Jockey Mike Smith has been suspended four days by the California Horse Racing Board stewards at Santa Anita Park for “for failure to maintain a straight course and causing interference in the stretch” during a race May 6 at the Southern California racetrack.
Although the suspension dates run May 17-20, Smith’s expected mount on Justify in the May 19 Preakness Stakes (G1) will not be in jeopardy, as the Santa Anita stewards said May 10 that all stakes races on Black-Eyed Susan (G2) day (May 18) and Preakness day are “designated.” Smith is allowed to ride in “designated” races under the suspension, and if he chooses to ride Preakness Saturday, would have to serve that suspension day at a later date, likely the next Saturday, May 26.
The suspension stems from the Hall of Famer’s ride on Achira at Santa Anita May 6, when the English Channel filly crossed the wire first, but drifted out on second-place finisher Helen Hillary in the stretch despite right handed urging from Smith. An inquiry followed to examine the stretch run, but the Santa Anita stewards—in a majority decision—decided not to disqualify Achira. Steward Scott Chaney said after the race that the decision was based on the opinion that Achira’s infraction did not cost Helen Hillary a better placing.
The stewards’ decision drew criticism from handicappers and fans on social media. Jockey Kent Desormeaux also took to social media to voice his disagreement with the call.
“The winner … was left up and I can assure you that the stewards hold us to a particular standard,” Desormeaux said on Twitter. “They dropped the ball!”
Smith’s agent, Brad Pegram, said Thursday he’s not sure whether they will appeal the suspension.
“I’m still sorting it all out,” Pegram said.