12/31/2012 4:44PM

Santa Anita: A distressed Baffert speaks out on Tweebster

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Tweebster, shown in the paddock in the fall, broke down and was euthanized Sunday after being dropped in class.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Tweebster, a past stakes-class runner, was euthanized because of his injuries suffered when racing for a $12,500 claiming price Sunday at Santa Anita, and on Monday, his trainer, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, took the unusual step of issuing a statement through Santa Anita about the horse, the result, he said, of an outcry in social media.

Tweebster in 2011 was third in the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap, and in 2012 he was fourth in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap. As recently as September, he competed in a stakes race at Fairplex. But he was risked for a $40,000 claiming price at Santa Anita on Oct. 26, then did not race again until Sunday, when he ran for $12,500. He finished fifth of nine in a sprint, but was pulled up shortly following the race and was removed via ambulance.

According to Santa Anita’s stewards, Tweebster suffered fractures to both sesamoids in his left front leg, which led to him being euthanized.

“There is nothing lower than the death of a horse,” Baffert’s statement read. “When the public’s perception is that you are somehow responsible it makes the pain all the greater. Not only am I distressed over the death of this tough, gallant horse, I am deeply troubled by the comments on social media,” which, he said suggest “the horse was unsound and I was merely trying to get rid of him.”

According to Baffert, the significant class drop Sunday was “not based on a lack of soundness, but rather a lack of races available for him at higher claiming prices.”

“Tweebster was healthy and happy,” Baffert said. “I felt he was in need of a confidence booster and thought this would be an easy spot for him to get it. I understand a severe drop in class can indicate a horse is unsound, but I assure you that was not the case with Tweebster.”

Baffert pointed out that Tweebster, like all horses scheduled to compete, was examined by the state veterinarian the morning of the race and judged fit to run. In addition, veterinarians watch horses during the post parade for any signs of distress.

Baffert said jockey Martin Garcia felt Tweebster take a bad step after the race.

“We brought him back to the barn in hopes of saving him, but knew quickly that wasn’t going to be the case,” Baffert said.

“While I realize some people are going to think what they want, I want to express my feelings and deepest regret over the loss of a horse for whom I had a great deal of affection,” Baffert said.

Tweebster, a gelding who would have been 6 on Jan. 1, was owned by Kaleem Shah. He won 3 times in 22 starts and earned just shy of $250,000.

Statement from Bob Baffert regarding Tweebster

We all know racing is a sport of extreme highs and lows, and there is nothing lower than the death of a horse. When the public's perception is that you are somehow responsible it makes the pain all the greater. Not only am I distressed over the death of this tough, gallant horse, I am deeply troubled by the comments on social media.  They insinuate Tweebster's death was a result of my dropping him down for a $12,500 claiming tag, suggesting the horse was unsound and I was merely trying to get rid of him.

I respect and fully appreciate the sensitivity regarding the well being of animals, so I feel I owe it to everyone to explain the events that led to Tweebster's injury and subsequent death.

As is required, Tweebster was thoroughly examined by the state veterinarian yesterday morning and found to be perfectly sound going into the race.  The decision to run him in this particular race was not based on a lack of soundness, but rather a lack of races available for him at higher claiming prices. Tweebster was healthy and happy.  I felt he was in need of a confidence booster and thought this would be an easy spot for him to get it. I understand a severe drop in class can indicate a horse is unsound, but I assure you that was not the case with Tweebster.  Just before the race, heavy rain and hail poured down, making the track  more muddy and heavier.  The horse was moving great and his jockey says he felt comfortable throughout the race.  It wasn't until after the finish that Martin felt him take a bad step.  We brought him back to the barn in hopes of saving him, but knew quickly that wasn't going to be the case.

I have run horses at lower levels in the past and seen them regain their old form by getting their confidence back.  Sometimes I have had the horses claimed from me in the process and they have gone on to win stakes and allowance races for other owners and trainers.  I realize that is part of the claiming game.

The death of any horse on the racetrack is hard to accept.  When that horse is one who you saw and took care of everyday, the pain is physically gut wrenching .  While I realize some people are going to think what they want, I want to express my feelings and deepest regret over the loss of a horse for whom I had a great deal of affection.

chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
For everyone's information, Tweebster's PP's can be found at horseracingnation.com
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Oh boy, this is going to get better... or the naysayers are going to get louder! PAYNTER IS COMING BACK TO BAFFERT!!! An ultimate vote of confidence by an owner who puts his money where his mouth is for OUR enjoyment! :-))
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Stop stirring up trouble. This sport is on life support as it is. One wrong move with Paynter and PETA going to have a field day. Sad enough about TWEEBSTER...whatever happened. Sure CHRB and insurance investigators will sort it out.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Relax Thomas! I'm a huge Baffert fan but I can't appear to be overly emotional in my support so I defer (ever so slightly) to the naysayers and outright haters because... I admit that there are some "knowledgeable" horsemen and fans among Baffert haters. :-))
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
As you may remember. I WAS one of the naysayers about PAYNTER. Until I took a step back and realized sour grain fermenting in the intestinal tract could cause an overload of bacteria in the cecum. The varying stories were what raised my eyebrows a little. But the conclusion made sense so I apologized. I just pray his system can handle the stresses of racing. But as you say, here we go again.
russell More than 1 year ago
Gerard you make some decent points and I have been a racing fan for over 35 years. However, Calidoscopio was a 9 year-old horse that won the BC Marathon. The Argentine import only had 29 starts prior to this race. Obviously he must have had his share of injuries but his connections were patient and never gave up on the horse. Also, many of the horses that win the best hurdle races in England are over 10 years old. They don't give up or dump their horses. In this country the sad fact is that almost all trainers do look to dump a horse with infirmaties. And that is wrong. If you are the owner or trainer of a horse that's going bad he's YOUR responsibilty. Man up and deal with it.
ALEJANDRO ANZA More than 1 year ago
he is 8 year old because he born in south america.
Gerard Doise More than 1 year ago
Many of the people who have posted negative comments here, do not seem to have that great a knowledge of the world of horse racing. Sadly it is very brutal to the horses. Geldings and mares in particular in the claiming ranks. Anyone who bets smaller tracks or even the Claiming Crown races knows what I am saying. There are many horses in the Claiming Crown races with millions earned or hundreds of thousands earned that are entered. One example that stood out to me this year was an entry that was a 9 year old gelding. He was purchased for 250K, had run in graded stakes within the last year along with some 8K and even 4K claiming races and open stakes. He had not worked in 4 months. He finished a hard fought second. Breakdowns happen in the walking ring, paddock and I have seen them happen in the walk over even. I feel those who are getting after Baffert should start getting after Pletcher, Dutrow, Hollendorfer, Graham and pretty much any trainer in the industry. That being said, just get to the point and start protesting every race track, training track and breeding operation in the world to stop horse racing. Stop reading the racing form and betting your hard earned money on such a corrupt form of gambling. I know its time for me to stop reading posts on DRF or any form of social media with all of the fanatics without no life posting slanderous comments.
JimmyQVegas More than 1 year ago
I'll put my racing knowlege up against your anyday. You showed your ignorance comparing a 9 year old claiming crown runner to a 5 year old gelding graded stakes runner on a year ago, being put in for 12.5. Those that say the horse clearly passed the vet test well i'm sure he did walk by them fine since the pain medication had probably already kicked in. No different than you waking up with a sore back and popping some aleve and it loosens up. This does nothing but mask the pain and make you think you're better but you better be careful not to overexert yourself. Same thing with a horse but he doesnt know when to not push it any further, its in his DNA to run. So he thought he was happy and healthy but clearly his front legs werent. Notice it says slow start, it takes a little longer for a sore horse or person to get going and if he did take a bad step it was due to him overcompensating b/c he was sore.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Every claimed horse goes to test barn. Do you think Baffert would load a horse up to pass a vet exam in order to lose him...only to have the claim void due to an overage. You're allowed small doses, not enough to mask lameness. Unless the vets turned a blind eye, TWEEBSTER WASN'T LAME. maybe soured from running over his head his whole life.
JimmyQVegas More than 1 year ago
plenty of undetectable stuff these days. Best trainers have the most money and can afford the premium stuff. As of 2010 he had the 3rd highest violations per starter. One violation per every 465 starts. Only Ness and Dutrow rated worse than him. So he goes from one of the highest violaters to squeeky clean?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Claims are not voided due to an "overage", and contrary to your beliefs, there has been plenty of discussion by regulatory veterinarians about decreasing allowable post-race Bute levels because it mars pre-race examination findings. Furthermore, your statement specifically about the soundness of Tweebster is fairly ignorant unless you are a hotwalker for Bob Baffert or a rail bird who watched the horse train on a regular basis.
russell More than 1 year ago
Good morning Bob, you made the NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/01/sports/questions-for-baffert-after-tweebster-is-euthanized.html?_r=0
Robin Cardoza More than 1 year ago
Wow, the NY Times. The liberal garbage newspaper of America. If you haven't noticed the paper trashes all use of horses not just racing. They'd love to ban all horse use. Sound like a bunch of PETA fools to me!
ALEJANDRO ANZA More than 1 year ago
Maybe i'm wrong but i can't find a few very interesting comments posted yesterday,one from a very upset lady,a former Baffert client (Jennifer Mccabe) and the other one, a reply from, i think ,a person from Mr and Mrs West stable calling her comments stupid in a bad manner. Again,maybe i'm wrong but i found this curious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You are correct, they were deleted along with some comments I had made
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Dutrow, Jacobson, Ness,Ward, and most of the nations claiming trainers do this weekly. Without conscience or apology. Not always death resulting thank God. Baffert addressed an issue that has been under scrutiny and gets slammed. Do you folks truelly believe what you write or are you all that sour minded. They could have worked him in a.m. and collected insurance if this was inevitable. Less public, same result financially. They chose to help a horse regain his confidence and it went sideways. Do you all think they jogged a different grey horse for the state vets with the intentions of decieving everyone. Risking their licenses and reputations. And told Garcia to take him back and circle so he wouldn't risk death? Get a grip. Go get saved or something. Stop gambling and whining when you lose. Look in the mirror. If TWEEBSTER were lame, the state vets are just as responsible for his death for not doing their jobs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thomas, good point but Bob, came out and told a blatant lie in his statement. And I think we need to call him out on that.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
You are referring to the "lack of races at higher claiming levels" I assume.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading the comments - both positive and negative. One thing is for sure, you can ALWAYS tell when a successful trainer is under fire. The commenters come out in droves armed with pitchforks! LOL
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hope Bob, will lose clients because of this horrible even that should not of happened. Tweebster, could have lived another 2 decades as a great horse, even could of worked as a pony horse. From what I have heard Tweebster, was a kind and gentle and smart horse. R.I.P. Big Grey........ I will never forget you and I will never forgot what BOB did to you on 12/30/12
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
I do hope you get a life in 2013, though. Or at least enjoy your 12th birthday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barbara, go back to ironing Bob's Underwear for him k? We all know who sign's your check. Too Bad Tweebster, can't have the last word. Since he is dead...
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
All hope has been lost.
Sandra Swan More than 1 year ago
I'm all for "being positive" but a horse lost his life. I am not a "Baffert Basher". I just think that this situation had red flags waving all over the place. There was a lot of speculation about why a horse like Tweebster as taking such a plunge with only two short works and why no one claimed him. The inevitable answer to all the questions ACTUALLY HAPPENED and now Tweebster is DEAD. Yes, accident happen and this was an ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN. Go find something positive about that.
Richard Duggan More than 1 year ago
Baffert may have only posted two works, but all racehorses "work" almost everyday. Maybe not a timed work, but they do work daily. They need to build stamina. Just like human milers, run almost everyday, so do racehorses.