After his history-making run in 2018, no one would have blamed Mike E. Smith, 53, of hanging up his uniform. While atop of Justify, the man from Deter, New Mexico guided the horse to the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes, wiling the Triple Crown in the United States’ thoroughbred horse racing. He might do it again. On May 4, Mike will ride Omaha Beach, the horse with the best odds going into the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Before it all goes down, here’s what you need to know about Mike.
1. Mike is a veteran in his field. This guy has been riding champion horses for decades. Over that time, he’s proven himself to be a heavy hitter in his field. That includes winning 26 breeders’ cups. That’s more than any other jockey!
2. He has overcome major injuries in his career. In 1998, Mike suffered 2 separate falls which threatened to end his time as a jockey. First, he broke a shoulder, putting him out of commission for 2 months. Then, 5 months later, he fell again. This time he broke his back. Needless to say, it took a solid 6 months before he was able to do his job again.
3. Mike was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2003. As the son of a jockey, he had horse-racing in his blood. By 11 he was riding and by 16 he began his career as a jockey. And the rest, as they say, is history.
4. This jockey is the second-highest earner in his profession. It pays pretty well to be a world-class jockey. How much? He’s worth $306 million — and that’s before his win at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The only jockey who has him beat is John Velazquez, who has taken home $383 million, according to Heavy.
5. He clearly loves what he does. “I’m having more fun riding right now than I’ve probably ever had,” he told Blood Horse in 2014. “I’m just so blessed to be riding some great horses for some great people, and I’m really enjoying it.”