Kentucky Derby notebook: Hall of Famer Mike Smith gets mount
Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith will ride in the Kentucky Derby after all.
He picked up the mount on 30-1 shot Cutting Humor, trained by Todd Pletcher, race officials said Friday.
The 53-year-old rider had been on the early 4-1 favorite, Omaha Beach, until the colt was scratched because of a breathing problem.
The Hall of Famer originally chose to ride Omaha Beach over Roadster, one of three Derby horses trained by Bob Baffert. Once Omaha Beach was out of Saturday’s race, Baffert said he wouldn’t change any of his riders.
Smith won last year’s Derby with Justify, trained by Baffert. They went on to sweep the Preakness and Belmont to capture the Triple Crown. Smith won his first Derby with 50-1 shot Giacomo in 2005.
Cutting Humor was the last Derby horse to have a rider named Monday when Corey Lanerie got the mount. He would have been aboard the colt for the first time. But once Smith became available, owner Starlight Racing decided to go with the jockey nicknamed Big Money Mike for his ability to win some of the sport’s richest races.
Lanerie recently won his 1,000th career race at Churchill Downs. He has ridden in the Derby four times, with his best finish second aboard Lookin At Lee in 2017. His 42-year-old wife died of breast cancer last June.
Starlight Racing owner Jack Wolf said he will pay two jockey fees, typically 10%, on purse earnings for the Derby.
Haikal won’t run in the Derby because of an infection in his left front foot, reducing the field to 19 horses.
Haikal joins early favorite Omaha Beach on the sidelines.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Haikal was being treated for an abscess and didn’t train Thursday or Friday. That left McLaughlin no choice but to scratch the Gotham Stakes winner before the deadline Friday morning.
Haikal, a 30-1 shot, had his infected foot soaked in Epsom salts to reduce the accumulation of pus. The problem should clear shortly, but the colt ran out of time to prepare for the 1¼-mile Derby.
As a result, the rail will remain empty and Derby horses will break from Posts 2 through 20.
Serengeti Empress wires Oaks field
Serengeti Empress went wire-to-wire to win the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks by 1 3/4 lengths over Liora at Churchill Downs.
The start featured a scary moment when Positive Spirit fell down and threw jockey Manny Franco after clipping another horse as the 14-horse field closed together from the gate. Both were able to get up and walk off the track. Serengeti Empress started from the No. 13 post to lead by the first turn and kept it up despite Liora’s late attempt to close the gap.
The dark brown filly rebounded from a seventh-place run in the Fair Grounds Oaks to win the premier race for 3-year-old fillies and earn her second win in three starts this year. Serengeti Empress also gave trainer Tom Amoss his first Kentucky Oaks victory.
Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Serengeti Empress covered 1 1/8 miles 1:50.17 and paid $28, $14.80 and $9.60.
Liora returned $32.60 and $17, and Lady Apple paid $7 to show.