Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith earns second Kentucky Derby aboard Justify

Mike Smith rode Justify to a convincing Kentucky Derby win. (AFP)
Updated 06 May 2018

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith earns second Kentucky Derby aboard Justify

  • Justify wins by 2½-lengths
  • Smith wins the race at Churchill Downs for the first time since 2005

LOUISVILLE: Mike Smith showed how he got his nickname.
“Big Money Mike” came up with another impressive victory, this time aboard Justify in the Kentucky Derby. He has won in many ways, but Saturday all it took was a big move at the start that gave the horse all the room it needed on a sloppy track to remain unbeaten.
Smith guided Justify to a 2½-length victory over Good Magic in the 144th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs and earned his second Derby victory. It was his first Derby win since 2005 with longshot Giacomo. The 52-year-old Smith is the second-oldest Derby winner behind Bill Shoemaker, who rode Ferdinand to victory in 1986 at age 54.
Smith has achieved so much on the big stage, but he doesn’t take anything for granted at his age. Especially a chance to ride a top-flight horse like Justify.
“Just keeping riding horses like this and that’ll keep you around a long time,” Smith said. “You don’t have to work a whole lot; they do all the work for you.”
Smith helped Justify improve to 4-0 and become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win without racing as a 2-year-old.
And the jockey made it look almost easy racing in pelting rain and on a muddy, crowded track. Smith got Justify near the lead at the start and left the other horses to deal with the muck.
Smith who has 5,456 career wins, was none the worse for wear afterward with nearly spotless green-and-white silks. He is one of the sport’s best-conditioned riders and a keen tactician, a couple of the reasons why trainer Bob Baffert chose Smith to ride Justify after breaking his maiden beneath Drayden Van Dyke. It also is one reason Baffert appeared so calm all week.
The rain and track made Baffert nervous, albeit only briefly, as Justify and Smith ran another impressive race.
“He was just ... he’s all Hall of Fame,” Baffert said. “He came through. That’s a lot of pressure.”
Justify came into the Derby off a three-length win in the Santa Anita Derby and even had a March win in the mud at the California track. Despite concerns about the so-called Apollo Curse continuing, he went off as the favorite from the No. 7 post at Churchill Downs.
Smith made sure the horse quickly delivered on the expectations.
He found a hole right away for Justify out of the gate and kept the horse to the outside alongside Promises Fulfilled through the backstretch. He made his move in the far turn and steadily pulled away for his most significant win.
“What happened today is what I have been daydreaming about all afternoon,” Smith said. “I just knew he was capable of this. My job was just to get him out of there. I did that, and the rest is up to him.”
Thirteen years after his previous Derby win, Smith is grateful with his second.
“I have been blessed to be in this race so many times,” he added. “I’m more relieved right now than anything. I think later on I’ll start getting excited as the days go on.”


Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

Updated 20 January 2020

Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

  • The 38-year-old is the only player to have scored at least league 15 goals in each of the last 14 seasons

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form has coincided with Juventus taking a firm grip on Serie A.

Ronaldo did not score at all in November, but he scored twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 on Sunday to take his tally to 11 in his last seven league matches.

The win also put Juventus on course for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title as the Bianconeri moved four points above Inter Milan. They were two points behind the Nerazzurri a month and a half ago.

Ronaldo has struggled with injury this season and missed three Serie A matches, playing through pain in others.

The 38-year-old Portugal forward has nevertheless scored 16 goals in 17 matches, becoming the first Juventus player to have that many goals after 20 matches since Omar Sivori in 1960.

Ronaldo is also the only player to have scored at least 15 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues in each of the last 14 seasons.

“Cristiano is in another class,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Sometimes he poses you a little bit of a problem but he will solve 100 others for you.”

While Juventus managed to grind out results in November when Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Inter struggle when their top scorers are not on form.

There have been three matches since December where neither Romelu Lukaku nor Lautaro Martínez have managed to find the back of the net. All three ended in draws.

The latest was a surprise 1-1 result at relegation-threatened Lecce on Sunday.

That is also down to a general drop in pace in the team as, prior to that, Inter had managed to win the previous four matches where Lukaku and Martínez didn’t score.

“The final result stems from the fact that we’re a team that needs to go at 200 kph. We cannot afford to be off the pace,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “It’s evident that if we go at an average pace, if we go into cruise speed, we become a normal team and aren’t able to get a result.”

Substitute

Mario Balotelli’s match lasted only seven minutes on Sunday and he could now find himself with even less playing time in the coming weeks.

Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 74th minute of Brescia’s 2-2 draw against Cagliari but shortly afterward was shown a yellow card for a high tackle and then immediately shown a second after repeatedly swearing at the referee.

Depending on what referee Antonio Giua writes in his report, Balotelli could be suspended for several matches.

The forward will certainly miss Brescia’s next match, against former team AC Milan.

“I think the yellow card was too harsh. Mario didn’t feel it was right, and his protests didn’t seem excessive to me,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “It’s a pity because he came on with the desire to make us win the match.”

Balotelli was banned for the first four matches of the Serie A season following a red card in his last match with Marseille last season.

“It’s incredible how one episode can always drastically change from too negative or too positive everyone’s opinion on the character or professionalism of a person,” Balotelli wrote on his Instagram story after the match. “I will continue with my daily work this time, too. It’s not a problem. You can continue to judge me as you wish.”