Eight years after the “Battle of the Sexes” match race involving jockeys Julie Krone and Patrick Valenzuela, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has announced plans to present a “Battle of the Exes” between Hall of Famer Mike Smith and female star Chantal Sutherland on Sunday, August 7.
Krone's one, and as it turned out, only season riding at Del Mar provided the inspiration for the “Battle of the Sexes” in 2003. It was originally planned to pit Hall of Fame riders Krone and Gary Stevens, but Valenzuela was called upon as a replacement when Stevens was injured in that year's Arlington Million. Valenzuela, aboard Chester's Choice, won by a nose over Krone and Woke Up Dreamin in a thrilling finish. The two horses were selected by Del Mar racing secretary Tom Robbins for comparable ability and riding assignments were by blind draw.
A similar format will be followed for the “Battle of the Exes” with the likely distance to be either a mile or a mile and one sixteenth. It is expected to be offered as either the third or fourth race on the Sunday card that will feature the Grade II Best Pal Stakes for 2-year-olds.
Besides the one-on-one battle that match races automatically engender, the history between Smith and Sutherland adds some special spice to the event. At one time they were engaged and their romance played out publicly and to great interest by racing fans in the two-year Animal Planet television series “Jockeys.”
Yet another element in the mix is the fact that August 7 just happens to be Ladies' Day at Del Mar. Sutherland, a Canadian who has been among the leading riders in that country for the past several years but who will be riding her first full summer at Del Mar, figures to gain a bit of a rooting edge in that regard.
The match will be only the fifth in 72 summers of racing at the seaside oval. The previous ones were the heralded 1938 duel won by Seabiscuit over Ligaroti, widely considered “The Race that Put Del Mar on the Map;” the 1994 “Showdown at the Seashore” in which Soviet Problem, under Chris McCarron, bested Mamselle Bebette and Corey Nakatani; the 2002 “Mule Duel at Del Mar” in which Black Ruby, known as “the best ass in the West,” continued dominance over archrival Taz, and the “Battle of the Sexes.”
The race will be sponsored by Daily Racing Form. Pierre (PEB) Bellocq, the talented artist/cartoonist over a long career with the racing newspaper, will create a special poster for the race, just as he did for the Krone – Valenzuela match up.
A press conference and the blind draw for horses will be held on the Wednesday (August 3) before the match at 12:30 in the track's paddock and be open to the public.
Smith, 45, inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 2003 and the regular pilot for two champion females – 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri and 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta – is approaching 5,000 winners with mounts that have earned more than $217 million during his 29 years in the saddle. Sutherland, who only has been riding for 11 years, is approaching 900 winners and purses of nearly $43 million. The 35-year-old scored the biggest victory of her career when she captured the Santa Anita Handicap aboard Game On Dude earlier this year.
Smith will be riding his 11th season at the seashore oval and has 151 local victories going into this season, including a trio of tallies in the $1-million Pacific Classic. Sutherland will be seeking her first Del Mar triumph after managing one third-place finish in three mounts.
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