Recent news about a Mike Smith suspension had the racing world cringing for a minute, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. The jockey was dinged with the penalty “for failure to maintain a straight course and causing interference in the stretch” during a race May 6 at Santa Anita. The suspension window is technically May 17-20.
As you are probably aware, the 2018 Preakness Stakes falls on Saturday, May 19th which is technically smack dab in the middle of that window. However since the Preakness is qualified as a “designated” race, Smith will be able to mount Justify on that weekend. So we can all breathe a sight of relief. The Triple Crown is still a possibility, and though the Mike Smith suspension will be carried over (likely to May 26th) it will not impeded his ability to compete in the second leg at Pimlico.
The victory in the 2018 Kentucky Derby was Mike Smith’s second since also winning with Giacomo in 2005. The pairing of Smith and Justify is world class, and they have now proven that they can win in both fast, sunny conditions and under brutal downpours over sloppy tracks. To win the Triple Crown itself, sweeping all three races, jockey and horse have to be fine tuned. It’s a delicate relationship, and one that can’t be underestimated.
The whole Mike Smith suspension drama happened during a win aboard Achira at Santa Anita, the day after the derby. Though Achira won, he was seen to have drifted and impacted Helen Hilary, who came in second. Track officials didn’t relegate Achira, but instead handed down a dubious Mike Smith suspension that may still be appealed.
Smith himself will be searching for his first Preakness win since 1993 when he rode Prairie Bayou across the wire first a quarter-century ago. It’s amazing that the 52 year old rider can still perform at the level he is. And no suspension is going to stop him from saddling Justify in the 2018 Preakness.