Mike Smith, the Hall of Fame rider who has handled scores of top horses and won hundreds of major races over a 36-year career that has gone from highlight to highlight, has had another prestigious award added to his resume by being named the 2017 recipient of the Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award.
Smith, who will turn 52 next Thursday but shows no signs of slowing down in his remarkable run, becomes the 14th winner of the Pincay Award, given by the Hall of Fame jockey it is named for to those who have served the sport of horse racing “with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and distinction.”
The honor and its handsome trophy will be presented to Smith by Pincay on Sunday, August 20 between races at Del Mar racetrack following a salute to the rider the night before in downtown Del Mar at Del Mar Plaza that will serve as a fundraiser for the Winners Foundation, which for more than 30 years has aided those in racing adversely affected by substance abuse and/or mental health issues.
“When we started this award back in 2004, Mike Smith was absolutely the sort of person we had in mind as one of our winners,” said Pincay in making the announcement. “I only got to ride against him briefly out here, but I’ve followed his career over the years and he’s been a model of consistency, class and pure athletic ability. He’s a star in all senses of the word and it is an honor to honor him.”
Pincay retired in 2003 after riding 9,530 winners, most of them accomplished in California. Smith, who made his mark primarily in the east early on, first rode regularly locally starting in 2001.
“It is a privilege and a delight for someone like me to be given an award like this from a man like Laffit,” Smith said. “And for it to be tied into a fundraising event for a wonderful organization like Winners Foundation that does so much good for the people in our game – that just makes it all the more special.”
The fundraiser at Del Mar Plaza will run from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. where Smith will mix and mingle with fellow horsemen and racing fans. Tickets for the evening – which will follow on the heels of Del Mar’s most prestigious race that afternoon, the $1-million TVG Pacific Classic in which Smith is expected to ride race favorite Arrogate – are available at $100 each and can be obtained at the Winners Foundation website (winnersfoundation.org), or by calling them at (626) 574-6498.
Smith, a two-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s leading jockey, is currently the second-leading jockey all time for purses won with more than $300-million on his ledger to go along with more than 5,400 winners. He has won more than 500 graded stakes, has a record 25 Breeders’ Cup conquests and captured a quartet of Triple Crown races. He has ridden many of America’s greatest racehorses over the decades, including heroes and heroines such as Holy Bull, Lure, Skip Away, Azeri and Zenyatta.
Smith is a workout warrior who maintains a fitness edge that allows him to compete with riders less than half his age and keep drawing riding assignments on the best of the best for pressure-packed contests all around the country. His current call on superstar Arrogate, as well as the champion filly Songbird, underlines his exceptional “in demand” status despite the age number next to his name.
Pincay, who at one point was the world’s winningest jockey, rode for 39 seasons with 27 of them at Del Mar, where he is still the leading rider with 1,011 triumphs. The Panamanian native was voted five Eclipse Awards as the nation’s foremost rider and led the country in earnings seven times. Now 70 years old, he lives in Arcadia near Santa Anita and maintains his fitness and awareness of the game.
The list of previous Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award winners follows:
2016 – Chris McCarron 2015 – Victor Espinoza 2014 – Art Sherman
2013 – Eddie Delahoussaye 2012 – John Harris 2011 – Jerry/Ann Moss
2010 – Oak Tree Racing Assn. 2009 – Merlin Volzke 2008 – Pete Pedersen
2007 – Elwood (Bud) Johnston 2006 – Mel/Warren Stute 2005 – Noble Threewitt
2004 – Bob Benoit