Bob Baffert, From Sorrow to Joy in One Afternoon

In its Breeders’ Cup wrap-up (11/3/13), The New York Times used words like “awe-inspiring,” “breathtaking,” “beautiful,” and “thrilling” to describe the action. But, as indicated by the article’s title (“Moving Moments Send Shivers, Both Good and Bad”), there was a smattering of black (or red) in Santa Anita: Points Offthebench (dead), Centralinteligence (vanned off, had surgery), Secret Compass (dead).

The Times notes that Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Secret Compass’ trainer, “was visibly shaken by the death.” But I wonder, was the $200 million lifetime earner similarly affected when he lost seven horses to “Sudden Death Syndrome” – defined by the Los Angeles Times as “when a healthy horse, training or racing, returns to the barn and dies, inexplicably, within an hour” – in a recent 16-month period (Nov 2011 – Mar 2013)? Maybe, maybe not. But with 2-year-old Secret Compass having just won a $250,000 Grade 1 at Santa Anita in September and seemingly well on her way to a lucrative career, the guess here is that this one stung just a bit more.

Baffert, of course, recovered in plenty of time to enjoy two wins totaling $3.5 million later in the Breeders’ Cup day. Funny how money and adulation so quickly heal the wounds.

The trainer, following his BC Sprint victory with Secret Circle, just four hours after losing his other “Secret” to a broken leg…

photo credit: Gregory Bull, Associated Press
photo credit: Gregory Bull, Associated Press

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  1. No matter what, Baffert will protected by the California racing board, or whatever it is called, because he is “famous” and “rich” !
    Racing is an ugly corrupt operation from top to bottom. It is devoid of any semblance of a moral compass. God help the horses.

    • You’ve got that right, Rose. I’ve read quotes by trainers after they have lost a horse to a catastrophic injury in a race…”They’re (their horses) like family members.” If I lost a family member, I’ll tell you what, there is no way in hell I would be celebrating ANYTHING a mere 4 hours later. But then, for the racing community, it’s just “one of those things”…

      RIP Secret Compass…you are mourned and will be remembered.

  2. The people of horse racing have become a mutual admiration society…they represent the worst in consumerism …far too many lives being sacrificed to satisfy their greed.

  3. Racing is based on gambling and is a sinister and corrupt industry where money is king. Will that ever change? Not in my lifetime. However, I continue to encourage friends to stay away from the track. Those who bet on the horses are part of the problem. Secret Compass will never be completely forgotten because she was a big money winner. What about the horses that race at the low level tracks? They aren’t even mentioned.

    • That is right, Mary….horses at the majority of tracks run “under the radar”. No one knows them, no one knows when they suffer an injury, know one knows when they disappear…to someone’s backyard to live with racing injuries for who knows how long, or to the slaughterhouse. And that is one of the reasons I am so grateful to Patrick for this website…we can tell their stories and exclaim their names. They deserved so much more.

  4. I’m following a mare, House On Toilsome, She is a, so called, “claimer”. She is now 5yrs. old and has been claimed twice in her last few races. She is on her way in the downward spiral of the claiming game to what I call the path to a hopeless end . Of course, she is just one of many, but I know her because she was originally in the barn of someone I knew. When one knows the horse it somehow makes the plight of the horse that much more sad and “real”.

  5. Horseracing in my opinion is animal cruelty. It is no different than dogfighting. In both cases, there is no justification for the suffering and death that is inflicted on these animals.
    “Entertainment” is not a “justifiable” reason to injure and kill an animal and justification is required for injuring and killing or else it’s considered cruelty in accordance with NYS Agriculture & Markets laws – Article 26 – 350 and 353.
    Also, It is a felony to Interfere in ANY way with a racehorse in accordance with section 361. However, this goes on all the time through drugging and shocking.
    Horseracing goes on because racetracks are not monitored by police but by a bunch of crooked trainers, owners and jockeys who are all protected by NYRA.

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