Clearly, I’m no Bob Baffert apologist. That said, he is, in my humble opinion, being scapegoated by the powers that be. In economic and popular decline, under unrelenting pressure from us activists, and receiving unprecedented scrutiny from the media, the U.S. racing industry is desperately looking for something to reverse its current trajectory. And going after the controversial Baffert is an easy play. Currently, the New York Racing Association, one of those powers that be, is attempting to have Baffert banned from its three tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga); a hearing is taking place in Manhattan as I write. Here is the general theme of the “prosecution”:
NYRA attorney Henry Greenberg: “[Baffert] took a wrecking ball…to the integrity of the sport that was so good to him. … The damage that was done to Thoroughbred racing on these two days [after Medina’s Derby positive] was incalculable. … What happens if those institutions do not give their best effort to do everything in their power to protect the safety of the animals, in this case horses?” NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna: “As we have said throughout this process, NYRA’s focus in this matter is protecting the integrity of the sport of Thoroughbred racing in New York.”
And now for some (inconvenient) facts. Since 2009, when the state began making these things public, almost 1,000 (997 to be precise) horses have been killed at the three NYRA tracks – an average of over 75 per year. In the past two years alone, 159, with 5 more already this year. And how many of those do you suppose were trained by Bob Baffert? Not a one. Yes, that’s right, according to the Gaming Commission, there has not been a single Baffert-trained casualty at any NYS track over the past 13 years. But it’s Baffert who “took a wrecking ball…to the integrity of the sport.” Their brazenness – their hypocrisy – is enough to leave one speechless.