John Paschall

AP Images

Jockey Mike Smith picks up new mount for Kentucky Derby

2 Comments

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith will ride in the Kentucky Derby after all.

Race officials said Friday that Smith has picked up the mount on 30-1 shot Cutting Humor, trained by Todd Pletcher.

The 53-year-old rider had been on the early 4-1 favorite, Omaha Beach, until that colt was scratched because of a breathing problem.

[READ MORE ON 145TH KENTUCKY DERBY]

Smith originally chose to ride Omaha Beach over Roadster, one of three Derby horses trained by Bob Baffert. Once Omaha Beach was out of Saturday’s race, Baffert said he wouldn’t change any of his riders.

Smith won last year’s Derby with Justify, trained by Baffert. They went on to sweep the Preakness and Belmont to capture the Triple Crown. Smith won his first Derby with 50-1 shot Giacomo in 2005.

Cutting Humor was the last Derby horse to have a rider named Monday when Corey Lanerie got the mount. He would have been aboard the colt for the first time. But once Smith became available, owner Starlight Racing decided to go with the jockey nicknamed Big Money Mike for his ability to win some of the sport’s richest races.

Lanerie recently won his 1,000th career race at Churchill Downs. He has ridden in the Derby four times, with his best finish being second aboard Lookin At Lee in 2017. His 42-year-old wife died of breast cancer last June.

The Derby lost another horse Friday when Haikal was scratched because of an infection in his left front foot. That leaves the field at 19.

Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Haikal was being treated for an abscess and didn’t train Thursday or Friday. That left McLaughlin no choice but to scratch the Gotham Stakes winner before the deadline Friday morning.

Haikal, a 30-1 shot, had his infected foot soaked in Epsom salts to reduce the accumulation of pus. The problem should clear shortly, but the colt ran out of time to prepare for the 1\-mile Derby.

As a result, the rail will remain empty and Derby horses will break from posts 2 through 20.

Bertens beats Vekic to win St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Kiki Bertens won her third title in six months on Sunday, beating Donna Vekic 7-6 (2), 6-4 in the final of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy.

Second-seeded Bertens came back from 5-2 down in the first set to win four straight games and force a tiebreaker. Eighth-seeded Vekic saved three match points in the second set before Bertens closed out the match for her eighth career title.

The win continued Bertens’ emergence as a more versatile player. Until she beat Simona Halep to win the Cincinnati Open in August, Bertens had never reached a WTA final on any surface other than clay, but she has now won three straight hard-court finals.

Bertens’ current ranking of eighth is the best for a Dutch woman since Betty Stove, who reached No. 5 in 1977.

Andy Murray undergoes hip operation

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Andy Murray did have a second hip operation, after all, getting a metal implant one year after his first procedure on the joint.

The three-time major champion posted a message Tuesday on Instagram saying that he had the surgery in London on Monday.

“Feeling a bit battered and bruised just now,” Murray wrote, “but hopefully that will be the end of my hip pain.”

What’s not known with any certainty yet is what this might mean for the 31-year-old Murray’s future in tennis. Before the Australian Open, where he lost in the first round on Jan. 14, Murray said that he planned to retire at some point in 2019 – and that it was possible that Grand Slam tournament might be the final event of his career.

He is most famous for ending Britain’s 77-year wait for a male champion at Wimbledon in 2013; he also won the 2016 title there, along with the 2012 U.S. Open and two Olympic singles gold medals and a Davis Cup, while reaching No. 1 in the rankings.

Tuesday’s post included two pictures – one of Murray in a hospital bed, the other of an X-ray.

“I now have a metal hip as you can see,” Murray wrote, before showing that his sense of humor is intact by adding, “and I look like I’ve got a bit of a gut.”

He has dealt with hip pain for years and already had one operation in January 2018. But that did not solve the problem.

The night he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut in Australia, Murray said he would decide quickly whether to have surgery again.

“I have an option to have another operation, which is a little bit more kind of severe than what I’ve had before – having my hip resurfaced, which will allow me to have a better quality of life and be out of pain. That’s something that I’m seriously considering right now,” he said at the time. “Some athletes have had that and have gone back to competing. But there’s obviously no guarantees with that. The reason for having an operation like that is not to return to professional sports, you know, it’s just for a better quality of life.”

Murray had been keeping in touch with American doubles player Bob Bryan, who had the same hip resurfacing with a metal implant last August.

By December, Bryan was back at practice. And he made his Grand Slam return at the Australian Open.

“He’s been watching me like a hawk, asking me how I’m feeling after matches, after practices, where I’m at. He’s just trying to gauge how long it would take him, if this procedure is an option,” Bryan said about Murray. “I’m just trying to be supportive. I never once told him, `This is the way to go,’ because I do see that singles is a different monster. Those guys are really sliding around, killing themselves for four hours. Who knows if this joint would hold up?”