All-Time Breeders’ Cup Leading Rider Smith ‘Sitting This One Out’

Mike Smith is the No. 1 jockey in Breeders’ Cup history for wins (26) and purse earnings ($36,634,605). His four victories in the fall championship event’s climactic race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, are only one behind Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey for No. 1 in that category.

But when the 37th running of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is staged next Friday and Saturday at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky., the Hall of Fame rider will be plying his trade 2,158 miles away from there. Smith, 55, will be at Del Mar riding the second weekend of the Bing Crosby meeting which starts today.

“I’m staying. I don’t have any mounts so I’m sitting this one (Breeders’ Cup) out,” Smith said Friday by telephone when asked to ‘Say it ain’t so’ about his pending ‘Cup absence. Breeders’ Cup records show that Smith has only missed three editions since his first assignments in 1990.

Smith has 10 more wins than runner-up John Velazquez and his Cup earnings are nearly $10 million more than No. 2 Velazquez.  His Classic victories came on Skip Away (1997), Zenyatta (2009), Drosselmeyer (2011) and Arrogate (2016).

But combine the travel restrictions, situations and circumstances of a COVID-19 2020 fraught with bad fortune for some of his outstanding mounts and, for this year, Smith’s ‘Cup has runneth dry.

Smith was the regular rider for 3-year-old Honor A.P., the Santa Anita Derby winner, 5-year-old mare Midnight Bisou, the champion older female of 2019 and 5-year-old McKinzie, runner-up in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic and winner of the 2020 Triple Bend at Santa Anita. All three were retired in the past few months.

“It’s kind of depressing,” Smith admits. “But I’m going to ride as much as I can at Del Mar and maybe pick up some business while the other guys are back there. Del Mar is such a short meeting, it’s important to get off to a good start and hopefully I’ll be able to kick it off well.”

Smith had two mounts scheduled on Saturday’s opening day program, Mister Bold in the eighth race for trainer Jeff Bonde and DuJour in the ninth for Bob Baffert. He has three for Sunday, Keystone Field (second race) and Pizzazz (sixth) for Richard Mandella and Viazar (fourth) for Patrick Gallagher.

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