Washington Post Article Critical of Baffert

BOB BAFFERT (Darron Cummings (AP) & Washington Post)

The Washington post recently published an article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2021/06/18/bob-baffert-horse-deaths-drug-violations/

A few thoughts regarding some quotes from article:

“He’ll do anything to win, and he’s got all his bases covered politically,” Barry Irwin, owner of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, said of Baffert. “And because of that, he has become arrogant as hell. He’s Mr. Teflon.”

By way of editorial comment, I know Barry Irwin, he’s a tough guy and a straight shooter…

And like all things, success leads people to think they are bullet proof when it comes to following the rules. That said, the drug rules are so complicated that now they are almost impossible to follow and my racehorse trainer friends tell me they constantly have to guess about what the right dosage for each horse will be so it doesn’t trigger a positive test. They also tell me that the new no tolerance rules make it worse not better. Suffice to say, it’s complicated.  I have published a few blog post regarding these issues here:  https://olddominionhorseracingnews.com/2021/05/12/medication-explained/ and here: https://olddominionhorseracingnews.com/2021/05/12/update-and-explanation-medina-spirit-positive-test/

Another pull quote from WP article, I have to say I agree with what the lawyer for Medina Spirit’s owner said:

“The lawyers said that taking into account Baffert’s estimate of how many horses he has in his care, a count that differs from the starts data, “the number of deaths of horses in Bob’s barn is consistent with what would normally be expected from the horse population in general.”

If you look at the table at the beginning of the article it shows Baffert as having the most deaths per 1000 starts. The trainers on the list average 61.7 horse deaths.

When I used the lawyers’ number of 72 deaths as opposed to 74, Baffert’s number is 8.07 which is a pinch lower than Jeff Bonde’s (8.12) who is 2nd on the WP list. If I scale the number back to 70 as the attorney suggest, his number is 7.85 which is still seems too high. When you do the math the percentage for all ten on that list it’s 6.22. But, when you do the math the total number of deaths is still shocking as it adds up to be 98,760…

The national rate for all of U.S. is 1.53 and that is why California has been under so much scrutiny the last 5 years.

ARCI President Ed Martin said the rules limiting race-day medications have been tightened not out of concern for performance enhancement but to prevent breakdowns. “There’s a recognition that certain substances are normal in equine care,” Martin said, “but if that horse still requires that, then maybe you shouldn’t run the horse.”

Arthur and CHRB investigators inspected Baffert’s barn, reviewed veterinary records and interviewed Baffert, who was flanked by an attorney. According to Arthur’s report, he found that Baffert was dispensing Thyro-L, or thyroxine, a prescription thyroid hormone, to all horses in his care. And Baffert’s veterinarians were prescribing it at his request without conducting laboratory tests to see whether the horses needed the drug, according to Arthur’s later report.

Arthur indicated in his report that thyroxine was suspected to cause heart problems for horses during exercise, and at least four of the sudden deaths involved confirmed or suspected cardiac failure. “How carefully the dosage was followed was not determined,” Arthur wrote. “Per Baffert, barn staff including grooms, were involved in administering the thyroxine in feed.”

Baffert told investigators he used the drug for about five years to “build up” his horses, which Arthur noted was unusual because it was typically used to slim them down. The veterinarian chalked up Baffert’s response to ignorance. “It’s not uncommon to find trainers who don’t understand medications and how different medications work,” Arthur said.

Here is a related piece from the LA Times:


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