04/11/2013 5:37PM

CHRB investigating sudden deaths at Hollywood, Santa Anita


ARCADIA, Calif. – At least seven instances of sudden death have occurred in Thoroughbreds at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita since late November, according to a source who has seen the necropsy reports. Incidents of sudden death are being investigated by the California Horse Racing Board although it was not clear from comments made at a Thursday board meeting whether the rate of sudden deaths was unusual or whether the deaths were somehow linked.

When asked on Thursday for more details, racing board chairman David Israel said, “We can’t comment on an ongoing investigation."

At least two of the horses who died – Consulado and Miners Daughter – were trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. Other Thoroughbred trainers with horses who suffered sudden death in recent months are Myung Kwon Cho (Riveting Reason), Kathy Walsh (Coolofthevening), Sean McCarthy (Glory Quest), Mike Mitchell (Truism), and Jack Van Berg (Warren’s Hottie).

Baffert declined to discuss the instances of sudden death when approached at his stable during morning training at Santa Anita on Thursday. “I’m not going to comment on that,” he said.

According to several published reports, Baffert has had as many as seven instances of horses suffering sudden death in the last 16 months. During that time, there was at least one prominent instance of sudden death in a Baffert-trained runner when the 5-year-old Irrefutable collapsed after finishing second in the Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in November 2011.

Glory Quest never raced and was stricken by a heart attack shortly after a workout at Santa Anita in late February, McCarthy said on Thursday.

“She had a heart condition that we never knew about,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know if a valve broke or if she had a weak valve. She never showed any signs of anything.”

Truism suffered a heart attack at Santa Anita in early March, Mitchell said.

“He never skipped a day of training,” Mitchell said. “He was strong as an ox. It was a heart attack. It took everyone by surprise.”

Walsh said that Cooloftheevening was stricken as she was walking off the track after exercise in early January, and appeared to have suffered a heart attack-related injury.

At a racing board medication and track safety committee meeting at Santa Anita on Wednesday, Dr. Rick Arthur, California equine medical director, said that 20 sudden deaths of all breeds of racehorses throughout the state were reported in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011; 19 in 2011-12; and 17 in the current fiscal year, through Tuesday.

Arthur declined to comment on specific instances of sudden death in racehorses after the full board’s meeting on Thursday.

At Thursday’s racing board meeting, commissioner Bo Derek reiterated Arthur’s findings to the committee in a summary of Wednesday’s meeting.

“Sudden deaths has not spiked in California,” Derek said. “Dr. Arthur clearly reported that number of sudden deaths has been consistent in the past 20 years in the neighborhood of 20 per year.

“To be clear on another point, no trainer or trainers have been mentioned.”

Without discussing specific cases, Arthur said on Thursday that the leading causes of sudden deaths include cardiac failure; respiratory issues, such as excessive bleeding; and vascular failure, such as a ruptured aorta.

Arthur said on Wednesday that two of the horses who have died suddenly in the last five months were found to have rat poison in their systems during necropsies.

Arthur said that in the two incidents in which horses tested positive for rat poison the deaths of the unnamed horses were attributed to internal hemorrhage. He said foul play was not suspected and that the level of rat poison found was at “trace level.”

Derek said on Thursday that the rat poison found in the horses was not the same material used by Hollywood Park and Santa Anita for pest control.

Forego137 More than 1 year ago
At of all the horses stabled in the state 7 horses died from sudden death, come on people, this is just another story once again to give the Sport Of Kings a black eye.
sat.customer More than 1 year ago
36 died,7 from Baffert
Tee Jay More than 1 year ago
Sometimes when a horse is injected with a syringe, it can die within seconds from anaphylatic shock. Don't ask me about the bilogogical causes but it happens. I always handicap with drugs in mind. If a trainer is a known drug user, then I decide whether he's trying to win dirty and if I should bet and win dirty also. It used to be the cheap horses were the lab rats for betting but now with the excess amount owners spend on horse flesh to win the "Grade Ones", anything goes for their future investment in the breeding shed or sales ring. How good was Smarty Jones?....good on the track and poor at stud. What about super horse Curlin? We all know about Big Brown. Without the steroids he would have been called Little Brown. It would be nice to see their offspring carrying on the bloodlines, or was their anything in the blood biologically that could be inherited in the first place? EPO use in soccer players finds their blood "sludging" and they drop dramatically to the pitch with heart attacks. I have cause to beleive Paynter suffered the same fate last year (no heart attack of course) but I can't say how the horse managed to purchase and inject it himself. Anytime a really good horse goes off in performance, be suspicious punters. Ask yourself how good the horse would have been with just plain old hay and oats. Hank Aaron knows how good he was and we all know how good Barry Bonds turned out to be in the courtroom. And then there's A-Rod, Manny, Mark and Canseco - the first to spill the beans and everybody said he was a liar. How good of liars are today's trainers? Baffert, it is stated, is a Hall of Fame trainer. I beg the question, "Which Hall of Fame"? There appers to be two kinds of fame or maybe its better called infamy or notoriiety these days. Say, what does Lindsay Lohan do for a living besides drugs? There's no Hollywood past performances to warrant her infamy. Give credit where credit is due.....the possee is still out looking folks....
LESLIE More than 1 year ago
almost as many in 3 months as in an entire year and they claim it is proportionate? Come on I'm not necessarily saying something is wrong but do question it.
JeanK More than 1 year ago
Paynter comes to mind as he had unexplained complications. Horses running out of their skins suddenly and at a young age is unexplained as well. I've been away from the game for a few years. Observing how horses perform today without foundation and without logical progression makes me wonder about the integrity of the sport, and the lack of apparent horsemanship from prominent owners makes me wonder what the heck are they doing in this sport. As for the trainers of top performers less than 5% of their horses are lasting more than a handful of races. If it talks and walks like a duck, it's a frigging DUCK!
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
Terrible, a disgrace. First of all, I would do away with race horse insurance. There was a scam going on in Yonkers Raceway back in the day when I worked there. trainers and some vets were killing horses for insurance money. I owned horses and I NEVER carried any kind of race horse insurance. First of all, I was a do it yourself stable. Did everything. myself. I would not have been able to afford insurance anyway. I think it is so sad that someone who works with a horse everyday would do such a thing. I hope that they find anyone who was involved.
Advance Plumbing More than 1 year ago
They give pills to people for everything, why not horses?? Same stupid concept, drugs kill people everyday, who talks about that ?? We wouldnt have all these positions available for all these wonderful doctors we have today if we didnt allow them to give us drugs ! How many horses r stabled in all of Calif. Does that include Los Al. must be 8000 at least. 20 deaths really people!!
Dee R. Eff More than 1 year ago
You are right. There is a ton of racehorses in Ca. That's what makes this a story. Of all the horses in Ca. to die of sudden cardiac failure last fiscal year. 64% were trained by Baffert.
You Feel Lucky More than 1 year ago
To all the peta lover's, who have no intrest in horseracing, but like to leave idot like comment's.................reply here.
Tee Jay More than 1 year ago
Its not a moral issue dude...there's iives at stake riding on the backs of these animals, or is that not condsidered in your anti-PETA campaign?
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Bo Derek says no spike in deaths. That's it - investigation over.
Frank More than 1 year ago
Baffert no comment???? WTF! you put a camera or microphone on this guy any other time and he never shuts up. The volumes this speak about how much of a cheater of the sport he really is. -- Two faced.
Tee Jay More than 1 year ago
He only trains for the Derby and then hibernates for the year. HOL, SA, OP, FG ,CD and MTH, then its back to shopping around for next year. That's what I like about Baffert, he's not around much in summer and fall....maybe he's just a fashion statement or something....
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
I know one thing, the insurance companies just had to shell out a WHOLE lot money!
Tee Jay More than 1 year ago
A lot of owners just buy race day insurance...if a horse drops dead in its stall, then there's too many factors to consider and investigate before paying out so then the price skyrockets.