'You Will Always Be So Loved': Hall Of Famer Mike Smith Pays Tribute To Late Jockey Avery Whisman - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘You Will Always Be So Loved’: Hall Of Famer Mike Smith Pays Tribute To Late Jockey Avery Whisman

Avery Whisman

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith paid tribute to fellow rider Avery Whisman on Twitter after learning of the 22-year-old's passing, calling Whisman his “little brother.” Whisman's death was not caused by a racing accident; an official cause of death has not been released.

“R.I.P my little brother you will Always be so Loved,” Smith wrote.

Smith and Whismen met when Whisman moved to Southern California in the summer of 2018; Smith gifted the young rider with several pairs of boots and the saddle Smith used to win the 2005 Kentucky Derby (G1) aboard 50-1 long shot Giacomo. It was the same saddle presented to Smith by another Hall of Famer, Laffit Pincay Jr., upon his 2003 retirement as the sport's all-time leading rider.

The death of the 22-year-old jockey was first announced on Twitter on Jan. 11, 2023, by Morell Bloodstock, LLC.

“We are deeply saddened to hear the news about Avery Whisman,” the Maryland Jockey Club wrote on Twitter. “Our hearts are with his family and friends.”

According to a 2019 interview with the Maryland Jockey Club, Whisman grew up in Lexington, Ky., riding three-day eventing horses including an off-track Thoroughbred which he piloted in the Junior Olympics in 2017. He pivoted to racing shortly thereafter, first working as an exercise rider for Joan Scott at Keeneland before Carla Gaines hired Whisman and brought him out to the West Coast.

Whisman said of Smith: “Being around somebody like Mike, who is absolutely a complete professional and so focused and so good at what he does, gave me the inspiration to strive to be like that. He does everything right. They give great advice and things like that, but to see how they conduct themselves and go about their business is inspiring and motivating.”

It was Smith's idea for Whisman to begin his career as a jockey at Turf Paradise, where mounts would be more plentiful. Whisman made his professional debut Dec. 18, 2018 at Turf Paradise, finishing sixth with Sincere Warning. He rode twice more before the end of the year and remained in Arizona to start 2019, riding there through the end of March and picking up his first winner March 16 aboard Spring Sprung.

By the end of April, Whisman relocated to the Mid-Atlantic region and found a home in Maryland. Whisman rode his first race at Laurel Park April 26 and was winless in three mounts before the circuit moved to Pimlico Race Course for its 12-day Preakness Meet. There, at the second-oldest racetrack in the country behind Saratoga, he finished with eight wins from 31 mounts, second in wins only to multiple meet and year-end champion Trevor McCarthy.

After skipping a year of riding in 2021, Whisman returned in May of 2022 at Pennsylvania's Presque Isle Downs. He won with 16 of his 93 mounts last year, his final mount coming on Aug. 23, 2022.

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