by JANE ALLIN
The Triple Crown races are upon us again, albeit postponed, and Baffert is back in the news.
Two of his horses, one a top contender for the Belmont Stakes, tested positive for Lidocaine. Not one but two — Charlatan and stable mate Gamine — both of whom won on the race card at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas on May 2, 2020. See Two Bob Baffert horses test positive for banned substances at Oaklawn.
Lidocaine is a Class 2 drug, and is considered to have a high potential to affect performance in racehorses. But, and this is a big but, and has the ability to exonerate trainers guilty of using it as a PED, it is often considered by some to be an overage instead of doping.
“Lidocaine can be used legitimately for suturing wounds or as a diagnostic tool to determine whether horses are sound enough to compete. The drug may also be present in ointments or creams used on cuts or abrasions. It is regulated because of its potential to mask lameness in an unsound horse.”
How flawlessly convenient. What an easy out for Teflon Bob (if required).
And what kind of message does this send the public during this unprecedented chaotic time in racing, when your golden boy of the racing circuit continues to have horses prepping for the Derby and other prestigious races, testing positive for drugs, then attributing all of them to innocuous reasons, accidental contamination or whatever.
Or alternatively, simply having them swept them under the rug like the 7 dead horses who mysteriously died in Baffert’s stable a few years back, despite having been administered thyroxine and the presence of rat poison detected in the necropsies.
How about this? Does anyone know of a horse, or horses who have a thyroid condition? Baffert did. But they are dead now. After exonerating him, the California Horse Racing Board banned its usage. Speaks volumes, but no one was listening.
No different with Justify’s tarnished Triple Crown victory in 2018.
Trained by Baffert, Justify failed a drug test after winning the Santa Anita Derby. Rather than clear this up immediately given the upcoming Kentucky Derby and other Triple Crown races, California racing officials investigated the failed test for 4 months, allowing Justify to go on to win both the Preakness and the Belmont and “stealing” (emphasis required) the much-sought after Triple Crown.
Then, in August after the dust had settled, and after Justify’s breeding rights had been sold for $60 million, the California Horse Racing Board — whose chairman at the time, Chuck Winner, had employed Baffert to train his horses — disposed of the inquiry altogether during an unusual closed-door session.
The verdict? The banned drug scopolamine was the result of “environmental contamination,” not intentional doping. Baffert vehemently denied any wrongdoing but the quantity of the drug found was no where near suggestive of innocence.
This was, and remains, a huge embarrassment to the industry. Shameful, in fact.
Here you have the legendary trainer — Bob Baffert — a man who has cheated his way through his career and now has pulled off the biggest horse racing coup in history — the Triple Crown — while doping his horse.
I hope the horse racing industry is dutifully proud.
Showcasing him as the face of honest, hard working trainers is beyond preposterous. But the end always justifies (pun intended) the means, and these people seem to let nothing stand in their way, human nor animal, while hiding behind their names and big stables.
And let’s not forget this announcement from racing’s own Lance Armstrong.
“It is time for the horse-racing industry to unite in support of a national anti-doping regulatory system” — Bob Baffert
No problem Bob, as long as you’re part of the clean-up. This is the pinnacle of hypocrisy — a hollow, meaningless statement. Not only a Hall-of-Fame trainer, but now pursuing an induction into the Irony Hall of Fame as well. It’s the pot calling the kettle black. Saying something and doing something are two different things.
Baffert supporting the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA) was not only disingenuous but also the timing was decidedly convenient given the federal indictments handed down to more than 2 dozen trainers, including Jason Servis the trainer of Maximum Security, one of the leading racehorses in the world and one who benefited from a doping regimen, according to one of the indictments.
And the irony just keeps getting better. Maximum Security has been handed off by the Wests to Baffert to train. Seriously? From the frying pan into the fire for this poor horse. This is adding insult to injury. It might be a good time for the implementation of the Hall of Shame.
But I digress. Getting back to the current issue . . . .
Baffert has requested his right to have a second test run on the samples for Charlatan and Gamine, and while we don’t have those test results available yet, what are the odds they’ll catch and release him as always?
I’m not holding my breath for any kind of movement on horse racing’s ability to crack down on the golden face of America’s racing. No, this would make things worse, according to the racing industry’s absurd guarded assurance that protecting this “face” will keep the sport alive. Or would it?
In the past, and up until the last year or two in particular, the general public has been fooled by the praise awarded to these high-profile dopers. That façade seems to be fading however.
Baffert and most high-percentage trainers are corrupt — cheating and doping is just as contagious as doing the right thing. And the public is finally becoming cognizant of it.
This guy has been given too many passes, but the business loves “a winner” and money talks. However, victories by those not being totally honest, whether by their own account or at the whim of the racing authorities, are hollow, meaningless wins. Many recognize this, more than ever before.
Whether the 2nd test is positive or not, I will have serious issues giving Baffert the benefit of the doubt considering his past and the leniency racing authorities have afforded him at the expense of their reputations. In the end, Baffert’s misdeeds will not go unpunished.
And if the tests are positive?
What could be more fitting than a horse called Charlatan? “Charlatan was a fraud” . . . . they will all be shouting. Don’t get me wrong, the horse has no blame, but how fitting the name — the joke writes itself.
In the end, money is the top priority, you might even say the only priority. The business model is built on sentient beings manipulated as inanimate objects who are secondary to profits and once unprofitable, disposed of.
All of these ostentatious gestures about caring for these remarkable souls is artificial and the dishonesty is an attempt to lure people into the game. This kind of business model clearly establishes that horse racing in the U.S. has descended into hell. Truth be told, it’s been there for a long time.
The media and the public have been led to believe that track surfaces are killing horses. The truth is, trainers, veterinarians, and their penchant for drugs — illicit or not — are killing these horses, while horse racing’s administrative authorities are enabling it by supporting this carnage.
Is rehabilitation in the cards for this “industry”? The current strategy of “damage control” is not effective reform, nor is it working — that is blatantly clear.
The horses – the saddest victims of them all.
Sleep well Bob. I’m sure the racing gods will rule in your favor.
FEATURED IMAGE: JAMIE RHODES/USA TODAY SPORTS.