Baffert: ‘Nothing lower than the death of a horse’
Trainer Bob Baffert issued the following statement in the wake of the fatal injury suffered by Tweebster, a Grade 2-placed 5-year-old Tapit gelding who fractured his sesamoids while pulling up after a fifth-place finish as the favorite in a $12,500 claiming race at Santa Anita Park on Sunday. Tweebster, owned by Kaleem Shah Inc. and trained by Baffert, finishing fourth while running for a $40,000 claiming price in his prior start in October, the first time the earner of $246,968 carried a claiming tag. Purchased for $300,000 at the 2009 OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training, Tweebster won 3-of-22 starts, with second-place finishes in a pair of Grade 2 events in 2011, the San Fernando and Strub Stakes.
“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.”