Vivian was preparing to write an update on the ongoing troubles of racehorse trainer Bob Baffert — that Baffert’s “get out of jail card” may no longer be what it used to be. Then she saw Barry Irwin’s interesting article on the Paulick Report, where Mr. Erwin generously explains and analyzes Baffert’s woes — from the “inside out”, so to speak.
The Bob Baffert “case” — the collection of errors committed or allowed to happen under the trainer’s watch — is extremely important to the survival of horse racing in the United States. Why? Because for the first time in memory, a well-connected actor in the Turf Sport found himself unable to manipulate a get-out-of-jail-free card to exploit the system.
Historically any number of high-profile individuals over the years have used their friends in high places to wriggle off the hook and avoid major penalties, suspensions or fines as a result of having broken the rules.
In racing the given is that well-connected individuals will never have to suffer the indignities foisted on horsemen that have not cultivated important relationships among stewards, racetrack owners, racing commissioners, leaders of horse racing organizations, veterinarians in strategic positions and wealthy political donors in order to ensure that someday, when a favor is needed, it will be there for them.
I will freely admit that I never thought Baffert would be anywhere near the trouble he got himself into. I thought he was too smart, cunning and methodical. And, if caught, I never thought his web of friends in high places would fail to keep him from being subjected to the penalties others have had to deal with.”
There seems to be little doubt that horse racing, generally speaking of course, has become tired of Mr. Baffert and his continued shenanigans (by definition: “secret or dishonest activity or maneuvering”, Oxford Languages).
But where Baffert went wrong was that his arrogance, borne out of years of racing officials allowing him to slip off the hook, caused him to be sloppy. And it is just that sloppiness in total — the whole mess of minor offenses over a relatively short period of time — that created enough of a negative picture of the white-haired Arizonan to make him vulnerable.
And then, to make matters critically worse, Baffert went and poked the bear. He messed with the brand of the most important entity in horse racing in North America—the Kentucky Derby—run under the historic Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.
Baffert wrongly assumed, for once, that because of his impact on the Run for the Roses and the Triple Crown he was bigger than the game. He reckoned that he was too important for higher-ups in racing, especially in Kentucky, to lay a hand on him. Well sports fans, he found out differently when Churchill Downs banned him for two years and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission issued Baffert a 90-day suspension, then denied him a stay while he appealed it.
Getting back to the original question, why is the Baffert thing so important, especially at this time? Because racing is going through an unofficial trial, if you will, and the jury is the American sporting public, strongly supported by animal lovers and admirers of fair play in athletic contests.
“When HISA is fully up and running, we in racing should be able to count on the actions that led to Baffert’s ban and suspension becoming commonplace.”
The goal of HISA (Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act) is “To improve the integrity and safety of horseracing by requiring a uniform anti-doping and medication control program to be developed and enforced by an independent Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority.”
How can this new “authority” actually be effective? We know what they are saying it will do, but how will it do it exactly? All we can do it wait and see.
It’s a Killer
Doping is only a single part of the totally unconscionable killer “sport” of American horseracing.
If you believe we are being unjust, fanatical and unforgiving, take a look at the Horseracing Wrongs website. See the documented evidence of daily racehorse abuse, cruelty and death.
Cleaning up the horseracing industry’s doping issue — if you could even do it — would matter very little at all.
In the meantime, one drug horseracing will never ban is Lasix. Why is that such a big issue? See HW’s post, Lasix Revisited As Horse Bleeds From Both Nostrils, 16 April 2022. That is a hurdle that HISA will never be able to jump.
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