Sunday, May 2, 2021

More Details on Baffert's Baffling Free Pass on Prior Horse-Drugging Investigations ...

(Edited - content and video added.)

(Edited x2 - the different effects of scopolamine on humans versus horses.)

My apologies - I had said that Baffert was reinstated three weeks ago and his Arkansas Derby/Oaklawn wins were given back to him. His appeal began three weeks ago, yes - but Baffert's Arkansas Derby wins were officially reinstated not even two weeks ago, on April 21st

Note the similar timeline to what happened with the positive lab-test results of 2018 Triple-Crown winner, Justify  

Without further testing (which was not possible by the time the results were released), the national racing commission pronounced the finding "possible result of contaminated food."

Erm - scopolamine is NOT an ingredient found in any known legal horse food, and it's not like it's over-the-counter and just lying around.

Scopolamine is an anti-cholinergic, a prescription-only drug.  It is typically administered via a transdermal patch in humans, although there are other formulations and routes of administration such as injection. 

In humans, it's used to treat motion sickness or post-anesthesia  nausea and reduces saliva production, and can cause sleepiness as a side effect.  

HOWEVER - in horses, scopolamine also decreases saliva production (less fluid/weight), but it also increases the heart rate and lung-capacity functions - but without the sedation side effect found in humans - thus, why it's a banned performance enhancer in horse-racing.

In both humans and horses, the effects wear off in 6 to 9 hours.

It has very limited historical use by internationally renowned horse veterinary clinics, like Rood and Riddle and Hagyard, here in Lexington, for very specific reasons.

Rest assured, those specific veterinary reasons are NOT because of  "a big upcoming race" - in fact, it's usually used for post-anesthesia care after surgery to prevent colic, as well as testing purposes while being monitored for suspected health reasons, on horses who are NOT currently competing.  

The trainer cannot watch the horse every possible second, no - but he or she are paying very close attention to their diet and snacks, and they would know exactly what their horse is eating, as they are often right there watching at meal times, especially right before a race.

Why would a competitor want to spike Justify's food with an actual performance enhancer to make them win? lol.

Of course, the trainer could argue, "They wanted my horse to test positive to be disqualified."

Okay, but let's examine the likelihood of that, considering the gambling risk already involved with horse-racing.

Secondly, not only are you risking your competitor's win, but thirdly, you would be taking on an even bigger risk that testing would be performed at exactly the right time and scopolamine would even be found (because scopolamine, sometimes administered as a patch and absorbing systemically, metabolizes out fairly quickly)

- PLUS - 

You'd be taking on a fourth additional risk, on top of the other three,  that a Kentucky Derby win - and especially a Triple Crown win - would ever be later disqualified/revoked, short of exorbitant amounts of drugs later found rather than trace, or a blatant, visible act (like something visible done on the track itself).

In fact, this should've happened at the The Belmont in 2014, when Matterhorn's jockey clearly jumped left, clipping a big chunk of California Chrome's heel off, ruining his run for the Triple Crown, after winning the first two jewels in the crown, The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness  ... 

Note that not only is there no look of surprise on Matterhorn's jockey's face, but worse - Matterhorn's jockey clearly has the left rein tight, while the right rein is up and loose - indicating an intentional drive of Matterhorn towards the left at Chromie.

 A complaint was filed, but nothing was done -  and if it didn't happen even then, when we could see what should've been a disqualifying/suspension/fined act by a jockey, with our own eyes -  though it has happened to smaller trainers, it's unlikely to ever happen to a big trainer with a Triple Crown race, especially over scopolamine usage, especially not Bob Baffert ;)

Additionally, California Chrome was almost lethargic, with his tongue hanging out, before the race - many people took note of that at the walk-up.

In the video below of us with him, you can see he's extremely hyper and high-spirited, constantly showing off for you or pawing at the ground.

He also is famous for giving little "love bites" to people -  which may not seem like a compliment, but when done in a specific small way, during affection, this is actually horse herding behavior; horses often nip at others in their herd in affection - which Chromie does more frequently than others because his mother was sick, and he was human-raised, and thus sees humans as his herd, rather than other horses - so if Chromie bites you, it's a compliment, he's accepting you as part of his herd (in fact, our own horse occasionally does this during closeness/affection) :)

(I'm told he particularly does this with women, and I was fortunate  - or unfortunate - enough to receive one of these love nips to the hand, as we discuss on the video - but as I said, I considered it an honor lol.)

Chromie was running around crazy, and "dancing," right before we started filming -  but stopped as I put the camera up to my face (like he's been trained to do, see below), but then started pawing for treats after a minute, when I didn't put the camera back down to keep filming lol.  

When he got an apple piece from Mark (snacks supplied by Taylor Made), he ran around again, and started kicking up his heels,  lol. 

In fact, you can hear at us ask our guide, at the beginning of the video, if our visit spooked him or something, or if he was especially antsy today, because he was so hyper,  but she said, "This is him EVERY day."

(You may have to click twice, I originally uploaded it to Blogger rather than YouTube first.)


He loves people and knows he's supposed to show off when people visit, and loves to be fussed over and praised :)

In fact, as I said, the only time he'll stand stock still for you, is if you put a camera up to your face - he's been trained to "pose" - hold his head up and stand stock still for you - it's incredibly cute :)

Otherwise, he's running and jumping around, rearing up, dancing - he's never still - so the fact that he was so lethargic, with his tongue hanging out, before The Belmont was extremely odd.  

(The only other time he wasn't hyper was when I sang to him later, for some reason - not because of the quality of my singing, but I think he just wasn't sure what to make of it, it probably wasn't a usual occurrence outside of that "music box" grooms might have with them lol)

Additionally, we had just met Bob Baffert a week earlier at the Breeder's Cup (again, story two posts below), so we asked our very friendly, very down-to-earth guide if she'd interacted with him much, considering American Pharoah was now coming to stud at Taylor Made.

I distinctly remember her reaction and the look on her face ... 

Guide:  "Yes, many times. In fact, just a party the other night, celebrating American Pharoah studding here first"  
Me:  "We didn't have a very positive personal experience, but maybe he was just stressed that day.  What's he like on a regular basis?" 
Guide:  (Pause) "Well, he's ... Bob Baffert" (sly smile).  

LOL!  Say no more, that's what I thought - but kudos for a very diplomatic answer to my tricky question lol.

Now, back to drug investigations ...

The way the horse-drugging rules are supposed to work is like this ...

Suspension/disqualifications/fines are based on horse-drugging are made via lab tests.

Problem #1 - The testing is not standardized nationally.  The illegal drugs vary according to state racing-commission rules, rather than the national racing commission (though some drugs are nationally illegal, like performance-enhancers.)

Problem #2 - There is no accredited, centralized lab used - thus, each track can use whatever lab tests and labs they choose, and the lab-test results, taken before a race, are not back until at least 2 weeks after races are completed, sometimes 6 weeks.

This makes it difficult for either state or national racing commissions to do further lab testing, because the drugs are likely out of their system by then. 

Problem #3, and the biggest problem IMO  - There's also no standardized deadline for state horse-racing commissions to report the lab results except "prior to subsequent races" - thus, the results can be held even up until the day of a subsequent race. 

Now - what is true is that with certain drugs, false-positives are common, there are sometimes contaminants, and it is possible a trainer's staff administered something when the trainer wasn't around - and yes, there is always the possibility that a competitor is responsible for horse drugging without the trainer's knowledge.

However, you cannot definitively state "possible result of contaminated food," two months later, without further investigation or any objective evidence to support that statement - especially a performance-enhancing drug - when you've already given "too much time passed" as your reason not to further investigate.

Why even test the horses for drugs at all, if you're just going to chalk things up to "contaminant" later without any proof?

None of that made any sense, but dohkay.

And the same could be presumed for everyone else you've disqualified, suspended, and fined, for much less - including lidocaine (an over-the-counter topical numbing agent to treat sore spots) - but dohkay.

Plus, in Baffert's case,  this recent is time number two he was caught and inexplicably released. 

Note that the article above does not mention any argument with the positive lab-test results, nor explain why his wins were restored, nor why the disqualification was reversed.

It only says this: 

"The Arkansas Racing Commission's seven members unanimously voted to reduce the significance of Baffert's penalties.

Baffert smiled, thanked the hearing's participants and rushed from the conference room used for the hearings in Oaklawn's new hotel. He pointed toward his attorneys.

"Talk to these men," Baffert said. "I have a flight to catch."

Baffert was represented by attorneys Craig Robertson of Lexington, Ky., and Steve Quattlebaum of Little Rock. Owners of Charlatan were represented by attorney Justin Allen of Sheridan."

Mm hmm.  

Now, you could argue ...

"Well, it wasn't a performance enhancer, this time, the drug found in Arkansas was just over-the-counter, topical lidocaine to treat sore spots."

True -  lidocaine is basic, over-the-counter topical numbing agent, often administered via a patch,  which temporarily numbs out especially joint pain and for other sore spots/injuries. 

Then you may be saying to yourself ...

"So then why is lidocaine illegal? Aren't they treating the horse's sore spots in empathy? Athletes use lidocaine patches all the time, they do that before games so they can play."

True, but remember, unlike human athletes, the horse has no choice on whether to run, and we don't know the reason, the severity, or type the type of injury - thus, there could be further injury if the horse runs while the pain is numbed. 

They could be using it for something minor or something major, we don't know - but the need for hair-splitting on why is precisely why racing-commission law is just blanketed - no use of lidocaine - period.

Good trainers have been fined, disqualified, and suspended for the same thing, whether they were aware it had been administered by staff or not, minor sore joint or major injury, or possible contaminant and/or sabotage or not.

So again, why does Baffert get a free pass and presumed innocent of positive lab-test results, hm?

Because the rules are (for everyone else), the trainer is always held responsible - whether he/she was aware a drug was administered or not - even if sabotaged by a competitor (because how can you prove it?).

Also, on the heels of Justify's lab results coming back positive for an actual performance enhancer, this was Baffert's second time caught, so the penalties and fines for Baffert should have been greater, not less :/

Oh, but Baffert is, in his own words yesterday, just "the luckiest man in the world" and special.

Erm - too many wins in a row, with different horses and different jockeys, to be that "lucky" - and he's "special," all right - just not in a good way lol. 

Now, you may get the wrong impression that Kentucky loves Baffert.  

Well, you'd be right, when it comes to some corrupt, wealthy white people, who get cuts and kickbacks from his wins, in Kentucky, or people who idol worship celebrities or applaud cheating/beating the system -  but you'd be wrong when it comes to everybody else in Kentucky, particularly in the horse industry - they can't stand Baffert.

As for me, as I've mentioned before, I never judge a person based on gossip or what I read about them, unless I saw what they said or did live, on video, or a direct full quote from several reputable sources.  Instead, I judge from actually meeting that person, in person, and talking with them. 

Thus, my opinion of Baffert being a huge A-hole comes not from press or gossip, but from my own personal experience with Baffert - the time I personally "met" him in 2015 at the Breeder's Cup. 

For that story, read two posts below ;)

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