Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith sent his 3-5 favored mount Joker Face to the front shortly after the break and cruised to an easy, 2 1/4-length triumph over former fiancée Chantal Sutherland and Parable in the “Battle of the Exes” at Del Mar Aug. 7.
Smith and Joker Face, a 3-year-old son of It's No Joke, enjoyed a clear lead over Sutherland and Parable throughout the one-mile duel over Del Mar’s Polytrack. In the stretch, Smith went to the whip three times to ensure victory in the fifth match race in Del Mar history. It was the first match race since Patrick Valenzuela defeated Julie Krone narrowly in the 2003 “Battle of the Sexes.”
Joker Face, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Marc C. Ferrell and trained by Peter Eurton, paid $3.20 after racing the one-mile distance 1:36.55. Parable went postward at even-money in the claiming race for maiden 3-year-olds.
The win-only wagering pool for the match race totaled $186,318.
“The key for me today was that my horse was right on his toes. (Trainer) Peter (Eurton) had him ready,” said Smith. “He put blinkers on for this and he was ready. I think I won it going away from there fast. I tried to take it wide and get her to drop inside, but (Sutherland) rode it smart. She didn’t fall for my trap.
“At the half mile (pole), I took a peek back and saw she was coming on, so I let my horse go. And that was it. He just drew away from there. Someone asked if I thought about the possibility of letting the woman win and the answer to that was ‘no.’ There was pressure here; pressure to win. But there was fun, too.”
A good sport in spite of the loss, Sutherland said the experience of the race was fun.
“It was exciting,” she said. “When we went onto the backside and there was just the two of us, that was really neat; never had that one before. I felt fairly confident early; thought I was in a good position.
“But then when we got to the half-mile pole and Mike started pulling away, I said ‘Oh, God, I’m in trouble.’ Mike rode a really good race. All credit to him. To be honest, I’m glad it is over.
“There was a lot of pressure around this; a ton of media work leading up to it. But it was fun, too. All in all, I enjoyed it. And the cheers from the fans here today were special. The fans were awesome. That made it all worthwhile.”
Bred in Kentucky by Al Adams, Joker Face is out of the Deputy Minister mare Zonda. The dark bay or brown gelding, who broke his maiden in the Battle of the Exes, now has a record of 1-2-0 from five starts, for earnings of $35,260.