Only the most dedicated horse racing fanatics (and/or gambling types) remember more than the name of the horse that wins the Kentucky Derby. The jockey riding the winner of the Run for the Roses is usually remembered little, if at all.
Mike Smith, however, isn’t just any jockey.
On Saturday, the 52-year-old Smith became the second-oldest jockey to win the event, riding Justify, a 7-2 favorite. Justify was also a record-breaker; as Fox News notes, he was the first horse since the 1800s to win the event for 3-year-old horses without running a race as a 2-year-old.
Smith was quite humble about his victory, although the Hall of Fame jockey did have a powerful message about Jesus after the Derby win, his second.
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) May 5, 2018
“I just want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing us on this afternoon, and blessing us with this amazing horse,” Smith said after the race.
As the Lexington Herald-Leader reported, Smith said that his primary responsibility was to get Justify clear of the 20-horse charge out of the starting gate on a waterlogged, muddy track.
“My job,” Smith said, “was just to get him out of there.”
The Curse of Apollo is over!
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) May 5, 2018
“Once [Justify] broke clean, by no means did I think I had it won,” he added. “But I was like, ‘Sigh of relief.’ [I was like] ‘You do it from here, man.'”
The praise, for Smith, went to his horse as well as his Creator.
“I just keep using this word, I don’t know why, but he’s so above-average,” Smith said of Justify, according to The Washington Post.
“It takes a lot to try and keep up with him, and then you’ve got to try to run him down after that,” he added. “You’ve got to let a fast horse be fast sometimes.”
Smith, of course, hopes that God continues to favor him and Justify as they approach the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes on May 19.
Justify and Smith are currently the betting favorites to win the event. The big test, according to Bleacher Report, may come in the final leg of the Triple Crown; the Belmont Stakes, the longest of the three races, will put Justify’s endurance to the test, something that’s under question given that the horse has run only four races including the Kentucky Derby thus far in his career.
If they do manage the Triple Crown, however, you can put money on the fact that Mike Smith is going to be giving some very public credit to his Savior as well as his horse.
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