Derby Details 2021 Edition 15

Barnmates at our Berkley Farm

Derby Details 2021 Edition 15

Kentucky Derby Contenders Profiles

By Tom Carley

April 17, 2021

This is not an analysis of the upcoming Derby race.  That will come in 2 weeks when the post positions are drawn.  This is merely a synopsis of the background info I have summarized from my research to this point.  Some of it will show up in my analysis, but this is mostly fact-based data.

WEATHER REPORT     I will handicap this race condition as FAST.  I am writing this on April 17, so we are too far out to have a forecast.  I will monitor this and adjust my handicapping in the analysis.

Racehorse Analysis

Essential Quality    Where to start with this one?  The clear cut favorite.  Godolphin’s best chance to win the elusive Derby.  When he won the Blue Grass Stakes, he had to fight for the first time in deep stretch.    Undefeated in 5 career starts and won Eclipse Award as the best 2–year-old last year.  Has won on muddy and fast tracks.  Likes to lay near the lead, but as he proved in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile can run from the back of the field.    

Why he can win:     

  • Continues to improve and gets stronger as the races stretch out.
  • Trainer Brad Cox won Eclipse Award for Trainer of the Year last year and has won big races in the last two years.
  • The horse has won at Churchill Downs.
  • Brisnet speed figure of 102 in the Blue Grass Stakes is among the highest in this race.

Why he won’t win:

  • Blue Grass Stakes has not produced a Derby winner this century.
  • Had to change schedule and only got 2 prep races this year instead of the planned 3.
  • Slight concern about his ability to run well in traffic

Hot Rod Charlie     Jumped into consideration for the elite of this division when he won the Louisiana Derby.   Had lost both prior stakes races, even though he ran 2nd in Breeder’s Cup Juvenile at odds of 94 to 1 to Essential Quality.  Has only won 2 of 7 career starts.  Both wins have been with the horse near or on the lead.  Did take 4 races to break his maiden.  Has had trouble at the start in his most recent two starts.      

Why he can win:

  • Has shown he runs well in big races.
  • Has won at 9 ½ furlongs, which is farther than any other horse in the field.
  • Trainer Leandro Mora has won 2 Kentucky Derbies.

Why he can’t win:

  • Has shown he does not like to win with only 2 wins in 7 starts.
  • Will be 1 of many speed horses in the Derby.
  • Jockey has only ridden the horse once and that was in a turf race last September.

Super Stock   Jumped into attention with the win in the Arkansas Derby.  Only started twice as a 3-year-old due to injury suffered in his 2-year-old year, but this horse did have a good foundation with 6 starts as a 2-year-old.  Has hit the board in both starts at Churchill Downs.  Ran a career high speed figure last race out.  Derby will be third race in a cycle.      

Why he can win:

  • Has shown he is improving at the right time.
  • Has won at 5 ½ furlongs and 9 furlongs. 
  • Very good foundation as a 2-year-old will help him as the races stretch out.

Why he can’t win:

  • Has shown he does not like to win with only 2 wins in 8 starts.
  • Breeding suggests distance might be a concern, as sire (Dialed In, out of Mineshaft) average winning distance is 6.5 furlongs and dam (Super Girlie) average winning distance is 6.3 furlongs.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Like the King    A horse that has only run on dirt once intentionally and once more when a turf race was rained off the grass.  Did qualify by winning the Jeff Ruby Stakes which only this year Churchill increased the point value to where he would have qualified.  Has never ran off the board in 6 career starts.  Curiously, worked on April 4 on the grass at Keeneland.  Had run near the front end before his last race.     

Why he will win:

  • Trainer Wesley Ward has won big races before including at Ascot.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has not displayed the ability to run well on dirt.
  • Some would question the level of competition he has beaten.
  • The recent grass work is a head scratcher.
  • Speed figures much below other competitors.

Known Agenda    The first Todd Pletcher trained entry in the field.  Disappointed in 3-year-old debut at Sam Davis Stakes.  Then has come back and won twice at 9 furlongs.  Both wins have come after adding the blinkers.  Irad Ortiz will ride this one in Louisville and has won both his races on this horse.  Has a quick closing move and can also run closer to the front end than most closers so he would not have to pass so many horses.  Looked convincing in winning Florida Derby. Speed figures have increased greatly with each 3-year-old race. 

Why he will win:

  • Has won twice at 9 furlongs.
  • Appears to be improving the most of any horse in the field. 
  • Trainer Todd Pletcher not only has own two Derbies, but also is the hottest barn in the field.
  • Has won both races after adding the blinkers.
  • Bred to get the distance and the longer the better.  

Why he won’t win:

  • Closers have not had recent Derby success.
  • Has had gate trouble in the past.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Rock Your World   Switched from the turf to dirt in his last race and won the Santa Anita Derby.  Does like to be on the front end and took the Santa Anita Derby field gate to wire.  Has little foundation as this horse did not run as a 2-year-old.  Has stretched out from 6 furlongs to a mile to 9 furlongs.  Has the co highest speed figure in the last race.    

Why he will win:

  • Highest speed figure in last race.
  • Has never lost in 3 starts.
  • Has stretched out from 6 furlongs to 9 furlongs.

Why he won’t win:

  • One of many speed horses in the field.
  • Only has run on dirt once.
  • Inexperienced jockey in the Derby.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Bourbonic   Had been running for Optional Claiming $50,000 until the Wood Memorial victory.  Had to be dropped to maiden claiming in 3rd career start to win his first race. Is a deep closer who will have to pass many tiring horses to win this race.       

Why he will win:

  • Owner and trainer (John Sadler) experienced in the Kentucky Derby

Why he won’t win:

  • Closing style is a poor style to have on Derby Day.
  • Jockey is inexperienced in major stakes races.
  • Horse has been running at lower class levels.
  • Speed figures are much lower than this field.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Medina Spirit     Has run 1st or 2nd in all 5 previous races. The first 2 losses were to Life is Good.  Went off as overwhelming favorite in the Santa Anita Derby and never was able to catch Rock Your World.  Another one who likes to run from the near the front.  Johnny V has been flying cross country to ride this horse.  The epiglottis surgery he had after the San Felipe is somewhat concerning given the flat effort in the Santa Anita Derby.

Why he will win:

  • First or 2nd in all races.
  • Bob Baffert’s recent domination of this race.
  • Added distance has not affected ability to maintain speed.

Why he won’t win?

  • Just has not shown the “Wow” factor in his races.
  • Has never raced outside of California.
  • Has never shown the ability to come from behind in a race and win.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Midnight Bourbon   Never raced off the board in 6 career starts.  After breaking maiden at Ellis Park, ran in Iroquois and Champagne graded stakes races.   Lost to Jackie’s Warrior and Reinvestment Risk in Champagne.  Matured and won 3-year-old debut in LeCompte.  Outkicked in the final two Louisiana prep races.  Working very good at Churchill.   

Why he will win it:

  • Never off the board in 6 starts.
  • Experienced trainer (Steve Asmussen).
  • Time to improve ability to finish the race.
  • Get Mike Smith to ride this horse. Tremendous jockey upgrade.
  • Has run well at Churchill Downs

Why he won’t win it:

  • Has won only 2 of 7 career starts.
  • Breeding on Dam side (Catch the Moon out of Maibu Moon) suggest distance will be a limitation. 

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Mandaloun    Winner of 3 of 5 starts.  Ran a race 2 back in the Risen Star that would have been an “on the board” performance in the Derby.  Came back in Louisiana Derby and inexplicably laid an egg running worst race by speed figure of his career.  I do not think it was the distance as he was through in that race at the half mile pole.  Has won at Churchill Downs already.  Has been a favorite in all 5 career races.  Fired a bullet work April 10.  

Why he will win:

  • Tactical style will fit well with this group.
  • Had one of the best performances of the year out of this group.
  • Hot trainer (Brad Cox) in the last year in big races.
  • Working well on his “home” track”.
  • Regular jockey will choose him over the barn mate.

Why he won’t win:

  • Not the best horse in his own barn.
  • Distance a concern.
  • Louisiana Derby has not been a good prep race.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Caddo River   There is some question about his participation here.   Has only won twice in 6 starts.  Might be a better mile horse.  

Why he will win:

  • A different horse since the switch to dirt.
  • Has won in the mud.
  • Draw a line through his last race and he shows pattern of improving.
  • Can rate off this hot pace based on his turf experience.

Why he won’t win:

  • Not as fast as other speed horses in this race.
  • Has never won a race farther than a mile.
  • Loses regular jockey to barn mate

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Highly Motivated   Winless in two starts as a three-year-old.  Only horse in the field with three consecutive 100 + Brisnet Speed Figures.  However, he did give Essential Quality all that he could handle in the Blue Grass Stakes.  Won the Nyquist on the Saturday Breeder’s Cup undercard fighting against the track bias.     

Why he will win:  

  • The last race versus Essential Quality showed he is in the class of this division.
  • Gets a great rider in Castellano.
  • Trainer Brown is as good as they come.
  • Tactical style will help in the expected pace scenario in the Derby.
  • Has run well on muddy track.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has never won a graded stakes race.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Helium   A mystery horse.  Two 2-year old races on Woodbine polytrack resulted in 2 wins.  Won Tampa Derby in only 3-year-old race.  Then trained 10 weeks into Derby.   

Why he will win it:

  • Trainer Mark Casse is emerging as major Triple Crown player.

Why he won’t win it:

  • Long layoff into Derby.
  • One 3-year-old prep without a good 2-year-old foundation.
  • Unproven on dirt

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Soup and Sandwich  Speed horse that stayed strong in the Florida Derby stretch.  Impressive wins in first 2 career races.      

Why he will win it:

  • Good trainer Mark Casse, who is emerging as a force in Triple Crown races.

Why he won’t win:

  • One of many speed horses.
  • Distance is question.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Dynamic One   Pletcher horse that looked more impressive than barn mate in the Wood Memorial, even though he lost.  A different horse at 9 furlongs than he was at shorter distances when he could not break the maiden.  Loses rider to barn mate.  Only win and that win was with Lasix.

Why he will win:

  • Improving horse at 9 furlongs.
  • Hot barn.

Why he won’t win:

  • Will get a new jockey.
  • Runs without Lasix.
  • Took 4 races to break maiden.
  • One career win.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Crowded Trade    Barn is targeting the Preakness.  Maiden win in 3 career starts.  Lost by nose in Gotham and ran 3rd in Wood Memorial.  

Why he will win:

  • Trainer Chad Brown has pulled off past upsets on a large stage.

Why he won’t win:

  • Only a maiden win.
  • No 2-year-old foundation.
  • Could not beat many horses he would face today.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Sainthood   Three career races at 3 tracks.  Only a maiden win.  Great stretch run in the JR Stakes but had a rough trip.  Tactical style should be a benefit.    

Why he will win:

  • Maturing with each race.  
  • Hot barn.

Why he won’t win:

  • Only a maiden win.
  • No 2-year-old foundation.
  • Best race was on poly.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Rombauer   Barn has indicated they are leaning toward the Preakness.  Won the El Camino Real Derby.  Had almost a 2-month layoff and ran 3rd in the Blue Grass.  Does not like to be anywhere near the lead.  Has never won a race on dirt.    

Why he will win:

  • Has shown he can be a good horse in brief glimpses.  Derby Day could be his day.
  • Has won at 9 furlongs.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has never won a race on dirt.
  • No real fast works
  • Has never faced a foe in today’s race and won the race.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Hidden Stash   Has won a race as a 3-year-old.  Earned points by earning points in 3 races.  Has a win and a third at Churchill in two starts.  

Why he will win:

  • Has never ran a “bad” race.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has only won twice in 7 starts.
  • Closing style will fit well in a large field.
  • Inexperienced Derby connections.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Dream Shake   Barn looking at the Pat Day Mile instead of the 10-furlong Derby.  Lightly raced California horse known for upsetting O Besos in career debut.  Has never won going farther than 6 ½ furlongs.  Bred to like a longer distance race.  Ran 3rd in San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby.   

Why he will win:

  • Trainer Peter Eurton has proven he can upset in high profile race 

Why he won’t win:

  • Has never won going two turns
  • No 2-year-old foundation
  • Will have a new jockey in the Derby as his previous 2 riders choose other mounts.
  • Flattened on the stretch out to 9 furlongs.  How will he handle 10 furlongs?

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

O Besos    Local trainer Greg Foley seeking Derby dreams with this home bred.  Made improvement to run 3rd in Louisiana Derby.  Won a maiden and an allowance race before the 2 tries at graded stakes company.  Has shown that distance will not be a concern.   

Why he will win:

  • Home track advantage will do him well.

Why he won’t win:

  • Has never won a stakes race.
  • Has never won going farther than 6 furlongs.
  • Both wins were with Lasix.

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

Get Her Number    First two races were on turf.  Won the Grade 1 American Pharoah in first start on dirt last September.   Long layoff until mid-March when he tried the two leading Arkansas prep races.    Since the layoff has rated instead of being a speed horse.

Why he will win:

  • Did win a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old.

Why he won’t win:

  • Long layoff.
  • Did not hit the board since his comeback.
  • Runs in front wraps

Derby Details 2021 Edition 17

Leaving No Legacy

By Tom Carley

May 28, 2021

I have intentionally not written a column since the Kentucky Derby.  I thought it best to allow my emotions to diminish and be able to report on this in a well thought out and unbiased fashion.

Even before the results of the positive test for Medina Sprit was made public 8 days after the Derby, I found myself having the same struggles as I have in the past.  Once again the performance of a Bob Baffert horse did not pass the eye test (see Derby Details 2021 Edition 11 https://sinatrathoroughbredracingandbreeding.com/derby-details-2021/derby-details-2021-edition-11/).  The Baffert horse went to the lead and did not tire, and the other horses were not able to overtake the horse.

For the first time in my life, I immediately turned the set off when the horses crossed the finish line.  I did not watch the trophy presentation, interviews and other celebrations that accompany the Derby win.  While this race did not pass the eye test and confirmed my prior beliefs about the actions of Bob Baffert, little did I realize how this race would profoundly change the sport. 

The Press Conference

News broke of the positive test the Saturday after the Derby.  Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July on Saturday evening with news of the positive test.   Many commented that this news should not have been made public and point to the fact that a positive test is usually not announced until the second (or split) sample is tested and the results received.  However, that argument is not valid in this case as:

  1. This is a Triple Crown race and if a disqualification of the horse that crossed the line first in the Derby was to occur, then the horse that crossed the line second in the Derby needs to be made aware of this fact.  Specifically, the trainer of the horse that ran second (Mandaloun) had announced Mandaloun would not compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.  Now that there was a chance Mandaloun was going to be named the Derby winner, he needed to have the chance to reconsider the decision as he now had a chance to pursue the Triple Crown.  Not only would winning the Triple Crown have historical consequences, but also winning the Triple Crown would drastically increase the horse’s value. 
  2. The word started to spread as the racing office told those owners and trainers that ran first through fifth in the Derby that their earnings would not be distributed (or held up as it is called in the industry).  This is only done in the event that a horse had a flawed test.  

Bob Baffert flew from California to address the situation once his assistant trainer was given notice of the positive test by Churchill Downs.    He and his attorney held a press conference Sunday morning.  Within the press conference, Baffert stated several times that the horse had not been treated with the substance (I will remain generic as a drug explanation would be an entirely different column).  

When asked the legal threshold for the drug, Baffert stopped and asked his attorney to answer the question.  The attorney did not take over and Baffert was fed the information from someone on his staff that the threshold was 10 picograms.  It turns out the level is 0 picograms effective August 2020.   He stated, “horse racing has a problem, but that problem is not Bob Baffert”.  My eyeballs almost leapt out of my head when I heard this quote. Then…

Monday morning: Baffert appeared on Fox News Channel and blamed the attention and potential disqualification on a cancel culture.  Again, he stated he has done nothing wrong and that the drug had not been given to the horse.

Tuesday: Baffert blamed the contamination on a groom urinating in the horse’s hay after using the drug elsewhere.  A problem I have with this excuse is that the horses get their hay from an elevated hay bag and not the ground.

Wednesday: Finally, Baffert revealed that the horse had been treated with a skin issue and the ointment used to treat the rash had the drug in it.  Some things to consider

  1. The drug must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  What vet in his right mind would prescribe a drug that is banned to a horse so close to the most scrutinized race of the year?    
  2. How did you know or are not made aware that your only Derby horse was treated with the drug?  Especially before he shot his mouth off in the press conference that the horse was never treated with the drug.
  3. The box the ointment comes in clearly states in large print on the front of the box the drug’s name. 
  4. This is the same identical drug the Baffert-trained Gamine tested positive for in last year’s Kentucky Oaks– as well as in Arkansas along with another Baffert trained horse.
  5. A thought I keep having is that Baffert would not be dumb enough to keep using a drug he knows is getting detected unless the drug is being used to mask another illegal drug.  This is what we saw in the baseball steroid incident and is also consistent with the type of drugs Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were using.

The first thing any attorney tells a client charged with a high profile crime is to keep quiet and not comment.  Baffert destroyed what little credibility he had left with his series of statements. 

Baffert then announced that he would not attend the Preakness.  This was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the questions he would be bombarded with by the media.

Banning from Churchill & NYRA tracks   

After Baffert’s press conference Sunday morning, Churchill Downs issued a press release Sunday afternoon.  Within the press release, Churchill Downs announced that Bob Baffert was prohibited from entering or racing his horses at Churchill Downs owned racetracks.  Many Baffert supporters/apologists cried foul and claimed the trainer was being denied his first amendment rights.  While I could see someone making that argument (at the time, but not now that I later found out that Baffert’s attorneys are the ones keeping the second sample from being tested) it should be noted that racetracks can deny admittance to anyone.  A precedent for this was set in California when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned from racing at Santa Anita racetrack as well as all racetracks owned by the Stronach Group after his horses suffered injuries (some died) in 2019.

Baffert had four horses that ran in the Preakness weekend cards.  His horses that ran in the Black Eyed Susan (fillies) and Preakness had to undergo three drug tests prior to competing.  His fourth horse ran in a non-graded race and the media never reported whether this horse was subjected to the same testing. 

The horses all failed to win.  The heavily favored horse in the non-graded race was beaten by nine lengths.  While Medina Spirit did run 3rd in the Preakness, Concert Tour ran 9th in the Preakness and Beautiful Gift ran 7th after being sent off as the favorite in the BlackEyed Susan.

The “clean” Baffert horses sure did not run like they had previously.  Coincidentally, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced early the week after the Preakness that it was enacting a similar ban on Baffert and his horses from Belmont Park, Saratoga Racecourse and Aqueduct that Churchill Downs had done.  This meant that Baffert would not even be allowed to have a horse run in the third race of the Triple Crown or the lucrative stakes races on the Belmont Day card.  

How the Industry Allowed This to Happen 

It has been noted many times that Baffert had over 30 positive tests for banned drugs before the latest episode.  A major question being asked is why Baffert was never severely punished in the past.  He was suspended for 12 months when he was a quarter horse trainer, yet he never has served a major suspension.  

The answer is simple.  The industry allowed him to do this.

Bob Baffert is charming and to many, the face of the thoroughbred industry.  If you walked in Times Square and asked people to name a horse racing trainer the answer you would almost unanimously get (from those who actually could name one) is Bob Baffert.  Baffert works the media well and his one liners serve as deflectors from the real issues that face him and the industry.  

Even after all the evidence with the Kentucky Derby positive test, you have a majority of those who defend Baffert and either claim Baffert is being targeted by those jealous of his success or that this is some sort of insider job for revenge.  Personally, I have found that these people simply ignore facts and it is impossible to have an intelligent, fact based discussion with these people.   I found myself actually going as far as resigning from Facebook groups as I was being harassed for having the audacity to say that Baffert’s horses do not pass the eye test.

While the article I wrote previously (the link is provided earlier in this article) details these violations in greater detail—as well as my source– let’s review the times the racing industry has refused to hand down any substantial punishment to Baffert:

  • Less than 60 days ago, Baffert was almost totally given a pass by the Arkansas Racing Commission when he had not one, but two horses test positive on the Arkansas Derby 2020 card for the same drug for which his horse had tested positive after the 2021 Derby.  The Arkansas Racing Commission overturned the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert; as well the ARC reinstated the wins for both horses that tested positive.  When I called the ARC to convey my disagreement with the decision in the days following the announcement, the phone was forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone and the message not returned.
  • Baffert had a horse test positive for the same drug in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks.  The stewards chose to disqualify the horse, but chose NOT to suspend Baffert.
  • The California Horse Racing Board chose to overturn the positive test Justify had after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby be ignored.  This was done in a closed door session.  It should be noted that one of the key members of the CHRB is an owner who had horses with Bob Baffert.
  • Baffert has never been suspended for any of his 30 drug violations.

Sound people would ask why this continues to occur.  I can offer a few suggestions.

Weak Media The media that cover horse racing work for publications which are supported by advertisers who have a vested interest in seeing the support thrive.  Taking a stand and saying something controversial about a leading trainer might result in the loss of advertisers.  These weak media members may be more interested in covering up for Baffert than reporting things in a non-biased fashion.  One example of this is way the media openly rooted for the American Pharaoh Triple Crown.  A writer should just cover the story, not worry about getting his/her picture taken with a horse and openly writing in columns how they hope a certain horse will win.

The media has assumed the role of Baffert defender.  One Eclipse Award winning writer went as far as to post on a Face Book group devoted to the Kentucky Derby a link to the database of steward rulings regarding ALL rules violations and made the statement that Steve Asmussen had 80 violations while Baffert had less than half of that. 

A review of the database showed that Asmussen had less than 6 drug violations in the last 5 years and most of the violations were for administrative violations such as not having a horse to the paddock in time for a race, running a hose without blinkers, not having papers in the office, entering in a race the horse was not eligible for, non-disclosure of a gelded horse, etc.   

She did the same with trainers such as Brad Cox.  Never did she disclose that the other trainers had less than 10 violations for drugs in the last 5 years, nor did she disclose the following:

  1. Baffert’s violations per starter greatly exceed any of the other trainers listed in the report.
  2. Baffert’s violations were almost exclusively for drug violations.
  3. The report did not even list the Baffert’s drug violations that were overturned while it did list Steve Asmussen’s overturned drug violations.  This is a result of the way the California Horse racing Board tried to cover up Baffert’s transgressions. Compare that to Louisiana which listed the original charge against Asmussen and that it was dismissed due to the split sample coming back negative or other mitigating reason. 

I questioned her on this.  She responded that she was trying to counter all of the people that “think we should go after Baffert with pitchforks”.  I replied that she was not reporting the facts.  Daily Racing Form correspondent Jay Privman (not the person referred to above) is also a notorious defender of Baffert.  His comments, articles and tweets speak for themselves.

Baffert Fills Races California racing has been on the decline for years.  Recent cards at Santa Anita have been full of 5-horse fields.  Baffert is a trainer that in the past (he trains much fewer horses now) would enter horses to allow a race to fill.  If the CHRB had suspended or banned Baffert they would only add to the challenge of having enough horses to run races.  There were days earlier this meet where race dates had to be cancelled under the guise of preserving the turf course.   If Santa Anita had enough horses, they could have run all the races on dirt those days.

Fear of Legal Challenges & Cost of Defense Most trainers accept their penalties, serve their brief suspension and life goes on.  Typically people will appear in front of the stewards and agree if they would not appeal the sanction, then the penalty will be reduced and the violator can somewhat select the time they will be suspended.  However, Bob Baffert has proven that he will take the stewards and racing boards to court to appeal the decisions.  This is an expense that the already cash strapped racing organizations have to absorb.   This intimidation by Baffert and his attorneys is a viable explanation.

The most recent example of these legal responses is the fact that Baffert’s attorneys have kept the second sample from the 2021 Kentucky Derby from being tested.  

The time has come for the industry to begin enforcing all rules in the same fashion, no matter who the offender is or where the violation occurred.  Horse racing needs to convince the public that all of the rules are not only being enforced, but also being enforced uniformly across the board.  Thankfully, I have not heard many people say they have lost confidence in the sport and are seeking other forms of gambling, but if the industry does not change that will be the next step.

Furthermore, we deserve an answer as to Baffert’s real reason for using the drug in question.  Is the use to treat skin disorders, enhance performance or to mask the use of another drug.  

Where is Baffert’s legacy of trainers?

Last Saturday’s Preakness winner was trained by Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy was a formed Todd Pletcher assistant trainer.  This led me to the following question:

Horse Racing has a pattern of a leading trainer’s key assistants going off on their own and becoming trainers.  How come none of Bob Baffert’s assistants have started their own training operations?

Wayne Lukas has built a huge legacy of former assistant trainers who have become successful trainers on their own.  This includes Todd Pletcher, Kieran McLaughlin, Bobby Barnett, Mike Maker, Dallas Stewart to name a few.  He always tells those to give to the next generation in hopes of making our sport better.

Todd Pletcher has seen former assistants such as Mike McCarthy and Michelle Nihei start their own training stables.   Jack Sisterson won a graded race two weeks ago.  He used to be an assistant for Doug O’Neil.

Yet, Bob Baffert has never produced a trainer that I could find record of.  Why is this?  Is it because the Baffert barn does not use traditional horseman skills that the assistant could replicate?  Is it that the employees know Baffert uses substances that they would not be able to get?   Is it that owners would not leave Baffert to follow the assistant to his new barn?

The more we peel back the onion in this Baffert situation, the more questions we have.   I call for racing to do whatever is necessary to give the bettors the information they need to know that all races are being conducted fairly. 

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