In surprising move, Baffert takes jockey Smith off McKinzie

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Trainer Bob Baffert is replacing fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard McKinzie, the probable favorite for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic next month.

Smith finished second aboard odds-on favorite McKinzie in last weekend’s Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita. That prompted Baffert to let Smith know he was off the horse.

Baffert and Smith have enjoyed a long and successful run together, most notably last year when Justify won the Triple Crown and earned Horse of the Year honors.

Smith has ridden McKinzie in all 13 of his career starts. However, they have two wins and four seconds this year.

“I respect Mike and he’s my friend, but I’m entitled to change my mind,” Baffert said Thursday. “McKinzie is not a difficult horse to ride and my whole focus right now is to get him really right.”

Baffert has yet to name a replacement.