Mike Smith at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California on Oct 26, 2019. Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders' Cup

Del Mar Diaries: Hall of Famer Smith Feeling Fit as Ever

Each week, a series of jockeys at Del Mar will share their thoughts in interviews with members of the TVG team on the weekend’s card and reflect on some of their favorite racing memories.

By Mike Smith (as told to Caleb Keller)

Heading into this year’s Del Mar meet, I feel great. I actually feel really, really good. I’ve been training a lot and I’ve had a lot of time to stay fit and workout. So we’re coming into the meet ready to go man, I’m excited. 

I’ve got an exciting horse in the Oceanside Stakes with Petruchio. He’s a horse should run a whole lot better today and as matter of fact he really seems to take to this Del Mar turf course. He broke his maiden impressively over it it’s been training very forwardly. We still haven’t seen the race that we’ve always thought that he’s had in him, we haven’t quite gotten that out of him yet, but I know it’s in there. He trains too good and he’s shown in the AM anyway that he’s certainly more talented than he’s been running. So if I can get that out of him, he’s not without a big chance.

In the San Diego Handicap (G2), I’ll be aboard Royal Ship (BRZ) and the big difference for him of late is he was actually gelded. That’s made a big difference. He was a bit aggressive and on the antsy side when he when he came here. We couldn’t get him to stand still in the gate the first few times that he ran here, he literally just probably left most of his race in the starting gate just not getting away well. He would get in there and start moving around and was very aggressive. Since being gelded, man it’s been a complete turnaround. He’s really, really acted well, he’s training extremely well. His last work was brilliant, I was actually on him at Santa Anita. I look for him to run big. This is a horse that that’s even though he’s a bit on the older side he’s starting to improve.

This time last year, I won the TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1) aboard Authentic and you know, I think the margin of victory (nose) is what made everybody get it wrong. If you really actually go back and look at the race again, when I called on him, he opened up two or three like, now.  So that showed me that he wasn’t getting tired, he just got to loafing. As we all know, early on in his career he had a lot of play in him and he still didn’t like that to be out there in front by himself. He’d get to looking around and that’s kind of what he did that day with the Haskell. If I had to do things over again, I probably would have waited a little longer and let that horse get up head and head with me before we headed for home and then called on him. I’m sure he would have open up and probably won by two or three drawing away. I’m a firm believer anytime you can get a 3-year-old to get 1 1/8-miles before the Kentucky Derby (G1), they’ll get the extra eighth.

Being at Del Mar always makes me remember all those great races I had aboard (Hall of Famer) Zenyatta. There were several times you know when she only won by a nose and I swear I get more nervous now going back and just replaying it. Talking about it or watching the replay, I’m always wondering if she could get up, if she’s going to get there. But for some odd reason, when you were on her, in seemed to never be in doubt even when it goes very close You knew she was going to get up. It was as if she was just waiting for that last little moment just to stick her head in front and she did that quite a bit, probably a little more often than I would like to. But you know I miss her and love talking about her. There isn’t a day go goes by that someone doesn’t mention her.