Dubai: We all make mistakes, even the great artisans.
But unlike a painter who may have erred with his strokes that he has the chance to set right, in sport mistakes are permanent.
A wrong backhand, a leap too early or a pass that finds the wrong player, can all result in defeat, for sport is an unforgiving business.
It’s sometimes so cruel that it hurts, for days, weeks, months — perhaps longer.
Even Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, one of the most experienced and accomplished riders in the world understands how notoriously fickle horse racing can be.
As he conceivably found out on Saturday night in Saudi Arabia, a long way from his native New Mexico in the US.
At 55 Smith maybe considered an elder statesman in a sport that is now dominated by an exciting new generation of 20-something riders. But he still remains the go-to jockey for most owners and trainers looking for a safe and experienced pair of hands. After all he has ridden more American Classics than most and is the second leading jockey of all time in earnings with over $312 million.
Add to that a hunger to win that has not diminished backed by a mental strength that helps his mind and body remain sharp.
Given these attributes, you would image that he would not let his brush falter when riding the big favourite Charlatan in the $20m Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse race.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. the four-year-old Speightstown chestnut was widely acknowledged as the horse to be beat in the 1,800m dirt contest, run on a surface similar to the all-too-familiar American races tracks that Smith has plied his craft on for close to 40 years.
After enjoying a peach of a trip for most of the race alongside fellow American hope and recent Pegasus Cup scorer Kinks Go, Smith and Charlatan picked up the running at the top of the daunting home straight.
All that remained was for his horse to display the stamina that has seen him win all four of his previous starts, including the Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) and Malibu Stakes (G1) on his last two starts.
But this is when things started to wrong. Smith, a ball of compact energy in the saddle was sitting pretty, seemingly content that his horse had enough gas in the tank to get to the post first. But he was dead wrong.
There were no cursory glances to see if all was well and that there was no threat in his slipstream, instead Smith had his eye fixed on that finish line that would net him and Baffert’s stable star another great prize. The richest of them all.
However, they say when things go wrong, they go horribly wrong. And they did.
David Egan, the 21-year-old Irish jockey who is young enough to be Smith’s son, had other notions and was working his magic aboard the British bred-and-trained Mishriff, who has sneaked up behind Charlatan, virtually unnoticed by the American Hall of Fame rider.
And more importantly, Mishriff appeared to have the greater stamina, fuel and will to win than Charlatan, and with Egan determined to spoil Smith’s party, it was just a matter of strides in the final thrust before the American’s world would be turned inside-out.
He fell a length short at the line and Charlatan, the dirt specialist. would have to settle for the runner-up prize as a horse who was only having the second start of his career on the surface stole the thunder.
Well done Egan, well done Mishriff, well done John Gosden, who proved once again that he is the master of all he surveys.
For Smith, he will surely be thinking of what might have been.