Hall of Famer Mike Smith is famous for appearing on the Animal Planet show Jockeys. But although the show put him in the limelight, it could not even begin to describe his contributions to the sport of horse racing.
Born August 10, 1965 in Roswell New Mexico, Mike Smith grew up on a ranch. Both his grandparents owned horses and his dad rode. His uncle was a trainer. Mike Smith has been riding since he started walking. He has ridden in several other disciplines, including rodeo and polo. Mike Smith started competing in match races at the age of eleven. He got his professional license at the age of sixteen and won his first race that year in Santa Fe with Forever Man. A year later, Mike Smith left New Mexico to pursue his career as a jockey and rode in Arkansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Kentucky, and Minnesota before ending up in New York in 1989.
Mike Smith has won many major races in the world, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Distaff, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Travers Stakes and has ridden such horses as Lure, Holy Bull, Skip Away, Zenyatta, Sky Beauty, Azeri, and Cherokee Run. In 1991, Mike Smith became the first U.S.-based jockey to win a European classic, taking the Irish Two Thousand Guineas aboard Fourstars Allstar.
Mike Smith has earned many leading riding titles, including seven at Belmont, five at Aqueduct, and three at Saratoga. He was the leading jockey in New York in 1991, 1992, and 1993. He also won leading rider awards in Minnesota, Florida, and Kentucky. Mike Smith won the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey in 1993 and 1994 and the George Woolf Memorial Award in 2000. He also won the ESPY Award in 1994 for best jockey. Mike Smith received the Mike Venezia Award in 1994. In 1993, Mike Smith broke the record for the number of stakes won in a year with sixty-two, and then broke his own record the next year with sixty-eight.
After two serious injuries in 1998, Mike Smith rebounded and moved to southern California in 2000 where he currently resides. He quickly found success when he was given the mount on Horse of the Year Azeri.
Besides being a jockey, Mike Smith owns a vineyard in partnership with jockey Alex Solis and owner Tom Leonard. Located in California, the partnership sells their wine under the label Jinetes, which translates to “riders” from Spanish.