By Jon Lees
Saudi Arabia: Mike Smith has lost his appeal against the lengthy ban and huge prize-money penalty he received on a costly trip to the Saudi Cup meeting.
The US Hall of Fame jockey received nine days in bans for breaching Saudi whip rules after riding Midnight Bisou into second place behind Maximum Security in the $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse race.
Smith, one of the best-known faces in the racing world, also forfeited a 60 per cent share of the jockey’s prize-money cut, an estimated $210,000, for the frequency of the strikes – a punishment he branded “the biggest penalty against a jockey in the history of horse racing”.
The jockey submitted an appeal against both the Saudi Cup suspension and a further two days he received in another race for failing to weigh in.
Irad Ortiz was also banned for eight days for excessive whip use in a race on the Friday of the two-day meeting 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.
His appeal has also been unsuccessful, though both Smith and Ortiz are able to select the days on which they will serve their suspensions, in theory allowing them to compete on major racedays.
For Ortiz, however, America’s reigning champion jockey and leading rider in wins and prize-money in 2020, this is likely to be a moot point as he has not ridden since March 19 owing to coronavirus fears.
According to Phil Tuck, the stipendiary steward of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, Smith and Ortiz were notified this week that their appeals had been dismissed.
“An email was sent two days ago to interested parties to say that the stewards’ decisions in both riders’ cases had been upheld and that their appeals had been dismissed,” said Tuck.
“Authorities have been asked to reciprocate with the flexibility for them to choose dates when they are racing.”
The appeals were considered by the Technical Committee headed by HRH Prince Abdullah bin Khalid bin Sultan.
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.
Oisin Murphy and Mickaelle Michel also received two day whip bans during the Saudi Cup meeting.
The California Horse Racing Board later confirmed it would reciprocate the Smith suspension. According to the CHRB, Smith has already served two of the 11 suspension days in California (March 6 and 13, 2020).
He will serve the other nine suspension days on April 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 but may miss very little at his home track of Santa Anita, where racing was suspended at short notice on Friday owing to the coronavirus outbreak.