To Raise Money on Old Friends Day
Mike Smith, among whose accomplishments is winning the 2018 Triple Crown aboard Justify, will be at Kentucky Downs for the first time on Thursday, Sept. 6.
The 53-year-old jockey won’t be riding but he has a purpose -- raising money for Old Friends equine retirement facility, which has a satellite operation at Kentucky Downs; the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund; and The Giving Circle, a volunteer non-profit founded in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Sept. 6 is Old Friends Day at Kentucky Downs, with the featured race the $250,000 Old Friends Stakes, sponsored by Redbrand.
Smith will sign limited edition 18 X 24-inch Coady Photography prints of Justify’s Kentucky Derby victory for a suggested $10 donation from 1:00 to 3:00 central time. The proceeds will be split among the three charities. The autograph session will be near the Finish Line Pavilion.
“This is the perfect opportunity for the public to meet and interact with one of horse racing’s great talents and sportsmen while helping these three worthy organizations,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager. “And you get a terrific keepsake commemorating our sport’s ultimate accomplishment, the Triple Crown, which only 12 jockeys have attained.”
Smith, who's based in California, said that he wants to give back to a sport that has been his platform for fame and fortune.
“We should take advantage of the opportunity to raise some money for some wonderful causes,” he said. “If I have the time, I certainly want and look forward to doing them. I’ve been blessed to have done a couple already and they raised quite a bit of money for the PDJF. Why not try to raise all I can?”
Because he isn’t riding races, Smith says he’ll have more time to spend with race fans.
“I can just sit back, relax and enjoy the people, get everything signed that I can sign, take some pictures and meet some new friends and go to a great new place,” he said.
“I’m also a huge fan of racing, so I love to go to places I’ve never been and just watch. It’s fun. I’ve heard wonderful things about Kentucky Downs. Watching it on TV, it reminds me a lot of Europe, looking at it. I’ve never ridden there, but I’ve ridden in Europe quite a bit. The racetracks there are formed a little different, kind of go up and down. And it’s great racing, great horses running. This was just a great chance to go there and do some good for other people.”
Smith has won the Kentucky Derby twice (Justify and Giacomo in 2005), the Preakness twice (Justify and Prairie Bayou in 1993), and the Belmont Stakes three times (Justify, Palace Malice in 2013 and Drosselmeyer in 2010). He has a record 26 Breeders’ Cup victories, including the Classic four times. His
Smith's career purse earnings of $314,570,579 are surpassed only by John Velazquez’s $390,243,400. The two-time Eclipse Award-winning rider was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
Smith teamed with several Old Friends residents during their racing careers, including guiding Game On Dude to four Grade I victories and Amazombie to a Breeders’ Cup Sprint triumph and 2011 Eclipse Award as champion sprinter. He also has the distinction of riding Zippy Chippy, the lovable loser at Old Friends’ New York facility, in the gelding's fifth of what wound up being a record 100 defeats without victory.
“Mike Smith has been great to us,” said Michael Blowen, Old Friends’ founder and president. “He’s been to the farm. He adores Game On Dude. I have this great memory of him sitting on the fence with Game On Dude in one paddock and Amazombie next door waiting for him to come over and pet him. He also rode Zippy Chippy at Aqueduct. I’m going to bring a couple of pictures of Zippy for him to sign. How valuable will those be?”