“[He is the] most deplorable person I have encountered on the backstretch of a racetrack.” – former PA racing commissioner, Thoroughbred Daily News, 8/19/22
While I’m clearly no Bob Baffert apologist, I’ve long maintained that criticism of him, by media and public alike, is mostly misdirected – a classic example of missing the forest for the trees. As the most successful/famous trainer on the planet, Baffert makes for an easy target, and let’s face it, in our 21st Century digital world – fast and shallow – both the reporting and reading are often lazy. But the truth is, most of Baffert’s “wrongs” – beyond, that is, merely participating in racing – involve overages of legal meds (i.e., he’s no doper). Meanwhile, the truly evil characters escape scrutiny.
Burton Sipp, of course, is no stranger to our site. I’ve frequently reported on his abuse and killing (most recently Little Christy), and our then-VP painstakingly documented industry apathy as Sipp dumped his trash (spent horses) into the slaughter pipeline. But there’s much more to know about this wicked, old (he’s 78) man.
Last week, Sipp was “temporarily” suspended at all Churchill tracks (one of his home tracks is Presque Isle) for, as the company put it, “concerns over the care and treatment of his horses.” Apparently, this now makes Sipp newsworthy, as the racing press, especially the Thoroughbred Daily News, decided to “expose” him. In any event, here are some highlights from TDN:
“In 1984…Sipp was indicted…in New Jersey on charges of inflating insurance claims on nine horses who died in his care over a four-year period.” According to the county prosecutor’s office, “the horses died within three days to five months of the insurance application.” But it was probably much worse. An affidavit from that case said, “The investigation had been initiated by the FBI and centered around the allegation that Mr. Sipp had killed 41 horses in an insurance fraud scheme.” (Sipp pleaded down, of course, and was merely fined and placed on probation.)
Sipp also once owned a 32-acre zoo in New Jersey called “Animal Kingdom.” In addition to an alleged staged-burglary (of exotic birds) and a couple suspicious fires – in the same year (2011), one of which killed his wife, the other, 24 animals – the USDA investigated the deaths of five emaciated giraffes in 2002. As of 2013, Animal Kingdom had racked up over 200 violations in 12 years, “many for animal neglect.”
Beyond the obvious question of what took Churchill so long, there are the just-as-obvious follow-ups: Where’s the vaunted HISA? And why hasn’t West Virginia, Sipp’s other “home,” followed suit? Well, regarding the latter, Mountaineer’s director of racing, James Colvin, told TDN: “I have no information for you to discuss on Burton Sipp. The WV Racing Commission has licensed Mr. Sipp and has also investigated him and to my knowledge have found no wrongdoing as to date.” And there it is – “no wrongdoing.” Monday at Mountaineer, Sipp ran Ajzal (last place) and had another, Pivotal Woman, scratched by the stewards; last night, he ran Mutashabeh (27+ lengths back) and Chipper Ron (last place). Pity their souls.