Mike Smith has won it all. He won the Preakness Stakes in 1993, the Kentucky Derby in 2005 and the Belmont Stakes in 2010, along with myriad other big-time races.
Mike Smith knows the drill. The 47-year-old won the Derby on Giacomo, a 50-1 long shot, via USA Today. He's been aboard some of the best horses of the last 20 years.
So it's not a surprise, then, that Mike Smith ran the perfect race at the 2013 Belmont Stakes. On top of Palace Malice, with 13-1 odds, via Bovada, Smith hung back just long enough before blowing by Preakness winner Oxbow for the win:
Palace Malice entered the first turn in fourth place, right on the tails of Oxbow. This is where Smith's genius shone though. An inexperienced jockey would make his move then, charging past Oxbow, taking the lead for a glorious few seconds before losing it again to either Oxbow or Orb, who was charging from behind despite starting nearly 12 lengths back.
An inexperienced jockey would put all his chips down, sensing his opportunity to take on the previous champ. Not Mike Smith. He knows better. He stayed behind.
The Belmont is as much about talent as it is about sheer endurance. It's a mile-and-a-half. It's the true test of champions. Many great horses are not up to the challenge.
That's why it was so important that Smith didn't make his move after the first turn. Had he done so, Palace Malice would've tired, using too much of his energy before it mattered. Had he done so, Palace Malice might have finished 12th, like he did in the Kentucky Derby.
In Louisville, Palace Malice got out to a blazing start, recording the second-fastest half-mile in Derby history. But it was too much. He quickly began to fall back before finishing in 12th.
The crew behind Palace Malice learned from that mistake. They learned that Palace Malice is not a front-runner. He needs to be in the middle of the pack, making his move toward the end.
That's what Mike Smith did. He waited until there was about a quarter-mile left, as he roared past a tiring Oxbow and took the lead for good. He built up quite the lead by the time it was over:
That's what a perfect race looks like. It's about knowing the horse and the competition.
Mike Smith is a great jockey, a Hall of Famer. When the chips are down, there are not many better. He's won everything there is to win. He's the consummate professional. When there's a big race, he's the jockey to call: