06/21/2013 9:16PM

California Racing Board continues investigation into sudden deaths of horses


The California Horse Racing Board announced Friday that it is continuing to review cases of sudden deaths that have occurred in Thoroughbreds in Southern California racehorses in recent years.

In a two-paragraph statement, the racing board did not state when the review might be completed.

In April, Dr. Rick Arthur, California’s equine medical director, said there were 17 cases of sudden deaths in all breeds of racehorses throughout the state from July 1, 2012, to early April. Data on whether the number of sudden deaths has increased since early April was not immediately available late Friday afternoon.

Arthur gave testimony at a racing board medication and track safety committee meeting at Santa Anita in April that 20 sudden deaths of all breeds of racehorses occurred in the state in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011; and 19 sudden deaths occurred in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

From late November 2012 to early April of this year, at least seven instances of sudden deaths occurred in Thoroughbreds at Betfair Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, according to a source who saw the necropsy reports. At least two of those horses who died were trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who had horses stabled at both tracks.

Other Thoroughbred trainers with horses who suffered sudden death during that span at Southern California tracks were Myung Kwon Cho, Sean McCarthy, Mike Mitchell, Jack Van Berg, and Kathy Walsh. The leading causes were cardiac failure, respiratory issues, and vascular failure.

According to several published reports in April, Baffert had as many as seven instances of horses suffer sudden death in a 16-month period ending in April. During that time, there was one prominent instance of sudden death in a Baffert-trained runner when Irrefutable collapsed after finishing second in the Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Baffert later released a statement, describing the loss of the horses as “personally troubling and of great sadness to me.” Baffert said in the statement that he was working with the racing board, his veterinarians and track officials “to find the causes of the unexplained deaths.”

In its statement released on Friday, the racing board did not name any specific trainers.

In part, the statement read, “given that one barn at Hollywood Park housed a relatively high number of the sudden deaths that occurred over the last two years, CHRB investigators have taken steps to determine if there was a relationship between the barn and sudden deaths.”

“Interviews were conducted with the personnel at that barn, including the trainer, assistant trainer, and veterinarians. All were very cooperative and provided all relevant information. Environmental possibilities as a cause are also being evaluated and tests will be conducted.

“The pathology and toxicology work has been completed on those horses with no indication of foul play. This aspect of the review is believed to have been as thorough of an examination as has ever been done anywhere in the world with such cases.”

The racing board said in its statement that no further information would be provided until a report is published.



Five More than 1 year ago
Mike B. Your ramblings are incoherent. You need to simplify or narrow the approach to get a following. I like your earlier "boycott" idea. But make it simply. I will "boycott", that is , I will no longer play on the 17th of each month. Until, I see a more positive action(s) taken by the authorities, CHRB, et al. Mike B., or anyone else, may wish to do likewise. The problem is, this story/article ran it's course and will be taken off the front page by DRF and my post will be "lost" I hope, DRF can see it to resurrect this story, or keep it on the front a little longer.
Mike B More than 1 year ago
Good point. I will try and make it shorter (complex, distressing topic). I'd love to do better with message--last two succinct comments were moderated out... The boycott hidden in the larger text seems to survive (hidden as your post mentions).
Mike B More than 1 year ago
To be known as the SoCal "rat pack" (for rat poison) until cleared by an un-conflicted, 3rd party investigative body. We could even have a "Rat Pack Stakes" with EPO required and allowances for varying amounts. If it is there--why not be transparent. It could even be sponsored by the pharma industry. Then at least bettors know how much each horse is given and can adjust their predictions. That way we let the cheaters cheat each other in a single race and segregate them from the honest trainers and owners. One sliver back in the pack should be allowed to race all his horses against each other in one race--GR I, EPO Rat Poison Crown. A rat trap goes to winner as trophy. Along with a lifetime supply of rat poison.
pathagan More than 1 year ago
Nothing will ever come out of this. Leave it to the bumbling CHRB (and its incompetence) to do nothing when it's all said and done.
Mike B More than 1 year ago
I hope they get to the bottom of this--been bothering me since I read the story--so I am not betting or putting anything in claiming groups at SoCal this weekend. Looking at Emerald for a ship and win to Del Mar. Don't want to be a part of it till they get this sorted out. If they try to sweep it under the rug, it would be interesting to see if there was enough uproar to start a social media campaign and an organized protest by horseplayers--say boycotting betting on races 1 & 7 on the 17th day of August on SoCal circuit (because 17 horses died suddenly). That would get their attention. It is an option if the board or investigators can't act because of conflicts or politics. The rake feeds the whole mechanism--track, purses, etc. so gamblers are the consumers/customers and have some clout. Stronach & DMTC might take notice right away and let the offenders know they aren't welcome if they dope horses. No stalls for them... The naked lady PETA protests just draw more young males to the track--the betting boycott would hit them right where it hurts--in the pocketbook, so they'd see an organized opposition to horse doping is emerging; it would not be enough to make anybody honest people in the industry go broke or lose a job--but certainly take notice.. Then you could always repeat if necessary... People have brought down middle eastern dictators with social media--we could probably clean up SoCal racing.
Five More than 1 year ago
You're on your own, buddy. We're the 99.9999%, we just want action. We do not give a damn.
Five More than 1 year ago
Dee R. Eff, why bring up the Paynter angle again. Baffert was at home, not at Monmouth, hahahhaaaaa. The owner was there.
Dee R. Eff More than 1 year ago
You think bobby actually gets his hands dirty in anything? He's hardly ever in the barn. No one does anything without his instructions.
Dee R. Eff More than 1 year ago
And if that's the investigative angle you're so proud of, join the CHRB.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Let the investigators due the detective work. Important issue here is that folks are now being watched. About time. All comments below about doping and epo and thinning agents make a lot of sense.
Ben van den Brink More than 1 year ago
Handing over the case to the USDA , as this case is too important for beiing moved under carpet. The interess from big names are vested in this case, but the loss of confidence from the public, the bettors and the sponsors,needs an complete investigation by an third party. The rat poisen administration needs to be handled as an class 1 until proven else. But this is my humble opinion
Mike B More than 1 year ago
Thought about this EPO issue (and the subsequent blood thinning with rat poison)... It presents the problem of being undetectable and also trying for enforcement against powerful interests.. The old joke was the government never outlawed horse racing because the interests behind it were more powerful than the government (industrial titans, sheiks, queens, ultra rich, etc..). Some truth to this... But I think (maybe naive) that the majority of people in the business are honest; some may have to cheat just to keep pace with the other cheaters; a minority--unfortunately-- may be sociopaths. The latter will need to be banned and the middle of the road people discouraged from straying (through incentives/disincentives). So the best I can think of is to start a culture shift and environment receptive to back stretch informants. Get the message and infrastructure in place for confidential tip line that has real access, follow and efficiency. It is likely you will only catch violators (and prove it) if people come forward. They need a way to do this. Someone saw someone with rat poison, or a needle, empty bottles of vodka the trash, etc. So the board should begin a confidential informant line and website in Spanish and English. Signs with the info should be posted in all prominent backstretch areas (reward leading to documented violation may help too) . It should go in the overnights with the number and website; in every condition book; in all the facilities used by trainers, owners, grooms, etc. No need to freak out public with the info in the program or on the tote board. Then there would need to be more investigators to follow up on the tips. More sophisticated surveillance, etc. By saying little or nothing--the behavior is implicitly accepted. Instead, make sure everywhere a trainer looks in the backstretch is the toll free number and website for reporting intentional administration of banned substances... Some will begin to lose some sleep and start looking over their shoulder. Eventually, someone will see something, recall something, a disgruntled employee or someone with a guilty conscience will spill the beans.. Then we'll get a Lance Armstrong event in racing... clean up the mess, and move forward. It will help the overall sport and industry. Some honest trainers and owners are being essentially robbed of their honest winnings by those not playing by the rules.
Mike B More than 1 year ago
http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/77448/baffert-horses-big-part-of-sudden-death-spike Bloodhorse article on this topic is above or if link does not work just google: "Baffert Horses Big Part of Sudden Death Spike" One trainer having more cases of this type of death in one year than an entire country (like Japan or HK--which both have active racing) has had in 18 years seems statistically odd. There may also be conflicts of interests if the head of the board is a client of the trainer with the most troubling record of this type of death. Bloodhorse seems the more objective and thorough journalist on the topic as well. The comments on this article have now far exceeded the depth and detail of the article. At least they provide the forum.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm guessing most of the bloggers here are like me. We aren't millionaires. But what I do know about millionaires & billionaires, is they get there by not spending like millionaires/billionaires. Every dollar is accounted for & every dollar is spent in order to get a return on investment. So, yes they are fine w/ drugging horses as long as it provides a profit.
Mike B More than 1 year ago
The Comments could not have been done better by Columbo... Looks like the CHRB needs a new full frontal attack on EPO.... It may not just be a test the horse's blood investigation but a broader one getting people under oath that would know the facts. Find the supplier records, the disgruntled groom, janitor who found something in the trash... The 48 hours and problems testing mean the investigative tools can't be blood tests alone. I'd start with investigating this list of sudden death trainers, owners, grooms, exercise riders, vets, experts etc. The truth may come out years later (like Lance Armstrong)...Right now it looks like the dead horse are the only ones doing the talking, hinting at a problem with their numerous, sudden deaths.