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Homeracing

Baffert wins four, Smith five on Belmont Stakes day to evoke memories of Mandella & Emanski

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

June 11th, 2017

On a Belmont Stakes day some thought was lacking in equine star power, a pair of Racing Hall of Fame horsemen stepped up to the plate and hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs, as trainer Bob Baffert legged up jockey Mike Smith to four consecutive stakes wins.

And as if that weren’t good enough for Smith, the California-based rider added a fifth (and third Grade 1) stakes win aboard two-time champion Songbird in the Ogden Phipps Stakes.

Asked what he had for dinner on Belmont Stakes eve, Smith said at first he was keeping it a secret before confiding, “A lot of Italian food.”

Baffert and Smith’s streak evoked memories of the 2003 Breeders’ Cup when fellow Hall of Fame inductee Richard Mandella won four races. The party started in race 2 of the 13-race card when West Coast won the Easy Goer Stakes and continued when Abel Tasman won the Acorn, American Anthem the Woody Stephens, and Mor Spirit the Met Mile with Songbird winning the Phipps between the Acorn and Woody Stephens.

“I’m very blessed to ride for guys like Bob,” Smith said. “I’m not riding a lot right now, but we’re riding some super horses, and with these kind of horses, you use your head a little bit, and you point them in the right direction, and they get it done.”

Despite racking up the wins, both Smith and Baffert have had bigger days at the races. Smith won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Zenyatta and was the regular rider aboard the recently deceased Holy Bull. Baffert won the Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah.

“I’ll never top that day,” Baffert said of the 2015 Belmont. “But this day is pretty huge; it’s pretty big for us. This is a day people are thinking about championships, and you want your horses to run well. Mike Smith was huge for us; I just have a great team.”

Baffert and Smith are also the team behind Arrogate, whose last three races were wins in the Classic, Pegasus and Dubai World Cups.

“Mike is in such a groove right now,” said Songbird’s trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (also a Hall of Famer). His rides on Abel Tasman to come up the rail and on West Coast to go to the outside were brilliant.”

(Mor Spirit photo: Melanie Martines)

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