The case of Cezanne belies, in a big way, this HISA-led proposition of a new more-honest, transparent racing industry. First, the facts, or as many as we’re able to glean at this point. Bred in 2017, the expectations surrounding Cezanne were stratospheric: He was sold as a 2-year-old for $3.65 million. Yes, $3,650,000. In June 2020, he “won” his debut under Bob Baffert at Santa Anita. Six more races followed, including a $120,000 Stakes win in March of this year. After another race (and another $80K) at Oaklawn in April, Cezanne simply disappeared. And now we know why.
The 5-year-old Cezanne is dead, having succumbed to infection and/or laminitis. The where and when I do not know – and nobody in racing is saying. He was, it should be noted, not under the care of Bob Baffert at the time, having been shipped to Todd Pletcher’s barn sometime after that April race. (Had that not happened, we’d probably know a bit more, as Bob Baffert is everyone’s favorite whipping boy.)
With horseracing under intense, unrelenting scrutiny (something we have much to do with), the incentive to euthanize off track property – which, as a rule, makes the death unreportable to the state racing commission – has never been greater. And if they can hide/cover-up the death of a $3.65 million horse, imagine how many dead claimers are falling through the cracks. In short, from the Santa Anita catastrophe (2019) on, take the reported kill numbers with a heavy dose of salt, most especially in the states with the most to lose – New York, Kentucky, California.