Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Benoit Photo

Smith to Ride Hansen in West Virginia Derby

Hall of Fame jockey will replace Ramon Dominguez, who has other commitments Aug. 4.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be aboard 2011 2-year-old champion Hansen when the colt makes a start in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II) Aug. 4 at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort, owner Dr. Kendall Hansen confirmed July 25.

Smith replaces regular rider Ramon Dominguez, who has chosen to honor previous commitments on the day.

"He's a famous rider and it'll be nice to team up with him for the race," Dr. Hansen said of Smith. "Ramon has a couple great mounts he doesn't want to pass up and I certainly understand that. How many times do you get a Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner and a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner picking up the mount on your horse?"

Smith has enjoyed a recent volley of stakes scores aboard top contenders such as Delaware Handicap (gr. II) victress Royal Delta and Suburban Handicap (gr. II) winner Mucho Macho Man . He spent the earlier part of the season piloting Bodemeister  to victory in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) and runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) before riding Paynter  to a second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

"I'm extremely excited, I really am," Smith remarked. "I feel so blessed, I feel guilty, almost, getting the opportunity to ride so many great horses right now. Between Royal Delta last weekend and Mucho Macho Man  earlier, then getting to pick up a horse like this, it's just incredible."

Trained by Mike Maker, Hansen romped wire-to-wire by 10 lengths in the Iowa Derby (gr. III) last out June 30, his first start since running ninth in the Kentucky Derby. Earlier in the year the frontrunning speedster was second in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III), won the Gotham Stakes (gr. III), and finished second by 1 1/4 lengths to Dullahan in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).

"He's extremely talented, a fast horse with a high cruising speed," said Smith. "He keeps it and keeps running with it. I've been very fortunate with horses like that and hopefully this will be the same. Even on the Triple Crown trail this year, the horses I got to ride were similar. I've always been a big fan of him and horses like him are dangerous—they run very quick, very fast fractions and continue to run."

According to Dr. Hansen, the homebred son of Tapit  is on the right track for a successful second part of the season and a start in the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.

"He's gonna' keep impressing," he said.