US jockeys Mike Smith, Irad Oritiz Jr Saudi suspension, fines appeals unsuccessful


US jockeys Mike Smith, Irad Oritiz Jr Saudi suspension, fines appeals unsuccessful

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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Jockeys Mike Smith and Irad Ortiz Jr, who left the Saudi Cup weekend cards owing fines and suspensions, will reportedly have to follow through on serving both.

According to Horse Racing Planet's Jon Lees, the top American riders were notified this week of unsuccessful appeals by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia.

“Authorities have been asked to reciprocate with the flexibility for them to choose dates when they are racing,” Phil Tuck, a steward in Saudi Arabia, told Horse Racing Planet.

Smith will serve what he's referred to as the harshest penalty ever for a jockey. That's due to the nature of the US$20-million Saudi Cup's purse structure, where for going to the whip too often aboard Midnight Bisou he has to forfeit 60 per cent of his winnings or US$210,000, along with a nine-day riding ban.

Smith received another two days for failing to weigh in after a race on the Friday of Saudi Cup week, when he won an international jockeys' challenge — but, again, the performance came at a price.

The 54-year-old Hall of Famer bases at Santa Anita Park, where racing is being conducted on a Friday-Sunday basis. Because he can select which days to sit out, Smith, who rides sparingly with a focus on big-stakes mounts, can be choosy in serving his time.

Normally, the 10 days levied against Ortiz Jr would have been a harsh blow to the 2018 and 2019 Eclipse Award winner for outstanding jockey, who will take a mount at any level this time of year at Gulfstream Park. But Ortiz Jr announced last week that due to the coronavirus pandemic, he's putting his career on hiatus, calling it “the safest decision for my family and myself”.

Most of Ortiz Jr's term originated from a ride on the Friday of the Saudi Cup. He received two days for whip use aboard Mucho Gusto, who set the pace before fading to fourth in the Saudi Cup won by Maximum Security.

In assigning the penalties, Tuck said earlier this month that visiting riders were briefed on the rules, e-mailed ahead of time, and signage was posted in the jockeys' room at King Abdulaziz Racecourse. Jockeys were not permitted to go to the whip more than 10 times in a race, and in using the crop in succession, had to do so in regard to a horse's stride.

Jeff Bloom, co-owner of Midnight Bisou and a former jockey himself, said Smith's penalties for excessive use of the whip may have been a source of confusion as he merely “flagged,” or waved the crop in the horse's field of view rather than making contact.

“You can reach back and get into a horse pretty hard twice or lightly reach back and flag the horse five times — but that looks like you're using excessive use of the whip when in reality you're barely touching the horse,” Bloom said earlier this month.

“Mike's not a rider who's going to go out there and abuse a horse or take advantage. I was more than surprised that he was called in for it, but also the weight of the suspension was just so out of proportion on so many levels.”

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