Trainer Bob Baffert Wednesday said published reports saying he would replace jockey Victor Espinoza on Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contender Kafwain are incorrect.
The 50-year-old conditioner said that there is no plan to change riders and such a move is doubtful. Kafwain is expected to run in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on Apr. 5.
Kafwain, owned by The Thoroughbred Corp., finished second to Edmund Gann's Peace Rules in Sunday's $750,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II). Baffert was quoted after the race saying that the son of Cherokee Run was too far off the early pace and that the whip was brought out too early and used too many times. Baffert insisted he never said there would be a new jockey for the colt.
"There's been no rider change, "Baffert said. "I said I didn't like the ride (Espinoza) gave Kafwain in New Orleans and that I didn't like that he hit my horse so hard and so many times. But I never said I was going to take him off the horse."
Espinoza has been Kafwain's regular rider throughout his 10-race career and guided him to victories in last year's Best Pal Stakes (gr. III) and Norfolk Stakes (gr. II), as well as to a four-length win in his sophomore debut in the Feb. 1 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II).
"None of this matters anyway," Baffert said. "Basically, none of these races matter until they go a mile and an eighth. That's when it gets to be serious."
Baffert also said Hal Earnhardt's San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) winner Rojo Toro would not be considered for any of the Triple Crown races. The son of Mountain Cat will be kept sprinting, due in large part to his high-strung nature.
"Rojo Toro's going to stay racing around one turn," Baffert said. "He's too fast and too strong to do anything else with him."