Smith reached the milestone in the Grade II, $150,000 Potrero Grande Stakes aboard Amazombie – whom he had ridden to a 7-1 upset victory in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 5, the day he tied retired Jerry Bailey for the most riding wins in Breeders’ Cup history at 15.
In patented Smith style, the 46-year-old native of New Mexico patiently tracked pacesetter Roman Threat, ridden by Martin Garcia, before scooting past along the rail in deep stretch to win by three-quarters of a length under a powerful hand ride. The time for 6 ½ furlongs was 1:14.16.
“I was a little bit concerned at the quarter-pole today,” said Smith, “but by the time I reached the eighth-pole, I was very comfortable. This horse is a champ.”
The victory was Smith’s 10th atop the 6-year-old gelding trained and co-owned by Bill Spawr who won an Eclipse Award last year as champion sprinter. The victory also atoned for a defeat in Amazombie’s first outing of the season, a third behind The Factor in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes on Feb. 25. In the 30th running of the event, Amazombie became the Potrero Grande’s second two-time winner, joining Kona Gold, victorious in 2000 and the following year.
Roman Threat gamely held the place, one-length in front of Camp Victory and jockey Joe Talamo. As the 13-10 choice, Amazombie paid $4.60, $3 and $2.10. Roman Threat paid $4 and $3.20. Camp Victory returned $4 to show.
“He’s back,” said Spawr, whose co-owner is Tom Sanford. “He (Mike Smith) only let him run a quarter mile, that’s all he did.” Added Spawr, “Amazombie is stronger this year. He’s gained weight, but it was too much for the San Carlos going seven-eighths. I think now he’s at racing weight, what it should be.
“But he’s stronger,” Spawr continued, “he’s got more muscle, better color, and probably weighs 60, 70 pounds more, and it’s all muscle. I feel this year our goal is the Breeders’ Cup (Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 3) if we’re fortunate enough to get there, and this is our first step.”
With the winner’s purse of $90,000, Amazombie’s lifetime earnings grew to $1,639,708 from a career record of 11-4-6 in 25 lifetime starts.
Smith gained No. 4,999 one race earlier when he rallied odds-on favorite Lady of Shamrock along the rail to score a devastating 2 ¾-length victory in the 32nd running of the Grade III, $150,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Running last as the field of five turned into the stretch, Smith picked out a narrow opening closest to the fence, and the dark bay daughter of Scat Daddy virtually exploded. She inhaled her opposition to win going away in 1:46.80.
“This filly is really fun to ride because she has quite a turn of foot,” said Smith. “She’s kind of a tall, lanky filly, but she gets over the grass unbelievably.”
Byrama, ridden by Garrett Gomez, ran second, one-half length in front of third-place Killer Graces with Bejarano aboard. The winner paid $3.80, $2.40 and $2.10. Byrama returned $3 and $2.20. The show price on Killer Graces was $2.60.
Since joining trainer John Sadler’s barn just prior to the current Santa Anita meet, Lady of Shamrock has won 3 of 4 starts including the Blue Norther and China Doll Stakes at one mile on turf. The victory in the Providencia was her first in a graded stakes.
Owned by Hronis Racing, Lady of Shamrock earned $90,000 on Saturday to increase her career total to $225,400 from a 4-0-1 record in seven races.
At the end of the day, Smith briefly reflected on his milestone event. “The times that are the happiest seem to come with a big relief,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I kind of thought this would be it. I knew my last two shots were probably my best shots going in. I knew I was live on these last two. Just to get put in that group of guys that have won 5,000, I’m just beside myself. This is very humbling. I feel really good. I’ll sleep good tonight.”