Anyone who's been in racing for any length of time understands that loyalty is not always the game's highest priority.
So when Mike Smith opted to ride Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach for Richard Mandella in the 145th Kentucky Derby on May 4 rather Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster trained by Bob Baffert, for whom he captured the Triple Crown aboard Justify last year, jaws weren't exactly dropping to their chins.
Baffert recognizes it's business, not personal, and the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer (also American Pharoah in 2015) wasted little time in going to plan b and engaging Florent Geroux to ride Roadster in the Run for the Roses, joining two other Baffert contenders, champion Game Winner and Arkansas Derby runner-up Improbable.
“Every summer when I go to Kentucky, he helps me out and breezes a lot of horses for me,” Baffert said of the 32-year-old Frenchman. “We've won races together. When he comes out here, I put him on horses.
“I have a good relationship with the guy . . . He knows Churchill really well. I wanted to go with somebody who's very familiar with Churchill Downs, and after discussing it with the owners (Speedway Stable), we were all in agreement about Flo.”
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