The Baffert Suspension’s a Sham. How About Punishing All the Killing, Churchill?

“Reckless practices…that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated. Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby.” – statement from Churchill Downs Inc. Wednesday

By now, most of you have heard that the split-sample from Medina Spirit confirmed the presence of betamethasone on the day of the Kentucky Derby; accordingly, trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended from racing at Churchill for two years.

Look, I’m no apologist for Bob Baffert, but this is clearly just a dog-and-pony show. Horseracing has been under steady siege for a couple years now. With more bad press after its biggest race, it had to do something. And Baffert, the most successful and conspicuous trainer on the planet, makes for an easy target (see also: Jerry Hollendorfer during the Santa Anita crisis). But let’s not pretend here. This is a relatively inconsequential drug positive; Medina Spirit did not win the Derby because of betamethasone. Want to really impress me, Churchill? How about suspending the licenses of those involved in deaths at your track? Punishing the trainers and owners of horses who were actually killed on your track? Or, for that matter, how about suspending yourself, shutting Churchill down for “investigation”?

So, in that spirit, here are 27 of Churchill’s dead just from last year. (The “connections” of the horses killed training were as of most recent race. But you get the idea.)

Alittlevodka, killed racing May 31 – “comminuted fractures”
owner: Bob Lothenbach; trainer: Neil Pessin

Bold Esther, killed training Jun 13 – “sudden death”
owners: Lawrence Kahlden, Brett Wiener; trainer: Matt Shirer

Gold Credit, killed training Jul 3 – “sesamoid fractures”
owner: Michael House; trainer: Philip D’Amato

Censored, killed training Jul 22 – “humeral fracture”
(connections not listed)

Chainsthatbindyou, killed training Aug 21 – “tibial fracture”
(connections not listed)

yet-to-be-named 2-year-old, killed training Sep 8 – “MTIII fracture”
(connections not listed)

Kowalski, killed training Sep 10 – “comminuted sesamoid fractures”
owner: White Birch Farm; trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Glissando, killed training Sep 12 – “sudden death”
(connections not listed)

Urbana, killed racing Sep 17 – “[multiple] fractures, massive soft tissue damage”
owners: Lawana and Robert Low; trainer: Steve Margolis

Tour Spuzz, died in stall Sep 26 – “laminitis”
(connections not listed)

Lucky Asset, killed racing Sep 26 – “fractures, tearing of tendons, rupture of ligament”
owner: James Spry; trainer: Pavel Matejka

Tormenta, killed racing Sep 27 – “[multiple] fractures, severe soft tissue damage”
owner: Sandra Nava; trainer: J. Larry Jones

unidentified, died in stall Oct 8 – “neurological”
(connections not listed)

Pow Wow Indian, killed training Oct 18 – “[multiple] fractures”
(connections not listed)

Uncle Robbie, killed training Oct 31 – “[multiple] fractures”
(connections not listed)

Sir Winsalot, killed racing Oct 31 – “fracture, large amount of hemorrhage”
owners: Sherri McPeek, Tommie Lewis; trainer: Kenneth McPeek

Rebuff, killed racing Nov 5 – “multiple open, disarticulated fractures both front legs”
owner: Juddmonte; trainer: Brad Cox

Here Comes Josie, killed training Nov 7 – “comminuted P1 fracture”
owners: Wayne Sanders, Larry Hirsch; trainer: Brendan Walsh

Juggernaut, killed training Nov 7 – “[multiple] fractures”
owner: Big Chief Racing; trainer: J. Keith Desormeaux

Uni the Unicorn, killed training Nov 8 – “[multiple] fractures”
(connections not listed)

Winning Impression, killed racing Nov 12 – “comminuted fractures, hemorrhage”
owner: West Point Thoroughbreds; trainer: Dallas Stewart

Binge Watch, killed training Nov 14 – “open, disarticulated fracture”
owner: WinStar Stablemates; trainer: Rodolphe Brisset

Tenace, killed training Nov 24 – “P1 fracture”
(connections not listed)

Night Candy, killed racing Nov 27 – “comminuted fractures, severe soft tissue damage”
owner: Jerry Caroom; trainer: Thomas Vance

Alexander Hamilton, killed training Nov 29 – “fracture, ruptured ligaments”
owner: JSM Equine; trainer: Norm Casse

Eclipse the Moon, killed training Dec 12 – “tibial fracture”
(connections not listed)

Sharp and Strong, killed training Dec 16 – “open fracture”
(connections not listed)

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  1. All the evil men and women in this business of extreme exploitation of horses for gambling bets and purse money, stud fees and high prices for YEARLINGS and TWO-YEAR-OLDS IN TRAINING and commissions at sales auctions, and sales of horses to the killbuyers and slaughterhouses have one obvious “rule” violator with a long history of drug violations in horseracing, namely Bob Baffert, that they can throw out as a scapegoat to the public as a PRETENSE of cleaning up their act. IN REALITY, HORSERACING IS FUNDAMENTALLY INHUMANE AND THERE IS NO POSSIBLITY OF CLEANING UP ANYTHING SO VILE AS HORSERACING. That would include dog racing as well, because dog racing is FUNDAMENTALLY CRUEL & INHUMANE to dogs as horseracing is FUNDAMENTALLY CRUEL & INHUMANE to horses.
    If any living being should be locked up and confined to a small space for TWENTY-THREE HOURS A DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, IT SHOULD BE THE EVIL PEOPLE!!! Let the dogs and the horses out of confinement and cruelty.
    Horseracing ITSELF must be OUTLAWED!!!!!!

    • Supposedly, Bob Baffert is banned from New York. I have not read more about that yet.

      • No, the NYRA has ruled him off their tracks. The gaming commission hasn’t done anything, they can’t unless another state suspends him.

        • Precisely and isn’t it awfully convenient that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, whose jurisdiction over the suspension is warranted, hasn’t released a ruling yet?
          You would think that they would be chomping at the bit to enact a suspension given the fact that the split-sample came back positive.
          Now if the positive sample was declared to be the ointment for dermatitis, as Baffert claims, or whether it was given IA, IV, or IM (which is an entirely different form of Betamethasone) it doesn’t matter.
          Under the Trainer responsibility rules the KHRC should have immediately suspended him right after Churchill Downs released their statement.
          Once it’s declared than the other racing jurisdictions will be obliged to suspend him also including the CHRB.
          However, the fact that the KHRC is claiming an ongoing “investigation” before they decide is, in and of itself, very murky, suspicious and appears to be yet another defacto process to protect Teflon Bob.
          If any other Trainer on the circuit had tested positive in the Kentucky Derby they would have been immediately suspended upon the results of the split-sample.
          As it stands now, the only repercussion is the suspension at any track owned by Churchill Downs when it should really be a full out suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and subsequent jurisdictions.
          All of this won’t bring back the hundreds of racehorses, collectively over the years, that Baffert has maimed and/or killed because doping any racehorse to run, for whatever reason, puts them at a high risk or injuries.

  2. Connections not listed because who the killers are is unimportant. If Churchill were to suspend trainers who kill horses there would be none left to put a horse on the track for those ever-important $2 bets. The racing industry thinks that if they just wave Bob Baffert around in front of everyone that we’ll somehow forget about the other serial horse abusers operating with complete impunity and zero accountability. Sorry, your feeble attempts at self-governing justice are as empty as your ever present rhetoric about “loving your horses like children” and “putting the safety of your equine athletes as your top priority”.

  3. I can’t say this enough, “SHUT DOWN the unconscionably cruel, depraved and abusive HORSERACING industry — it is cruel, never-ending torment for the Horses.” — if it’s not one thing, it’s another — and the Horses always are the ones in this DEAL, who come up short — and suffer and die.

  4. With all due respect I take issue with this statement: “this is a relatively inconsequential drug positive.”
    In my view – no, it’s not.
    If you are basing your assumption on Baffert’s excuse that the Betamethasone was present directly due to a skin ointment for treatment of Medina Spirit’s dermatitis – then that’s plausible.
    However, for that amount to be present post-race it seems more likely to be from a joint injection. So based on this assumption then it’s definitely consequential.
    In Oder to determine what might have caused the positive they would have to do further testing.
    The ointment Baffert claimed caused the positive has 2 other active ingredients that they could have tested for.
    Same goes for the joint injection it has 2 distinct active ingredients entirely different than the ointment.
    We now know that the lab didn’t test for those additional ingredients that would have completely clarified exactly what was used.
    How convenient is that?
    Horse racing has one of the biggest scandals on their hands and knew that they could have put it to rest just by doing additional testing.
    Instead, Baffert’s attorney has vowed to find their own private laboratory and pay for it themselves.
    The same goes for the owner.
    I’m sure they can find a lab, pay them handsomely to come up with results they want.
    No matter the disqualification stands due to Trainer responsibility.
    History defines Bob Baffert as a lying, cheating, doping racehorse killer with lots of direct examples.
    I can say with utmost certainty that if other Trainers did what Baffert does and get away with it for years like he does then they would be winning a whole lot of stake races too.
    We know that the top 10% of Trainers all have the same doping and killing patterns just like Baffert.
    If an injection was given either intraarticular , IV, IM then it was to mask a recurring issue and/or increase Medina Spirit’s competitive edge.
    This scenario has consequences for any racehorse putting it at high risk of permanent or catastrophic injuries.
    The other racehorses in the Derby could have beaten Medina Spirit if they were all on a level playing field.
    So I think that claiming this to be inconsequential is based on speculation just as a joint injection is.
    There can be no determination as to either unless it’s confirmed if the other active ingredients were present and I won’t believe anything coming from his attorneys working with a private lab getting paid from them.
    Like I said, this could have been put to rest once and for all, but this is horse racing.
    Since they have never nor will ever hold a Trainer accountable for a racehorse dying under their custody, let alone suspend them, this solidifies my stance to just shut down this killing business.

    • In the horseracing galaxy, betamethasone is nothing. Focus instead on the big picture, the inherent cruelty and inevitable – yes, inevitable, even sans drugs – killing.

  5. I want to commend you for focusing on the trainers responsible for the fatalities of the young horses used for racing by publishing their names. In behalf of the horses i Thank you. I am a licensed trainer. All of my horses are sound when they retire from the racing industry and remain in my care until appropriate, qualified homes are found for them.

    • I have to ask, “What is your definition of sound?” There have been trainers that have been known to say some very stupid, callous and insensitive things that suggest that their “definition” of a horse being sound is very off the mark and very self-serving. Some trainers have run horses that were not sound to catastrophic breakdowns on purpose to serve their own selfish interests by saying, “maybe the horse will sound up…” which is incredibly stupid and selfish. So much for caring for the horse.

    • Yeah, yeah, Gail. We know. Problem is, every other “licensed” (ha ha) trainer in racing makes those exact same claims about their own super-responsible, horse-loving behaviors. So the question then becomes, “Where are all these dead, unwanted, injured, unsound and broken-down young racehorses coming from, exactly?” Clearly, they’re not coming from your barn. And certainly not from Bob’s either;)

    • You participate in an industry that abuses, maims, kills, and slaughters thousands of horses every year for money, even if what you say is true. No sympathy here.

    • Be hard pressed to find someone else like you in racing. With that said, even so your horse was claimed and given lasix, simply to move him up, so regardless theirs always some other guy who dont care and will claim your horse. Granted you got him back, but you dont know what they did to him while they had him. Honestly gail with all I’ve read on you, I gotta ask why even participate? By the way how is ahab?

    • The fact that you are an active participant in an industry responsible for the exploitation, abuse, and death of thousands of horses every year is not lessened at all by your claims of decent care and responsible rehoming, and I have my doubts as to the soundness of your horses and their aftercare. Too many trainers think a sound horse is simply one able to walk to the track under his own power, and all these fanciful new homes could be the first person you found willing to take the horse off your hands.
      If we all sound critical and cynical it’s because we’ve seen the true face of racing, and no amount of tired propaganda and repetitive rhetoric painted on it can hide it.

  6. What kind of industry allows such horse-killing activities to go on without a moment of hesitation? A trainer (Patricia Farro) can run a horse to his (RUNS FOR LUCK) or her death (actually multiple horses over time), but don’t get five drug violations in one year and multiple violations in the last decade or longer and in especially high profile horse races (Bob Baffert).
    Horseracing is rife with cruelty and corruption!!!

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