It’s easy to forget that horse racing has big egos and big personalities just like any other professional sport. That appears to be what is going on right now as trainer Bob Baffert is apparently in something of a argument with jockey Martin Garcia. Garcia was scheduled to be part of Baffert’s team at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby week but didn’t make the trip to Louisville. This was after the two men had some sort of falling out over the weekend.
Garcia has been the regular workout rider for Baffert’s Kentucky Derby contender Mor Spirit and has filled a very important role for the Hall of Fame trainer for a number of years. He’s usually entrusted with the top horses in Baffert’s barn and was the regular workout rider for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah last year. It’s not really clear what happened but after failing to show in Louisville, Garcia indicated through his agent that he was taking some time off. The agent has a more logical explanation: “He went to visit his family in Mexico. He texted me and he’s eager to get back.”
Baffert doesn’t sound like he’s holding a grudge: “I think he needs a break for awhile. Sometimes I’m hard on him. I’m his biggest critic. I’m not mad at him. I just wish he’d have told me what was going on. He works hard. Sometimes you need to get away, reboot the system. I know he told his agent he was going to take time off and be back for when Santa Anita starts up next week.”
For now, jockey David Lopez will take Garcia’s place on the Baffert team during Kentucky Derby week. Lopez is already named as the jockey on another Baffert horse, Toews on Ice, racing on the opening night card at Churchill Downs this Saturday. He’ll stay in Louisville and assist with pre-Derby workouts following the race. According to Baffert, he expects to see him back when Santa Anita starts and he has no ill will: “He played a very important role with American Pharoah. It’ll play out. Things just came to a head.”