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Triple Crown Jockey Rides in Tandem with Horse and Savior!

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On a dirt-stretched sprint - aboard a horse named Justify – Mike Smith was forever decorated with racing grandeur!

Mike Smith: “I mean, when you’re blessed enough to just win one of the Triple Crown races is amazing – but – to pull ‘em all off it truly is life changing. It’ll forever, no matter what happens, from this moment on, it’ll go down in history.”

June 9th, 2018 from The Belmont Stakes, with over 54-hundred career wins – the accomplished competitor becomes the 13th – and oldest jockey to win The Triple Crown!

Mike Smith: “God has a way of giving you things that you’re able to handle! I’m not to sure at a young age if I’d handled it all so well. The success to really appreciate what happened and what we were blessed to accomplish. Because it was the most humble, complete feeling you ever felt in your life! I don’t know that I would have felt that in my 20’s. You know here in my 50’s now, at this stage of my career, towards the back end of it – its just incredible!”
Question: “When and where at The Belmont Stakes – that you thought, ‘this is my race to take?’”

Mike Smith: “Really the most important part was the break. I thought that if we could jump really well, get out of there really good being that he was in the one hole, pretty much would have this race won! You know, I just kept smiling! At the three-eights-pole - I kept thinking to myself, ‘let’s go do this’! Lets go have fun! And him just taking off!”  

Question: “Immediately the history sets in. Does the horse sense the moment?”

Mike Smith: “They certainly know when they’ve won and they certainly know when they lost. They’ll hang their heads and walk back when they’ve gotten beat! Justify was an extremely beautiful and proud horse! And he kind of knew it! (laughts)  I remember Bob saying he got back to the barn and he was already just full of himself. He knew he did something special!”   

Question: “Your respect for, demand of, companionship with the horse?”

Mike Smith: “It’s about getting along with them. Their mouth is very, very important! It’s a sense of everything! I treat the horse’s mouth the way I’d want someone to treat mine. Or so say my mothers’! Extremely delicate, kind! Every now and then you might have to be a little bit firm, but all in all its just finesse. I get along with a horse probably better than I do people, to be honest with you.”

Question: “How do they earn your trust?”

Mike Smith: “Some of them aren’t so trustworthy. (laughs) You’d be surprised on the whole, most of them are. You have to trust them! You really, you truly do! You’re trusting them with your life! You’re on ‘em and it’s my job to get the one that’s way back there to believe that he can actually be the one that’s in front! And I have only have five minutes before I get in the gate to figure it all out.”
Question: “Talk to me about that tandem?”

Mike Smith: “It’s a give and take. It’s a very slight touch, sometimes an extremely hard touch just depending on what the situation is. But they’re trained so well! Before they even get into a race they actually know their job pretty good. You’d be surprised with how intelligent they are. My first interaction with a horse is just being very calm, hang my feet a little bit, maybe give them a little hug with my legs. I don’t know, they take a deep breath and they kind of let it out and I know that I have them at that moment. I feel that we’ve connected! It can happen in a matter of just a few steps.”

Question: “What is it about a horse that all of us could learn something from.”

Mike Smith: “Hmm, that’s a great question! There’s so many things! You never conquer it. You just learn to get better at it. Learn to work with it! Not just about a horse, so many different things in life but to be around a horse just makes it even that much more special!”
Question: “What compels you – a Triple Crown Champ—to willingly wear a bridle of humility?”

Mike Smith: “I’m just being me! (laughs) You know, my grandparents were a big influence in my life growing up, just wonderful people! My grandmother believed in the Lord like, so strongly, it was amazing! I can remember as a young child, just always talking about it, praying about it. I think that’s where it comes from. You got me emotional!”

Question: “What do you admire most about the Savior we follow?”

Mike Smith: “Everything I do in life is about Him! There’s not a second in the day I’m not talking to Him! All the time!”

Question: “Fitting, that comes from a jockey, right, who’s in tandem with a horse!?”

Mike Smith: (laughs) Yeah, it’s pretty crazy! I’m just doing what I love! And having a wonderful time at it! It also gives me a chance to show people where it comes from – which is my Lord and Savior -- you know – I’m a strong believer! I don’t try to push it on people, its just there!”

Question: “In the Bible it talks about when Jesus comes back, and of all things, riding on a white horse. As a jockey, what is it about a horse that you think He would choose to come riding on?”

Mike Smith: ”Oh wow! Just how magical they are! Just beautiful! What else would you ride in on? It has to be a horse! Just look at ‘em! I mean they’re the most beautiful creature you ever seen! I mean the muscle tone and their power, their beauty, their strength! How fast they are! It’s incredible!”

Question: “I’ve heard owners comment Mike was justified after all these years to win.”

Mike Smith: “Before I even saw him, this horse’s name is Justify! Well, right away it was … that’s a powerful word! The chosen one, so to say!  To me when you say that word – it reminds me of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! That’s just what it is! And I felt that way when I rode him, when I was on him. You just knew you were on something special!”

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About The Author

Tom Buehring

Tom currently travels as a National Sports Correspondent for The 700 Club and CBN News. He engages household sports names to consider the faith they’ve discovered within their own unique journey. He has over 30 years of experience as a TV sports anchor, show host, reporter and producer, working commercially at stations in Seattle, Tampa, Nashville and Fayetteville where he developed, launched and hosted numerous nightly and weekly shows and prime-time specials. Prior to his TV market hopping, Tom proposed and built an academic/intern television broadcast program at the University of North