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Jockey Mike Smith thanks Jesus after winning the Kentucky Derby aboard Justify

On Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, 157,000 fans gathered to watch the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. In very rainy and muddy conditions, Justify, a 7-2 favorite, won the Derby with jockey Mike Smith, who thanked Jesus for the win.

After the race, Smith was interviewed on the track and before he could talk about how the victory transpired, he made sure he gave thanks to the one he puts his faith and trust in.

“I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing us on this afternoon and blessing us with this amazing horse.”

Smith, when interviewed on ESPN, said his strategy was first things first with God and then to take care of business.

Jockey Mike Smith rode Justify to victory on a very muddy track Saturday.   Photo: Mark Zerof-USA Today

“My strategy going in is to pray to the Lord first of all and then just hope for a good break. (The horse) is just so above average. Just an unbelievable horse, he really is.”

As the Lexington Herald-Leader reported, Smith said that his primary responsibility was to get Justify clear of the 20-horse charge out of the starting gate on a waterlogged, muddy track.

“My job,” Smith said, “was just to get him out of there.”

“Once [Justify] broke clean, by no means did I think I had it won,” he said. “But I was like, ‘Sigh of relief.’ [I was like] ‘You do it from here, man.’

“It takes a lot to try and keep up with him, and then you’ve got to try to run him down after that,” he added. “You’ve got to let a fast horse be fast sometimes.”

Justify won by 2 1/2 lengths, and as Fox News notes, he was the first horse since the 1800s to win the event for 3-year-old horses without running a race as a 2-year-old.

The colt earns a sizable paycheck for his large ownership team: 62 percent of the $2 million purse, or $1.24 million.

The 52-year-old Smith also brings home a nice paycheck: The winning horse rider gets 10 percent of what the owners collect, meaning that Smith, who is the second-oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, got a check for $124,000. He will probably net about $100,000 after paying his agent and valet, the person who gets the jockey’s gear in place.

Smith earned his second Derby victory and his first since 2005. He will look to continue his good fortune as he and Justify approach the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on May 19.

Justify and Smith are currently the betting favorites to win the event. The big test, according to Bleacher Report, may come in the final leg of the Triple Crown; the Belmont Stakes, the longest of the three races, will put Justify’s endurance to the test, something that’s under question given that the horse has run only four races including the Kentucky Derby thus far in his career.


                         Source: Sports Spectrum and other wire services


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