.

He found a hole right away for Justify out of the gate and kept the horse to the outside alongside Promises Fulfilled through the backstretch. He made his move in the far turn and steadily pulled away for his most significant win.

“He’s got that `it’ factor,” Smith said. “He is so above average, he’s got unbelievable talent and he’s got a mind to go with it. He was loving this stuff. He’s so big and talented.”

What to know about the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby

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The Kentucky Derby is one of the most iconic sporting events in the world. Every year, millions of fans tune into NBC to watch top race horses from around the globe compete in “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.”

What is the Kentucky Derby? The Kentucky Derby, run the first Saturday in May, is one of the most well known Grade 1 Thoroughbred stakes races in the world. First run in 1875, this 1 1/4 mile–or 10 furlongs–race kicks off the American Triple Crown of horse racing.

When and where is the 2019 Kentucky Derby? The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, May 4, 2019 with a post time of 6:50 p.m. ET.

The Derby is run on the dirt track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, where it has been held since its inaugural running in 1875.

How can I watch the 2019 Kentucky Derby? NBC is home to the 145th Kentucky Derby, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV and NBCSports.com before, during and after. NBC will also broadcast the 2019 Preakness Stakes and 2019 Belmont Stakes. See the broadcast schedule here.

How are horses picked for the Derby? Only 3-year-old Thoroughbreds can qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Eligible horses compete in the Race to the Kentucky Derby, a series of 35 races around the world. Horses win points for finishing in the top four spots, and the 20 horses with the most points at the end of the series gain entry into the Derby. (However, sometimes horses will scratch, giving another the opportunity to run in the Derby.) Currently, Wood Memorial winner Tacitus leads the field with 150 points, and Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach is close behind with 137.5 points. See the full point standings here.

Who are the early horses to watch?

  • Two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert fields Roadster, Game Winner and Improbable. However, Roadster will be without jockey Mike Smith, who chose Omaha Beach instead.
  • Omaha Beach had an impressive win with Mike Smith aboard, fighting off a comeback attempt from Improbable.
  • Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will look for his first Derby win in Wood Memorial winner Tacitus.
  • Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby competitor Master Fencer isn’t expected to be a serious contender but would become the first Japanese-bred horse to run in the Derby.
  • Jon Court is set to ride Long Range Toddy and could become the oldest jockey to win the Derby at age 58.

Who won the 2018 Kentucky Derby? WinStar Farm’s colt Justify, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, won the 144th Kentucky Derby. He went on to win the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, becoming the 13th horse ever to win the Triple Crown.

What are the biggest Kentucky Derby traditions? Bold formal outfits for both men and women are synonymous with the Kentucky Derby. Celebrities and fans a like go all out, donning creative and colorful hats, bright colors and wild patterns. In fact, hats and outfits are such a big part of the Kentucky Derby that the Derby Museum has a whole exhibit for the most lavished fashions.

The Mint Julep, made with Kentucky bourbon, is the signature drink of the Derby, and Kentucky’s state song “My Old Kentucky Home” is played during the pre-race post parade. After the race, the champion horse is given the iconic garland of roses in the winner’s circle.

What else is there to do during Derby Weekend? NBC will also broadcast the Kentucky Oaks, a Grade 1 stakes race held annually the day before the Kentucky Derby. The Oaks has the same 3-year-old restriction as the Derby but is for fillies only. See the broadcast schedule here. Additionally, there is a week of events at Churchill Downs, and the month-long Kentucky Derby Festival celebrated across Louisville.

Jockey suspended for using whip on another rider in Arkansas

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — A jockey has been suspended 60 days for misusing his whip – not on a horse – but on another rider in a race at an Arkansas track.

A stewards’ ruling posted Thursday on the Association of Racing Commissioners International website alleges that David Cohen “deliberately” whipped fellow jockey Edgar Morales several times during the eighth race at Oaklawn Park on April 6.

Cohen and his horse Bolita Boyz were forced wide into the stretch by Morales and No Funny Biz. The two raced side-by-side through the stretch, with Cohen whipping his mount left-handed and apparently also striking Morales.

Neither horse won the race.

Upon returning to the jockeys’ room, the ruling said that Morales confronted Cohen, telling him, “You whipped me more than you did your horse.” Morales testified at a hearing that Cohen replied, “Be patient and don’t take me wide.”

Morales testified he had four welts on his right thigh from Cohen’s whip. Although jockeys can be accidentally struck by a whip in a race, Morales told stewards that “it was not an accident, he meant to do it.”

According to the ruling, Cohen said he wouldn’t deliberately hit another jockey with his whip and that if it happened it was accidental.

The ruling said other riders and valets testified they overheard a discussion in the jockeys’ room and that they considered Cohen’s admission as indicative of a deliberate action rather than being accidental.

The stewards agreed with Morales after finding that Cohen’s action was deliberate and violated multiple rules. The stewards said Cohen’s actions jeopardized the safety of other jockeys and horses in the race.

Cohen’s suspension runs from April 27 to June 25.

He was earlier suspended for April 25 and 26 by the stewards as the result of careless riding in the eighth race at Oaklawn on April 7.

His agent, Bill Castle, is appealing both suspensions.

Cohen is second in the Oaklawn jockeys’ standings, with 59 wins from 258 mounts.