Saudi Cup: Mike Smith slams ‘absurd’ whip penalty and considers appeal

Horse Racing Arrogate Mike Smith jockey
Mike Smith, who is considering an appeal against ‘absurd’ whip punishments.
Photo: courtesy of Saudi Cup

By Jon Lees

USA: Mike Smith says he is facing “the biggest penalty against a jockey in the history of horse racing” as he considers whether to lodge an appeal against the ban and fine he received for breaching whip rules in Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup.

After riding Midnight Bisou into second place behind Maximum Security in the world’s richest horse race, Hall of Famer Smith was suspended for eight days for using his whip 14 times, exceeding the 10-strike limit, and given a further day for hitting the horse with no regard to the horse’s stride.

He also forfeited a 60 per cent share of the jockey’s prize-money cut, an estimated $210,000, for the frequency of the strikes. The California Horseracing Board, Smith’s home jurisdiction, has said it will reciprocate the ban which will begin on Friday.

All riders involved were briefed on the whip rules before racing on Friday and Saturday of the inaugural fixture at the King Adbulaziz racecourse outside Riyadh. A guide to the rules was also emailed to participants before they arrived and copies pinned up in the changing rooms, according to Saudi Jockey Club officials.

Smith, speaking to Thoroughbred Daily News, said: “I was extremely surprised. It was so severe. I understand that if you go over that number you’re going to get some sort of suspension. By the time they were done, they wound up suspending me nine days and that’s about a month in California since we only race three days a week. 

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“Then to add in a 60% penalty as well, that’s absurd. That’s going way too far. A whole month off and then a quarter-million dollar fine, it’s too much. This will be the biggest penalty against a jockey in the history of horse racing.”

Smith said he was considering his options and may file an appeal. He claimed one of the reasons he kept using his whip on Midnight Bisou was because the mare was distracted by a camera vehicle travelling ahead of the horses on the infield.

“She’s looking at that car and trying to get out,” he said. “I’m trying to get her to focus and go forward because I have a chance to win this thing. 

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“By no means was I abusing her at all.  I wasn’t even hitting her, I was just waving my arms, showing her the stick. She had her eyes fixed on that SUV up in front of us.”

Smith’s bans totalled 11 days having collected two days for failing to weigh in after an earlier race on the card, which he claims was due to a mix-up.

“I told them I asked an official where I was to go to and they sent me to wrong place,” he said. “Their answer was that I should’ve known better.”

Irad Ortiz was banned for eight days for excessive whip use in a race on Friday and picked up another two days after the Saudi Cup, losing ten per cent of his cut of the fourth place prize-money secured on Mucho Gusto.

Oisin Murphy and Mickaelle Michel also received two-day whip bans during the Saudi Cup meeting.

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