One day after riding Giacomo to an upset victory in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) at 50-1 odds, jockey Mike Smith was in the limelight Sunday morning in the Churchill Downs barn area.
With trainer John Shirreffs and owners Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss having returned to California Saturday night, it was up to Smith to represent the interests of the winners in speaking to reporters.
After being interviewed live on NBC's "Weekend Today" program, Smith reflected on the significance of finally winning the classic in which he had previously had three runner-up efforts and one third from 11 mounts.
Smith said the reality that he finally won the Derby had begun to soak in Sunday morning. "When I woke up this morning I wasn't sure I had really won it," Smith said. "When I got up to say my prayers I said, 'Is this really true?' You really don't know how to feel. It is kind of a weird feeling. I am just in awe. It is unbelievable."
The rider said Shirreffs is a horseman who is cautious about making future plans for his horses and has not made a definite commitment to run in the May 21 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) until he sees how the winning son of Holy Bull
emerges from the race. If the Preakness is in order, Giacomo would likely remain at Churchill Downs, where Smith is riding the spring meet, rather than return to Shirreffs' California base.
Asked about the possibility that Giacomo would be a longshot in the Preakness, Smith said, "That's fine. We're just having fun. I am going to ride in the Preakness the same way I rode in the Derby and that is to win."
Smith, who rode Holy Bull to a 12th-place finish in the 1994 Derby, said Giacomo reminds him a lot of his sire.
Meanwhile, at other barns on the Churchill backstretch, trainers of horses that finished behind Giacomo reflected on the race and their plans.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, a Lexington, Ky., native who saddled his first Derby starter in runner-up longshot Closing Argument, said he would send the son of Successful Appeal
on to the second leg of the Triple Crown.
"Normally, we don't run back in two weeks, but this is not a normal situation," McLaughlin said.
Noting the emotions involved with running in his first Derby, McLaughlin said, "The feeling of the field turning for home and you have a chance to win the Kentucky Derby is unbelievable."
Although he does not know for sure, McLaughlin said there is still a possibility that owners Philip and Marcia Cohen would be willing to sell the Derby runner-up. A deal to sell the colt following a victory in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) earlier this year fell through, McLaughlin said.
"He passed the vet but they said he was a little tight in his shoulder. He may still be for sale. The owners have always bought horses for resale. Now he should get the respect he deserves."
Tim Ritchey, trainer of third-place finisher Afleet Alex, said the Northern Afleet
colt will ship to Pimlico to train up to the Preakness. "I believe in training over the track where they will run," Ritchey said. "He's fine. He galloped and walked this morning."
Trainer Nick Zito said his five Derby runners – 5-2 favorite Bellamy Road, 7th; Andromeda's Hero, 8th; High Fly, 10th; Noble Causeway, 14th, and Sun King, 15th – all were fine Sunday morning. He said at least one or two would go on to the Preakness but he was going to discuss plans with his owners before committing.
Another trainer on the backside Sunday morning, 83-year-old Warren Stute, said Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Greeley's Galaxy, who ran 11th, would return to California. "He's fine. He never got into the running. A good trainer won the race. He deserves it."
Also non-committal about future plans for his Derby runner was D. Wayne Lukas, who has saddled four Kentucky Derby winners. Lukas, who described Saturday's outcome as the "most bizarre" of all the Derbys he has witnessed in the last 25 years, said 18th-place finisher Going Wild was fine Sunday morning.To purchase Giacomo photographs from this year's Kentucky Derby, click here