Del Mar starts its summer meet with two kills

ESPN and numerous other news outlets reported two deaths at California’s Del Mar racecourse which just opened its Summer Season of racing on July 17.

ESPN wrote:

Caslon Quote Left Black“Two horses suffered fatal injuries Thursday morning after colliding in an accident during training hours at Del Mar racetrack in California, a spokesman for the track confirmed on Thursday.

“The accident occurred around 6:30 a.m. P.T. when Charge a Bunch, an unraced 2-year-old colt trained by Carla Gaines, threw rider Giovanni Franco and ran the wrong way down the track.

“Charge a Bunch then collided with Carson Valley, an unraced 3-year-old gelding trained by Bob Baffert who was working in the opposite direction.


Bob Baffert who is reportedly worth $10 Million. That's a lot of blood money.
Trainer Bob Baffert, responsible for racehorse Carson Valley, is reportedly worth $10 Million reports an article published by COED.

“Del Mar told ESPN earlier Thursday that the horses were euthanized shortly after the accident but later clarified that the horses were killed in the collision.”

Yes, let’s get our facts straight if we can.

NBC Palm Springs reports:

Caslon Quote Left Black“From the clinical examination of the horses it appears both suffered cervical fractures and both were dead on the racetrack,” said Dr. Rick Arthur, a veterinary with the California Racing Board.


What we know for sure is that they are dead — and by all appearances the deaths were “accidental”, or in other words they didn’t “break down (as in a leg) and die”, as racehorses typically do these days as a matter of routine. This time they broke their necks.

How about this quote by Kathy Guillermo in a statement made by PeTA following the announcement of the death of these horses:

“Saying that deaths are inevitable in racing is like saying a swim team can’t compete without drowning.”

Normally the public would have heard nothing about these deaths. Most tracks don’t even report or record training kills. However, all eyes are on California horse racing following Santa Anita’s recent disastrous season of kills.

What’s not mentioned is the pain and mental suffering these two young horses endured as they died. Yes, mental suffering. These are sentient beings.

Source ESPN article by Katherine Terrell, “Two horses die at Del Mar after colliding” »

Related Reading Rancho Santa Fe Review; July 5, 2019; “Del Mar strengthens safety standards after Santa Anita deaths” »

Baffert Picture COED article by Josh Sanchez; May 4, 2019; “Bob Baffert Net Worth 2019: How Much is Horse Trainer Worth Today?” »

 

Despite a Triple Crown all that glitters is not gold in American horse racing (Part 2)

American Pharoah wins the Kentucky Derby on his way to the elusive Triple Crown. Getty Images 2015.

by JANE ALLIN

Part 2 of 3

WE THREE KINGS OF RACE CHEATING ARE

Baffert, Pletcher and Asmussen may not always be the top three trainers on the list when it comes to racehorse doping violations but they seem to very near the top if not always on the top.

Notwithstanding that, the names of these three racehorse trainers are linked with some of the most egregious doping and cruelty cases making their way to public attention.

Baffert

Bob Baffert. Google image.
Bob Baffert. Google image.

A very unsettling example is the incident of the mysterious “sudden deaths” due to cardiovascular / pulmonary failures of 7 racehorses over the course of several months (November 4, 2011 through March 14, 2013). [1], [2]

The final necropsy report performed by none other than the corrupt California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) was inconclusive. Nothing surprizing there. Hell, it’s California’s racing sweetheart Teflon Bob who can do no wrong.

Two of those deaths were linked to rat poisoning.

Inexplicably the rodenticide found in the toxicology testing – diphacinone – was inconsistent with the rodenticide used in the barn yet considered insignificant and without suspicion by the CHRB report.

Of course there were the usual myriad routine prescription medications and supplements dispensed by veterinarians in the Baffert barn (e.g. Clenbuterol, Adequan, Methocarbamol, Lasix, Phenylbutazone, Adjunct Bleeder medications, an assortment of vitamins etc.) however the single most perplexing medication that stands out is Baffert’s persistent use of Thyro-L (levothyroxine), a medication to treat hypothyroidism, in all of his horses.

Repeat, all of his horses.

Thyroxine is legal but a known performance enhancer and has the ability to alter the results of many laboratory tests.

Baffert, in conflict with the policy of the American Association of Equine Practitioners ordered the veterinarians to prescribe it. But that’s okay. It’s the CHRB’s beloved Bob.

And then to have the unmitigated presumptuousness to allege that he was using it to “build up” his horses. Who is this guy kidding?

It is used for the exact opposite reason – to assist weight loss – a performance-enhancing tool. Pure and simple doping. Once Baffert discontinued its use miraculously there were no more “sudden deaths”. Verdict: Golden Boy Bob cleared of any wrong-doing. Again.

There are lots of other examples as well including the morphine incident at Hollywood Park. This is the one in which Baffert coerced a groom to lie for him.

The sad fact that Baffert hails from California and has close ties to all those instrumental in running the CHRB, all the important people such as Chuck Winner, Bo Derek (who reportedly has now moved on), Dr. Rick Arthur, and other prominent influencers such as Zayat Racing Stables to which American Pharoah belongs(ed), makes the entire spectacle that much more macabre.

And what about the fact that Zayat was under investigation for placing large bets allegedly manipulating the outcome of races in conjunction with Baffert? What became of this?

Yet people are fawning all over Baffert (and Zayat) these days because of the Triple Crown, stating what a superb trainer, how he’s mellowed, how responsible and accountable, how he loves his horses, how he brings greatness to the sport, what a god we have here in our midst. Hurl.

Really, how on earth can anyone be so gullible to think that things have changed just because horse racing has a Triple Crown winner?

Asmussen

Steve Asmussen. Photo: Jabin Botsford for The New York Times.
Steve Asmussen. Photo: Jabin Botsford for The New York Times.

In three words – “The PETA Video”.

Just like Baffert the drug thyroxine was being administered to many, if not all, horses in Asmussen’s New York stable, without any apparent testing or evidence of any thyroid condition.

This drug was recklessly administered seemingly just to speed up metabolism—not for any therapeutic purpose. Horses’ legs showed multiple scars from being burned with liquid nitrogen―a process called freeze-firing―and burned with other irritating “blistering” chemicals, purportedly to stimulate blood flow to their sore legs.

Horses were also given muscle relaxants, sedatives, and other potent pharmaceuticals to be used for treating ailments such as ulcers, lameness, and inflammation, at times even when the animals had no apparent symptoms. [3]

Probably the most heart-wrenching part of the video was the treatment of the unfortunate colt Nehro, second in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, owned by Zayat Stables.

“The video details Nehro’s acute foot problems, but despite warnings from a blacksmith that one of Nehro’s feet has become ‘a little bitty nub,’ Asmussen and Blasi continued to train and race him. Nehro died at Churchill Downs on the morning of the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Asmussen said Nehro had colic and died on the way to the hospital. Blasi described it as the most violent death he’d ever seen.” [4]

Asmussen fired Blasi after an 18-year association, later to be re-instated, and Zayat fired Asmussen and removed his 12 horses from Asmussen’s care. But where was Zayat when all of this was happening? Where the hell was he? If an owner fails to be accountable for their horses, simply put, they have no business owning them.

And of course, again just like Baffert, this isn’t an isolated case.

Probably the most serious violation was a 6-month suspension he served for a filly named No End in Sight who tested positive for mepivacaine, an illegal nerve-blocking agent that suppresses pain and permits horses to run on injured legs. [5]

Despite the fact the No End in Sight tested 750 times over the legal limit, Asmussen claimed he hadn’t a clue as to how the drug got into her system.

Given the horse’s history together with the fact that he had ordered cortisone shot a week prior to the race for knee problems, speculation has it that the administration of the drug was intentional.

Yet in spite of all these infractions over the years his devoted assistant Blasi assumed responsibility of Asmussen’s stables so that no horses missed a race. Not a penalty at all.*

Pletcher

Todd Pletcher. Google image.
Todd Pletcher. Google image.

Outside of the misuse and abuse of legal therapeutics leading up to a race, Pletcher also has numerous illegal medication violations on his record.

For example, in 2008 the CHRB fined Pletcher $25,000 and suspended him for a minimum of 10 days when Wait a While tested positive for the anesthetic procaine a Class 3 drug in the state of California.

Procaine can act as a stimulant and Wait a While was found to have more than 300 times the allowable limit her system.

In 2004, the horse, Tales of Glory, trained by Pletcher tested positive for the Class 2 drug mepivacaine – the same illegal nerve-blocking agent that suppresses pain that Asmussen received a suspension for.

Pletcher appealed with the tried-and-true excuse of environmental contamination along with other possible explanations for the positive. The appeals court dismissed them all.

However one of the saddest stories to come out of Pletcher’s drug cabinet was that of Coronado Heights.

One need only recall the fate of this 4-year-old thoroughbred who received a diagnosis of early degenerative joint disease. In the week prior to a race at Aqueduct, ten different drugs were administered, often in multiple doses, to quell his unsoundness.

The only reason for this? His ethically challenged owner and trainer – Todd Pletcher – could not bear the thought of losing out on the prospect of winning. Sadly Coronado Heights broke down and was euthanized on the track.

And the rest?

This is just a snapshot of three of the most controversial trainers that represent the “sport of kings” in North America – all of them at the top of the game.

Story after story surfaces about these lying, cheating trainers who should be the flagship ambassadors of the racing industry but instead represent some of the worst offenders. What is clear is that the vast majority of the top trainers in North America resort to illegal and intentional use of therapeutic medications for the single purpose of performance enhancement.

Moreover it follows that if top-tier trainers are participating in this level of “legal” drugging, the competitive rational for trainers at all levels is to run with the herd. And the drug use does indeed percolate down through the murk of the racing industry.

If it sounds like I am accusing everyone in racing of these transgressions, I apologize, I am not. Undeniably there are many good people in racing who love and care deeply for their horses, abiding by their good conscience in doing what is right for the horses. These people are as frustrated as the public.

Part 3 of 3 tomorrow. Don’t miss it.


[1] https://tuesdayshorse.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/deadly-to-horses-the-baffert-effect-part-1/
[2] https://tuesdayshorse.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/deadly-to-horses-the-baffert-effect-part-2/
[3] https://tuesdayshorse.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/horse-racing-in-america-a-spectacle-of-liars-dopers-and-cheaters-part-2/
[4] http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2014/mar/28/horse-racing-steve-asmussen-peta/
[5] See at 3.

* Neither the New York or Kentucky state horse racing boards, who agreed to review the Peta video, found anything amiss or worth pursuing in relation to what is out and out abuse of the horses involved, including the tortured and dead Nehro — unless of course you work for the U.S. horse racing industry. —Editor.

Main Photo: Getty Images
American Pharoah surges to victory under a strong whip in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of his successful bid to win the Triple Crown. Chief steward Barbara Borden says they reviewed the jockey’s whipping of the horse — a reported 32 times in the drive to the finish line — and didn’t see anything that caught their attention. “There isn’t a limit in Kentucky as to how many times a jockey can hit a horse during a race”, pointed out Borden. Naturally. Who would be a horse in Kentucky? Source.

Deadly to Horses: The Baffert Effect – Part 2

BY JANE ALLIN

Continued from Part 1

WHAT TO MAKE OF ALL THIS?

Since the sudden deaths of the seven horses there has been much speculation with regard to the root cause of these deaths, more so now that the results, in effect, have been reported to be inconclusive thereby absolving Baffert of any wrong-doing.

Bo Derek, CHRB Commissioner and personal friend of trainer Bob Baffert. Many believe she and her Board looked past suspicious activities relating to the "sudden deaths" of seven Thoroughbreds he was training at Santa Anita? Getty image.
Bo Derek, CHRB Commissioner and personal friend of trainer Bob Baffert. Many believe she and her Board looked past suspicious activities relating to the “sudden deaths” of seven Thoroughbreds he was training at Santa Anita? Getty image.

It is a well known fact that Baffert has personal relationships with several individuals on the CHRB — such as Commissioner Bo Derek and departing Chairman David Israel — which has many believing the entire investigation has been compromised by lack of objectivity and a failure to report the truth.

At the very least there is conjecture that some critical details have been omitted to protect Baffert’s character and status in the racing circuit. After all, Baffert is crucial in preserving the vitality of North American racing — at least according to Dwyre (Part 1).

In any case, there are many questions that will now and forever go unanswered. That said there are a number of different theories, which apart from the rat poison, are linked directly with the redundant and fanatical prostitution of the so-called legal therapeutics.

DIAPHACINONE RODENTICIDE

Rat profile. Google image.
Google image.

Diphacinone is a multiple feeding toxicant that kills rodents through anticoagulant activity.

Diphacinone works by inhibition of liver-synthesized coagulation proteins leading to internal hemorrhaging and if ingested in sufficient amounts death. This drug was once used in humans as an anticoagulant to treat and prevent blood clots and if taken in the recommended dosages no permanent or life threatening effects occur.

“The effects due to chronic exposure are similar to those expected from an acute exposure, but animal studies and human use experience suggest that there is a level of chronic exposure at which no adverse effects may occur.”

See http://www.extoxnet.orst.edu at http://goo.gl/IQ0tt5.

Therefore, as long as the dosage is controlled, it can be taken without any outward signs of damage.

But why would anyone administer an anticoagulant to a horse, particularly since it is a highly toxic compound in EPA Toxicity Class I?

Enter EPO or Erythropoietin.

Although there is typically no medical reason to use EPO in the horse it has been widely used as a performance-enhancing drug despite being an illicit drug in horse racing. EPO increases the number of red cells circulating in the blood.

Red blood cells shuttle oxygen through the blood and increase the amount of oxygen carried to the muscles which in turn increases aerobic capacity and hence endurance.

California Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert.  Baffert is a reported drugger of racehorses and suspected in the  sudden deaths of 7 racehorses from heart failure.  Mike Groll/AP.
California Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert.
Baffert is a reported drugger of racehorses and suspected in the sudden deaths of 7 racehorses from heart failure. Mike Groll/AP.

However increasing the number of red blood cells causes the blood to become much more viscous particularly during strenuous exercise where body temperature increases and dehydration is more prevalent. As a result, the misuse of EPO carries a clear risk for cardiac failure.

Logically, yet sinister in nature from a doping perspective, the administration of an anticoagulant such as Diphacinone will counterbalance the effect of thicken blood. Human athletes routinely use Heparin in combination with EPO-doping. EPO doping in the racing world has been around for years.

EPO is produced naturally in the kidneys and liver and therefore its presence in test samples at the track is not necessarily suspect. Moreover because EPO breaks down rapidly it is often difficult to detect an elevated level in horses. See http://www.new.com/au at http://goo.gl/bLxGak (with the interesting headline How Lance Armstrong’s drug of choice has turned horse racing into a sport for cheats — and what must be done to fix it”).

“Partly it’s because detecting EPO can be notoriously tricky. To be most effective, it is thought by some, EPO needs to be given well before a race–say, 8 to 10 days out, or even longer. But the detection period for EPO can be very short, as little as two days after its been administered. So a horse could be given EPO on a Monday, and by Wednesday or Thursday, it will test clean. That drives suspicion that EPO is still being used. But regulators simply aren’t finding it.”

See Thoroughbred Daily News at http://goo.gl/tJ0wHc.

Maybe? Who knows.

THYRO-L (levothyroxine)

“The 26-page report said that Baffert acknowledged directing his veterinarians to use thyroxine on all his horses. Baffert, however, was the one who asked his veterinarians to prescribe it, which is in conflict with the policy of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the industry’s most influential veterinary group, which says treatments “should be based upon a specific diagnosis and administered in the context of a valid and transparent owner-trainer-veterinarian relationship.”

See The New York Times at http://goo.gl/l5wN4F.

THYROXINE L. Google image.
THYROXINE L. Google image.

Thyro-L is a thyroid hormone (T4) used to treat hypothyroidism, a condition where the body fails to produce a sufficient amount of thyroxine; the human equivalent is Synthroid. The intended result of the medication is to restore “normal” metabolic activity.

Thyroxine should only be prescribed for horses with evidence of low circulating thyroid hormone and then only on the order of a licensed veterinarian.

Dosages should be individualized and horses should be monitored daily for clinical signs of hyperthyroidism or hypersensitivity and response to the medication should be evaluated clinically every week until an adequate maintenance dose is established. See http://www.drugs.net/ at http://goo.gl/JxKI8w.

Racehorse training at Santa Anita. Photo credit: Nikki Burr.
Racehorse training at Santa Anita. Photo credit: Nikki Burr.

Levothyroxine has adrenaline-like effects including increased heart rate, palpitations, hypertension, tachycardia, nervousness and increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias. See http://doublecheckmd.com at http://goo.gl/bkwIKx.

Risks of over-medication of horses with normal thyroid function (euthyroid) clearly include adverse cardiovascular indications and symptoms of hyperthyroidism which can be life threatening when combined with other medications — in particular Clenbuterol and Ketamine. When used in conjunction with Clenbuterol it is an extremely powerful fat burner while Ketamine may increase risk of cardiac failure. See http://24hoursppc.org; http://www.rxlist.com/.

Both of these drugs have been and are used on horses to enhance performance, the former legally so. Ketamine, a NMDA receptor antagonist that functions similarly to an opioid/anesthetic, was once allowed at certain thresholds limits in horse racing however it is now a banned substance with Class 2 status (i.e. high potential to affect performance). That is not to say no one uses it anymore — nothing is a given in horse racing, anything goes.

What’s even more interesting is that levothyroxine increases the effects of epinephrine, norepinephrine and warfarin. See http://www.drsfostersmith.com at http://goo.gl/iKEwye.

Warfarin is in the same anticoagulant family as diphacinone the so-called first-generation anticoagulants which are characterized as chronic in their action and take several feedings over time to cause death. Recall that diphacinone was implicated in two of the deaths.

When the thyroid function is too high (hyperthyroidism), the anticoagulant effects will be magnified and a “normal” dose of it will therefore cause the blood to be too thin and may result in dangerous bleeding. See http://www.worstpills.org at http://goo.gl/sAlSBv.

It doesn’t take much to put two and two together.

And one last fact about levothyroxine effects to take away with you.

“Levothyroxine can alter the results of many laboratory tests. Tell your veterinarian your horse is on levothyroxine before any tests are performed.”

See http://goo.gl/A6CelX.

The ultimate weapon in the war against getting caught.

Some facts that came out of the CHRB investigation clearly demonstrate the negligence on the part of Baffert with respect to the administration of levothyroxine. See http://goo.gl/SlmxAF.

  • Baffert administered Thyro-L to “ALL” of his horses regardless of their thyroid function using it as a supplement rather than medication. Thyro-L was so routinely prescribed it was dispensed to one of the sudden death victims a week after he had died.
  • The thyroxine was requested by Baffert and not prescribed by a veterinarian.
  • It is unclear if the recommended dosage of 12 mg was followed. Barn staff, including grooms, were involved in its administration mixed with feed (i.e. was it metered out? etc.)
  • There were no tests conducted on any of the horses before or during the time they were receiving levothyroxine to determine whether the horses were hypothyroid or hyperthyroid therefore difficult to know whether any of the horses were put at risk of becoming hyperthyroid. To reiterate – hyperthyroidism is consistently associated with cardiac abnormalities.

What is also lacking in sensibility is Baffert’s alleged reason for administering thyroxine to his horses.

“Arthur added that Baffert said he used the hormone to ‘build up’ his horses, but the thyroid hormone is used for the opposite, to assist weight loss, Arthur said. He called Baffert’s comment “surprising’.”

See http://goo.gl/mkeTwg.

Who does he think he is kidding? And what is wrong with the CHRB and medication rules in North American racing overall?

Cheat to Win bracelet in honor of Lance Armstrong. From The Onion Store.
Cheat to Win bracelet in honor of Lance Armstrong. From The Onion Store.

This is clearly doping. The fact that a drug is administered when there is no apparent underlying condition present is simply seeking to achieve a surrogate benefit; in this case enhanced performance (speed) due to weight loss.

Of course Baffert gave it to all of his horses. He was legally cheating to win.

There is something perilously wrong when a performance-enhancing drug is legal and considered therapeutic yet poses increased risk of cardiac failure. The abuse of legal medications in NA racing is abhorrent. It is pure and simple doping. To think otherwise is utter denial.

But the CHRB simply dismissed the evidence and used the excuse that because Baffert uses levothyroxine on all his horses this couldn’t possibly be the source of the sudden deaths — blatant favoritism and protectionism for their golden boy Baffert. The facts undeniably expose the flagrant negligence surrounding the use of this drug.

CLENBUTEROL

The ubiquitous Clenbuterol — a widely abused bronchodilator medication in the racing industry for respiratory problems regularly used to build muscle by mimicking anabolic steroids even when administered in therapeutic doses.

Clenbuterol increases lean weight, so there is more muscle while decreasing non-lean weight, so there is less fat. This is yet another legal performance enhancer, one that Baffert and others use religiously regardless of whether the horse suffers from respiratory distress or not. Unlike phenylbutazone and lasix there is a mandatory withdrawal time prior to a race. However, clenbuterol has a long half life and its effects will linger for some time.

Clenbuterol. Photo: Benjamin Norman / New York Times.
PHOTO CREDIT: BENJAMIN NORMAN / NYT
A bottle of the drug Clenbuterol, also know by the brand name Ventipulmin.

Also known as ventipulmin, chronic administration of clenbuterol has been shown to negatively alter cardiac function by “altering the internal diameter, thickening the septal wall and increasing aortic root dimensions.” See http://goo.gl/Hgf9oe.

Moreover chronic administration of clenbuterol diminishes its efficacy and worsens the breathing function of the horse.

While clenbuterol used as directed for an underlying air obstruction problem is a good therapeutic drug its use as a performance-enhancing medication is precarious. Particularly in light of the non-FDA approved compounded clenbuterol which resulted in horse deaths including six in Louisiana in November 2006. Unregulated clenbuterol products are illegal and contain varied and unknown concentrations of the drug with unknown and varied effects. This is not to say that Baffert used any of the illegal compounded product but merely a reminder of the risks posed by the use of clenbuterol particularly at elevated doses.

The list of side effects of clenbuterol abuse over an extended duration such as would be typical in the barns of many a trainer, Baffert included, is long and perilous. Clenbuterol increases the size of heart muscle cells due to the increased production of collagen, an inelastic material that reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood and can potentially lead to cardiac arrest. See http://goo.gl/7MhN9l.

Collagen also interferes with the electric signals sent through the heart muscle cells to keep it pumping regularly and may produce arrhythmias (irregular heart beat). This in turn increases the risk of strokes. Further studies in rodents also found that clenbuterol induced heart cell degeneration. Animal studies also indicate that clenbuterol adversely affects the hearts structural dimensions and may cause aortic enlargement after exercise, which increases the risk of aortic rupture and sudden death.

Furthermore, the use of clenbuterol may exacerbate any pre-existing heart condition or blood pressure problems. It is also thought that left-sided cardiac atrophy (wasting away of the left side of the heart) can occur very quickly (perhaps as little as four weeks when taken in high doses).” See http://goo.gl/Kwnyaj.

Horse tied in stall. Photo credit: HorseRacingKills.com.
Photo credit: HorseRacingKills.com.

It is incomprehensible why two drugs administered together — levothyroxine and clenbuterol — each with significant risk of cardiac failure when used inappropriately are not regulated apart from the drug threshold limits imposed on race day.

And this only takes into account two drugs of the countless others that are administered on a regular basis — legal or otherwise. And what other synergystic effects of race medications like lasix and phenylbutazone might exist? One could write a book on the nefarious drug culture of North American racing.

This is the quintessential case of denial from a system so shattered that repairing it seems unattainable.

“When your prime argument boils down to the seemingly rampant drugging of racehorses being OK because the drugs are legal therapeutic medications – without addressing whether a particular horse needs the medication – you are missing the essential point of the case made by those opposing the racing’ industry use of drugs. I doubt there is a sensible person who would oppose medications for an animal who needs it. But when the nation’s two leading trainers are administering drugs – albeit legal ones – without regard for the medical needs of a particular horse, we are no longer talking about therapeutic drugs, but rather drugs they hope will be performance-enhancing.”

See “Time for racing leaders to get their heads out of the sand”, by Tom Noonan at http://goo.gl/Zyxxja.

Syringes full of Bute.  Just one example of drugs given to Coronado Heights the week prior to his breakdown and death. By NYT.
Syringes full of Bute. Just one example of drugs given to Coronado Heights the week prior to his breakdown and death. By NYT.

The two trainers of course are Baffert who fervently administered all of his horses’ levothyroxine while feigning ignorance about its mechanism of action and Todd Pletcher whose zeal to win ended in the death of 4YO Coronado Heights.

Diagnosed with early degenerative disease Coronado Heights should have been sidelined or retired but instead was administered ten different drugs over the period of a week, often in multiple doses to quell his unsoundness. The only reason for this — that his ethically challenged owner and trainer could not bear the thought of losing out on the prospect of winning. http://goo.gl/DR6vGn.

See image of drugs Coronado Heights was given one week before he broke down and died.

“If they give the same drugs to all horses irrespective of an individual’s medical condition, what possible motivation would they have other than enhancing the horse’s performance?”

See http://goo.gl/Zyxxja.

Reflecting back on the musings of Dwyre the absurdity and naivety of his statements should be an embarrassment to anyone with a modicum of intelligence.

“If Baffert is guilty of purposely doing something to harm animals, he needs to be ousted from the sport. But the only sanctioning body that can say that, the CHRB, already has said he is not. So it is time to move on.

Racing needs Baffert.”

In the CHRB we trust. Snicker.

And their golden boy Bob Baffert — the Lance Armstrong of horse racing.

Read Part 1

© Int’l Fund for Horses

Deadly to Horses: The Baffert Effect – Part 1

California thoroughbred racehorse trainer and slippery fish Bob Baffert. Photo Jae C. Hong/AP.
PHOTO CREDIT: JAE C HONG/AP
California thoroughbred racehorse trainer and slippery fish Bob Baffert.

BY JANE ALLIN

An article written by Bill Dwyre last month in the Los Angeles Times absurdly glorifies Thoroughbred horse racing’s poster boy; “Horse racing has problems, but trainer Bob Baffert isn’t one of them”.

SUDDEN DEATHS

Bob Baffert is the Hall of Fame trainer with the largest racing stable in California, and more recently under the microscope for the mysterious “sudden deaths” due to cardiovascular/pulmonary failures of seven race horses over the course of several months (November 4, 2011 through March 14, 2013).

See The Blood-Horse at http://goo.gl/j1wmqZ.

What is particularly disturbing about these deaths is that by all accounts sudden death failures are a relatively rare occurrence, according to trainers and track veterinarians.

“A study published in 2010 in the Equine Veterinary Journal on sudden death in racing Thoroughbreds found it was responsible for 9% of fatalities in California. This same study showed 96 reported sudden deaths between Feb. 1990 and Aug. 2008 in California among Thoroughbreds while they were exercising, or an average of five per year. During the 18-year period, a total of five were reported in Pennsylvania; 23 in Victoria, Australia; 16 in Sydney; four in Hong Kong; and none in Japan.”

See http://goo.gl/j1wmqZ.

Equally unsettling is the fact that of the 36 horses succumbing to sudden death in the state of California during the period July 1, 2011 through March 31, 2013 seven were stabled with Baffert — 19.4%. Another article “Putting California sudden death numbers in perspective” taken from The Paulick Report lends insight to the disconcerting nature of the situation.

“Looked at another way, one trainer with 2.5% of the horses and 1.5% of the total starts has had 19.4% of the sudden deaths over a 21-month period.”

Table © Paulick Report. See the Paulick Report at http://goo.gl/Qnxfx1.

 

Trainer Drug Violations Table copyright New York Times.
Table © New York Times.

I call their bluff.

This is by no means “normal” nor is it a one-off due to ‘bad luck” particularly given Baffert’s history of rampant drug use – legal or otherwise – that has followed him from his Quarter Horse days. According to a New York Times article, “Breeders Cup – Trainers Aren’t Helping as Drugs Damage Sport”, Baffert stands third in the frequency of drug violations for horses of the top 20 trainers by earnings in the United States averaging one drug violation for every 545 starts.

And don’t forget the morphine incident at Hollywood Park way back in 2000 — listed as a Class 1 drug by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Inc. (ARCI) and a proven performance enhancer. On May 3, 2000 the horse “Nautical Look” tested positive for morphine which was later confirmed by the Texas Veterinary Medical Laboratory. See ESPN at http://goo.gl/uiAwXH.

If administering morphine to enhance a horse’s performance isn’t bad enough, Baffert had the audacity to coerce a groom in his employ to lie to investigators. Baffert testified that the positive finding was a result of “unintentional contamination” from a food source containing poppy seeds (e.g. baked goods).

While it is true that poppy seeds can generate false positive drug tests, Baffert went a step further. When notified of the positive result he repeatedly contacted his groom and encouraged him to admit to eating bakery products while in close proximity to “Nautical Look”. Unfortunately for Baffert the groom told the truth and testified he had not consumed any food while handling the horse. See http://goo.gl/uiAwXH.

Baffert-trained Secret Compass (in blue) broke down and was euthanized in the 2013 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Race (for 2 YOs). Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill/AP.
Baffert-trained Secret Compass (in blue) broke down and was euthanized in the 2013 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Race (for 2 YOs). Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill/AP.

Despite this being a serious infraction, given that morphine is illegal, one simply cannot disregard the epidemic overuse of legal therapeutic medications that Baffert and other trainers use without discretion because they can.

This is the underpinning of what is wrong with North American racing. And it follows that if top-tier trainers such as Baffert are participating in this level of “legal” drugging, the competitive rational for trainers at all levels is to run with the herd.

Moreover there is no lack of evidence for criticizing Baffert’s abusive drug practices.

It is perfectly clear from the number of horses Baffert has had to sideline or retire prematurely, not to mention euthanize over the past couple of years and longer — Bodemeister, Paynter, Fed Biz, Princess Arabella, Flashback, Secret Circle and sadly Secret Compass who at the age of 2 collapsed during the 2013 $2 million Juvenile Fillies and was euthanized after sustaining a lateral condylar fracture — to name a few.

Yet these are the words of Bill Dwyre:

Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times. Photo Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images NA.
Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times. Photo Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images NA.

“Racing needs Baffert because the public knows him. He sells tickets, gets the sport on the evening news and on the front page. He’s got white hair, is quick with a good quote and has great success. Our shallow media mostly chases celebrity, and Baffert is one.

If Baffert is guilty of purposely doing something to harm animals, he needs to be ousted from the sport. But the only sanctioning body that can say that, the CHRB, already has said he is not. So it is time to move on.

Racing needs Baffert.

It needs the white hair, one-liners, loyal owners and sizable fan base. It needs him in the Kentucky Derby every couple of years. It needs him standing next to one of his owners, Joe Torre, when the national TV cameras come on.

The public has neither the time nor inclination to look much deeper than that, and racing badly needs that public.”

See Los Angeles Times at http://goo.gl/g68kyS.

Incredible.

This is precisely what is destroying the “Sport of Kings” here in North America. Baffert and the rest of these drug pushers is exactly what North American racing should rid itself of.

In any case, as expected, Baffert was cleared in the sudden deaths of the seven horses by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). An extensive investigation concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing yet the CHRB could find no specific reason for the abnormal number of deaths in one stable – inconclusive at best.

“The conclusion on a scientific basis would be that there is something different about Baffert, about the Hollywood Park main track and the barn, but we couldn’t find anything,” said Arthur. “It doesn’t change the fact we don’t have an answer. What it does say is, ‘There’s something wrong here.’”

See Ray’s Paddock, Paulick Report at http://goo.gl/TRW409

Just remember — we need Bob Baffert according to Dwyre.

FINAL REPORT FINDING: INCONCLUSIVE?

Below are some revealing excerpts taken from the official report on the investigation and review of the seven sudden deaths on the Hollywood Park main track of horses trained by Bob Baffert and stabled in Barn 61. See CHRB Report (pdf) at http://goo.gl/SlmxAF.

“Using all sudden deaths for Baffert (8 deaths, 2512 starts) there is an incidence of 3.18 deaths per 1,000 race starts (95% CI 1.37- 6.28). For comparison, all sudden deaths for non-Baffert trained horses (70 deaths, 199,637starts) have an incidence of 0.35 deaths/1,000 race starts (95% CI 0.27-0.44). Baffert-trained horses have a 9.08 (95% CI 4.37, 18.88; p<0.001) times greater incidence of sudden death during racing or training than horses not trained by Baffert. Examining the 7 sudden deaths over 24 months of FY 11-12 & FY 12-13, the results are even more dramatic.”

“Looking only at racing sudden deaths for Baffert (2 deaths, 2512 starts) there is an incidence of 0.80 deaths/1,000 race starts (95% CI 0.10-2.88). Racing sudden deaths for non-Baffert horses (21 deaths, 199,637 starts) has an incidence of 0.11 deaths/1,000 race starts (95% CI 0.07-0.16). Baffert trained horses that experienced sudden death during a race have a 7.57 (95% CI 1.77-32.28; p=0.006) times greater incidence of sudden death than horses not trained by Baffert.”

Beyond belief – yet apparently there isn’t anything atypical happening in Baffert’s barn — just a poor unlucky sod.

Teflon Bob.

White-haired rat. Google image.
White-haired rat. Google image.

Necropsy reports revealed that the main cause of death was cardiac failure with four of the seven horses succumbing to this fate.

Of the remaining three, two deaths were linked to rodenticide toxicosis (rat poisoning), one presumptive in nature, and the other definitive.

In one case a 2YO colt affected by EPM (Equine Protozoal Myelitis) caused by the parasite Sarcocystis, typically not associated with sudden death, was also found to exhibit severe hemorrhage of mesenertic vessels, a common symptom of rat poisoning. Regrettably there was no liver tissue available from this horse to test for the presence of rodenticide.

The other horse, a 3YO gelding suffered massive thoracic and abdominal hemorrhage of unknown etiology but presumed to be rodenticide toxicosis – in this case a rodenticide was detected in the liver tissue. The seventh and final horse in the series of sudden death incidents was a 5YO mare reputed to have died due to severe pulmonary hemorrhage and edema, otherwise known as EIPH – Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage. See http://goo.gl/SlmxAF.

Why was a horse afflicted with chronic and severe EIPH even racing? Other jurisdictions around the globe simply do not condone this. This is nothing short of negligence.

Despite the sudden and grave nature of these deaths, nothing out of the ordinary was found in the urine samples. Some urine samples showed no presence of foreign substances while typical equine medications were detected in others; phenylbutazone, furosemide (Lasix), flunixin, diclofenac, nandrolone (found naturally in unaltered ales) and clenbuterol in the urine of a horse in training therefore permissible under current medication rules.

The most important finding of the toxicology testing was the identification of the rodenticide diphacinone in the liver tissue of the 3YO gelding who died of massive internal hemorrhage in both his thorax and abdomen without evidence of a major vessel failure.

Diphacinone pellets. University of California image.
Diphacinone pellets. University of California image.

Diphacinone is an anticoagulant rodenticide and so reduces the body’s ability to form clots in the blood. What is interesting is that the only rodenticide Hollywood Park uses is bromodiolone in sealed traps leaving questions as to where the diphacinone came from. See http://goo.gl/SlmxAF.

There is more than obvious reason to question this, yet this too was written off as insignificant and without suspicion. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortuitously for Baffert, the livers of only two of the other horses were available for screening both of which tested negative for the rat poison, leaving 4 others with unknown status, one of which clearly died from symptoms consistent with rodenticide.

There was, as expected, myriad routine prescription medications and supplements dispensed by veterinarians in the Baffert barn (e.g. Clenbuterol, Adequan, Methocarbamol, Lasix, Phenylbutazone, Adjunct Bleeder medications, an assortment of vitamins etc.) however the single most bewildering medication that stands out is Baffert’s persistent use of Thyro-L (levothyroxine), a medication to treat hypothyroidism, in all of his horses. Repeat, all of his horses.

The standard cornucopia of medications deemed necessary in this drug-laden sport.

Part 2 tomorrow.

© Int’l Fund for Horses