The 41-year-old jockey had been riding on the East Coast for nearly a year after spending the previous five seasons riding in California.
“He just likes California,” Pegram said of Smith’s decision to return to the Golden State. “He’ll be here, probably, the last week of Santa Anita. We haven’t finalized the dates yet, but he’ll be here full time by the first week of Hollywood Park.”
The Hollywood Park spring/summer meet gets underway April 25.
Smith, who was inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2003 and earned the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top jockey in 1993 and 1994, piloted Giacomo to victory in the 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and was also the regular pilot aboard 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull and 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, as well as classic winner Prairie Bayou. Other leading mounts he had include Vindication, Skip Away, Unbridled’s Song, Inside Information, Paradise Creek, and Devil His Due.
In 1993 Smith set an all-time record for stakes victories with 62 and was the nation’s leading money-winner with earnings over $14 million. The following year he broke his own stakes record mark, reaching the winner’s circle on 68 added-money winners. His 10 career wins in the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships makes him the third leading jockey in the 23-year history of the event.
According to Pegram, Smith’s return is good timing, considering the recent defections of top jockeys Garrett Gomez and Corey Nakatani, who will be riding regularly in Kentucky over the next few weeks.
“Obviously, it leaves a lot of open horses and we’re getting a lot of support from (trainers), especially John Shirreffs and Jim Cassidy.”
Pegram also handles the book for David Flores.