Report: Smith Hit With Severe Penalties for Saudi Cup Whip Overuse

Mike Smith aboard Midnight Bisou (inside) | The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia


According to a report in the Racing Post, jockey Mike Smith has been given a nine-day suspension and fined more than $200,000 for excessive use of the whip aboard Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute), the runner-up in Saturday's Saudi Cup. The fine is the largest ever handed down to a jockey for a riding infraction.

Under Saudi racing rules covering the Feb. 28 and Feb. 29 cards, a jockey is permitted to strike a horse no more than 10 times. The stewards ruled that Smith struck Midnight Bisou 14 times. He was given eight days for the whip violation plus an additional day for using the whip with no regard for the horse's stride.

The fine was based on the money Smith earned for riding the second-place finisher, who earned $3.5 million. Smith's 10% cut comes out to $350,000. Under a sliding scale that includes fines of up to 100%, Smith has to forego 60% of his personal earnings or $210,000.

When reached via text Sunday, Smith said he had no comment on the matter.

It was not immediately clear how the Saudi Arabian suspension would be dealt with by California stewards.

Santa Anita steward Kim Sawyer said they are awaiting more information from Saudi racing officials. She said the Saudi suspension is set to begin Mar. 6, the next time there is racing in that country. Smith will no doubt try to find a way to ride on Mar. 7, a day at Santa Anita that includes several stakes races.

“As we understand it, we have the wiggle room to have the suspension start some time after the seventh,” Sawyer said.

Prior to the races, a notice was given to all jockeys participating in the two-day event that read: “You all have a responsibility to ride in a professional manner in order to promote in the best way The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world who will be watching very closely.”

“All riders, including Mike, were spoken to at a briefing on Friday and Saturday, and reminded of the relevant rules and penalties,” Phil Tuck, stipendiary steward for the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, told the Racing Post. “A guide to all relevant rules was emailed to visiting riders before their arrival and copies were pinned up in the changing rooms. We are protecting the welfare of the horse and all riders were informed of this.”

Midnight Bisou was last early before making her run in the stretch. Inside the final furlong, Smith struck her several time with the right-handed whip.

In addition, Smith was given an additional suspension of two days for failing to weigh in after the fifth race.

He fared far better Friday when he won an international jockeys' challenge, which netted him a $30,000 bonus.

According to the Racing Post report, Irad Ortiz, Jr. was also suspended for over use of the whip. He was given eight days for his usage of the whip during a race Friday and another two days for excessive whipping aboard Mucho Gusto (Mucho Macho Man) in the Saudi Cup. Ortiz was fined 10% of his earnings. The stewards also penalized European-based rider Oisin Murphy for excessive use of the whip during Saturday's card.

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