The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has announced plans to present a “Battle of the Exes” between Hall of Famer Mike Smith and female star Chantal Sutherland Aug. 7.
According to a release, the match comes eight years after the “Battle of the Sexes” match race involving jockeys Julie Krone and Patrick Valenzuela. That match race was originally planned to pit Krone and Gary Stevens, but Valenzuela was called upon as a replacement when Stevens was injured in that year’s Arlington Million (gr. IT).
Valenzuela, aboard Chester’s Choice, won by a nose over Krone and Woke Up Dreamin in a thrilling finish. The two horses were selected by Del Mar racing secretary Tom Robbins for comparable ability, and riding assignments were by blind draw.
According to the track, a similar format will be followed for the “Battle of the Exes,” with the likely distance to be either a mile or 1 1/16 miles. It is expected to be offered as either the third or fourth race on the Sunday card that will feature the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) for 2-year-olds.
At one time, Smith and Sutherland were engaged, and their romance played out publicly and to great interest by racing fans in the two-year Animal Planet television series “Jockeys.”
The date of the match race also coincides with Ladies’ Day at Del Mar. The event will be fifth match race held at Del Mar during its 72 summers of racing.
The previous ones were the heralded 1938 duel won by Seabiscuit over Ligaroti, widely considered “The Race that Put Del Mar on the Map;” the 1994 “Showdown at the Seashore” in which Soviet Problem, under Chris McCarron, bested Mamselle Bebette and Corey Nakatani; the 2002 “Mule Duel at Del Mar” in which Black Ruby, known as “the best ass in the West,” continued dominance over archrival Taz; and the “Battle of the Sexes.”
The race will be sponsored by Daily Racing Form. Artist/cartoonist Pierre "Peb" Bellocq will create a special poster for the race, just as he did for the Krone-Valenzuela match up.
A press conference and the blind draw for horses will be held Aug. 3 at 12:30 p.m. PDT in the track’s paddock and will be open to the public.
Smith, 45, inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2003 and the regular pilot for two champion females, is approaching 5,000 winners with mounts that have earned more than $217 million during his 29 years in the saddle.
Sutherland, a Canadian who has been among the leading riders in that country for the past several years but who will be riding her first full summer at Del Mar, is approaching 900 winners and purses of nearly $43 million gleaned during her 11 years as a jockey.
Smith will be riding his 11th season at Del Mar and has 151 local victories going into this season, including a trio of tallies in the $1 million Pacific Classic. Sutherland will be seeking her first Del Mar triumph after managing one third-place finish in three mounts.