Jockey Mike Smith, winner of the Big Sport of Turfdom Award for the second straight year, dedicated the honor to Zenyatta, the now-retired champion mare he rode in many of her races.
Smith was presented with the award Dec. 7 at a luncheon in Tucson, Ariz., as part of the University of Arizona Symposium on Gaming and Racing. The award is given each year by the Turf Publicists of America.
“I really appreciate it,” Smith said. “I’d like to thank God for blessing me.”
Smith thanked Jerry and Ann Moss, owners of Zenyatta, and John Shirreffs, her trainer, for allowing him to ride the mare in most of her 20 races. Zenyatta, who wrapped up her career with 19 wins in 20 starts, was shipped to Kentucky Dec. 6 to begin life as a broodmare.
“She’s definitely one of the greatest—if not the greatest—horses of all time,” Smith said. “Without her I wouldn’t have been up here (receiving the award) either year. I’d like to dedicate this to her. She has done so much for the game.”
Smith received a standing ovation from the several hundred people assembled for the luncheon.
Outgoing TPA president John Engelhardt took a few minutes to reflect, in a somewhat humorous fashion, on Smith’s career. He said the award is about Smith’s “entire body of work.”
Engelhardt noted there have been jockeys that won all three Triple Crown races in one year—a seven-week period. Smith won each of the three races in separate years that spanned two decades.
“With (other jockeys) it was wham, bam, thank you ma’am,” Engelhardt said. “Mike made love to the Triple Crown for 17 years.”
Smith won the 1993 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) with Prairie Bayou, the 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with Giacomo, and the 2010 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) with Drosselmeyer. Smith began riding competitively at age 11, has won two Eclipse Awards, and was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2003.