Saudi Cup: Mike Smith granted stay of suspension after lodging appeal

Horse Racing Saudi Cup
Driving finish: Midnight Bisou (right) and Mike Smith cannot overcome Maximum Security in the Saudi Cup. Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood

By Jon Lees

Saudi Arabia: Mike Smith has had his Saudi Cup ban stayed after lodging an appeal in Saudi Arabia against the punishment he has labelled “the biggest penalty against a jockey in the history of horse racing”.

The US hall of famer received a total of nine days in bans for breaching Saudi whip rules after riding Midnight Bisou into second place behind Maximum Security in the $20 million contest, the world’s richest horse race, on Saturday.

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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 ban, which would be reciprocated in Smith’s home California jurisdiction, was due to begin on Friday but he is now free to ride until the appeal process has been completed.

He is booked on five mounts at Santa Anita on Saturday, including Sellwood in the G1 Frank E Kilroe Mile, Roadster in the G2 San Carlos Stakes and Honor A. P. in the G2 San Felipe Stakes.

Phil Tuck, the stipendiary steward for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, said Smith was appealing against both his Saudi Cup suspensions and the further two days he received in another race for failing to weigh in.

He added that Irad Ortiz, who 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, has also been granted a stay while suitable dates for a hearing are explored.

“Mike Smith has sent a letter of appeal,” said Tuck. “We are looking at dates for both him and Irad Ortiz and until finalised both have been given a stay of suspension.”

All visiting riders involved in the inaugural Saudi Cup meeting were briefed on the whip rules before racing on Friday and Saturday 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.

Smith has defended his use of the whip and, speaking to Thoroughbred Daily News, said of the bans: “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.”

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

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