California Post-Mortem Program Has Major Flaw

by | 04.16.2013 | 8:28am

One year ago, horsemen in New York were facing a major crisis when state government and racing regulators demanded answers for the sudden increase in equine racing fatalities at Aqueduct racetrack. Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed a task force to study the issue, and their report was the foundation of some significant recommendations that were put in place, not the least of which was medication reform.

One of the reasons the task force was able to examine the problem so thoroughly was cooperation of New York horsemen and veterinarians. Veterinary records for the previous 30 days on the deceased horses were made available to the task force with a simple request by the State Racing and Wagering Board. Those records were an important part of the task force's final recommendations on medication policy changes.

Depending on your point of view, California horse racing has a similar crisis right now. Recent revelations about seven horses from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert dropping dead in less than a year and a half have raised plenty of eyebrows, especially among fellow horsemen and veterinarians.

Fortunately, California has an ongoing post-mortem examination program that began compiling necropsy reports in 1990 on horses that died at California Horse Racing Board enclosures. It is the gold standard for equine post-mortem exam programs in the United States and possibly the world.

The program, conducted by the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, has three primary objectives: determine the nature of injuries in racehorses; determine the reasons for these injuries; and develop injury prevention strategies. Close to 6,000 horses have been examined since the necropsy program began.

But the program has a flaw, and I think it's a major one. There is no requirement that veterinary records of deceased horses be submitted to researchers conducting the post-mortem examinations. Those records are an important component for researchers who are trying to meet the program's objectives.

You would think that owners, trainers and veterinarians would want answers as to why a horse broke down or died suddenly from heart failure, internal bleeding or some other cause. You would think they would do whatever they could to save other horses from suffering a similar fate in the future. And that would include agreeing to a policy that requires veterinary records to be submitted on all horses that died.

If you thought that owners, trainers and veterinarians in California wanted to do that, you would be wrong. Sadly.

For three years now, the CHRB has gone round and round with horsemen and vets on this issue. The CHRB's Medication and Track Safety Committee proposed an amendment back in 2011 that would require six months of veterinary records be submitted on horses that died at California racetracks or licensed training centers.

And they appear no closer today to getting board approval than they were when the proposal – an amendment to CHRB Rule 1846.5, Postmortem Examination – was first made.

“Over strenuous objections from owners, trainers and veterinarians, the board has not moved forward on this proposal,” said Dr. Rick Arthur, the CHRB's equine medical director.

CHRB commissioner Bo Derek has pushed this proposal hard, but the resistance to change has been formidable. Many horsemen and veterinarians believe it's nobody's business. And that, of course, is one of racing's biggest problems: they think it's their game, everyone else be damned.

That may be changing, said Arthur.

“As an aside,” he said in an email, “both IFHA (International Federation of Horseracing Authorities) and groups here in the U.S. have discussed requiring trainers to maintain complete medical histories available for inspection at any time.”

Should California require veterinary records be submitted to researchers investigating horse deaths?

  • Yes (94%, 1,244 Votes)
  • No (6%, 82 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,325

Opposition to the veterinary records amendment to the necropsy program comes, among others, from the Southern California Equine Foundation, representing the veterinary community, and Thoroughbred Owners of California.

At a July 2011 meeting of the CHRB, medical doctor Mark DeDomenico, speaking on behalf of TOC, said the owners organization was against the proposal out of fear that it would lead to a “witch hunt” against certain trainers or owners. He suggested the research be done as a blind study so that no one would be able to identify the horse, trainer, owner, or veterinarian involved. If that were the case, researchers would not be able to determine, for example, that one trainer had seven horses drop dead in a relatively short period of time.

Baffert, who is on the board of the TOC (chaired by his longtime client and friend Mike Pegram), said in a statement made through a public relations firm that he was doing everything he could to determine what may have contributed to the death of the horses in his barn.

“I hope that research by CHRB and its pathologists will discover information helpful to understanding the reasons that I, and many of my colleagues, have had horses suffer this unfortunate fate.”

But is Baffert doing everything possible to help researchers fulfill their mission?

Not quite.

If he really wanted to, Baffert, who wields enormous power in California racing, would convince the TOC, fellow trainers, and racetrack practitioners that the time has come to support the amendment to CHRB Rule 1846.5.

  • sybil

    I’m just not sure any veterinary records that would be submitted would be truthful and accurate.

    • Cgriff

      That’s not enough of a reason not to require them. Something is better than nothing – and vets would risk an enormous amount if they were caught falsifying records. I say 1 year’s worth of vet records and all meds – at minimum. Any trainer or vet who isn’t behind 110 percent transparency on this issue is hiding something – and that goes for you too, Bob Baffert. Being a HOF trainer doesn’t exempt you from the process. Live up to the carefully crafted statements your wife helps you make – do EVERYTHING to find out why your horses keep dying.

    • Judging by the reluctance to turn them over, they might be at least partially accurate.

    • Christopher Clark

      that’s a great possibility.

  • Larry Ensor

    I guess there is something I missing on this issue? Have any or all of the owners, trainers, vets given reasons for not freely opening up records with out being forced to? Just saying it is nobodies business seems a bit absurd. As an owner if asked I would have no reservations releasing all of my vet bills/records going back as long as needed. As a trainer of Steeplechase horses I would feel the same. Am I missing some legal recourse issues that I should be aware of? Or is this just self-serving?

    • I would think any honest person would have no problem with turning over records. It says a lot that people are fighting this so hard.

    • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

      The answer probably lies in the Vet Practice Act that governs the state. Most Practice acts prevent a vet from turning over the vet records of an animal without the written consent of the owner. Technically they are in violation and can be called before the State Board if they do without permission. The exception to this rule usually is in the case of cruelty investigations. I’m not completely up on CA’s Practice Act, so would have to look at it. I think another can of worms in the disclosure aspect is who exactly the true “owner” is in this case. The owner of the horse may be fine with having the records known, but the trainer may not, and claim that he/she is the true “owner” of the horse because it is his/her name on the medical reocrds and bills and not the owners. I would not be surprised if a trainer would take it all the way to court to prevent records from being released if need be.

      • Larry Ensor

        Doc, I understand what you are saying. It is pretty much an understood industry norm that owners pay the vet bills but the vet works for the trainer, farm owner. Because they do hire them. But if an owner approached me about wanting to discuss their horse with the vet I would have no problem. I explain to a new clients the vet, trainer/farm owner relationship. That it would take up a lot of a vets time if they had to talk to every owner on a regular bases. So please just clear it with me first.

        I have owned horses at the track for a number of years and have never been asked to sign a confidential agree nor something that would deign me the right to release/share anything I choose about my horse, training or vet bills/records. If I released to an official request I would like to be given the choice of keeping them private or public. I would not put horses with any trainer that would take issue or legal recourse with me doing so.

        My post was a bit rhetorical.

      • onlythebest

        Bryan, why couldn’t this be made a condition of entry/training at all California sites? A signature required at the time of entry stating you have read the condition and agree to the stipulation. They don’t seem to run from being televised or video taped and that is a condition. If the CHRB wanted to push for it they could get it. Maybe they should publish the list of the owners, trainers and vets that decline the request.

      • RJ


        My trainer has his name on my horses bills??? I guess he pays them as well. I gotta stop paying that damn vet. There is only one true owner of my horses. I bred/bought them. I foaled, weaned them, broke them and retire them to my farm. I pay each and every bill.

        Wow outatouch.

        • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

          I’m glad that you keep such good care of and watch over your horses. Unfortunately, not every owner is that way and if you think that is the way it works in every barn and backside, then you are out of touch. I was merely making a suggestion as to why it can be hard to get a copy of full and complete vet records. A lot of trainers are charged directly by the vet and then pass those charges on to the owner. It all depends on the individual outfit. Not every owner, sadly, is as hands on or invovled in the day to day operations surrounding their horses.

  • Stanley inman

    Thanks ray, keep the heat on
    Shows California doesn’t take horse racing fatalities

    • Stanley inman

      Lov the poll in body of article
      Check out results
      We will take back this sport from horsemen groups
      That are killing us.

    • Stanley inman

      Lov the poll in body of article, ray.
      The disparity between poll results of fans
      beside position of horsemen
      Is proof that horsemen place their self-interest
      Above the horse

  • G. Rarick

    I know I shouldn’t be, but I was surprised to read this: “Groups here in the U.S. have discussed requiring trainers to maintain
    complete medical histories available for inspection at any time.”

    I was shocked because I assumed this would already by a rule of racing, as it is in Europe. As a trainer in France, I’m required to produce the vet file on any horse in the barn anytime France Galop, our governing body, asks for it. But perhaps trainers just wouldn’t possibly be able to do this in America, because of the enormous amount of space the vet file for any given horse over there would take up!

    • Stanley inman

      C’est trop drole!

  • indyone

    Too much conflict of interest in California racing, no?

    • wantfairracing

      i agree. the big boys get away with it all and some of the big girls as well. if it was anyone else they would have taken further action.

  • Pickaname

    Why does Baffert weild enormous power in California racing? That’s what is wrong here, who made him spokesman for all California horsemen? Sadly, too many like him don’t care about horses’ safety first. They proved this in California by rejecting the safest racing surface in the country. Baffert’s voice was the loudest then. Is he outraged that the Santa Anita’s death rate has risen back to tragic levels? We did not hear his voice about these seven deaths for a year and a half, until the media reported it. If he wants to burnish his image as a horseman who cares about horses, he should voluntarialy give his vet records on the dead horses. Why wouldn’t he want to find the causes? Perhaps he already knows.

    • Exactly. Why indeed? Because over the years he has worked hard to make that happen. He had appeared on TV and been entertaining, as opposed to other less entertaining trainers. He has charmed people like Bo Derek, and probably many others. Bob Baffert is no one’s fool. He has no history of caring about horses, He was probably the major force behind Santa Anita going back to dirt – when studies have shown synthetic is safer, and as Pickaname has stated, he made no mention of any concern regarding the 7 dead horses until the information was made public.

      • Please . . . . Do NOT make this about any of several synthetic vs “dirt”, which is not natural or always the same either, surfaces. They are all different, discussed ad nauseam and can be handled with training THIS is much more serious because it screws with horses’ physiology. It needs the spotlight on it and fresh air exposure.

    • Sandra Warren

      Never underestimate the power of a guy who has over 100 horses in training and can be relied upon to have 100 new ones every year. In order to run the game, we have to have entries and they’re not going to get enough from me, who can afford to have one horse in training about every other year. These big guys will also work with the racing secretaries and occasionally enter a horse in a race for which he is qualified just to help a race with only 4 entries go. With the entry box getting slimmer and slimmer, that really means something. It’s just a fact of business that Baffert will get preferential treatment occasionally, as any of us might expect if we were in the same position. It’d be nice if they only used their power for good, but isn’t that expecting too much from humans?

      • Occasionally?

      • Stanley inman

        If the horsemen’s group stood up and said
        No favoritism-
        tracks treat all members the same-and policed it
        There would be no discrimination
        It all starts with horsemen,
        I don’t see pegram schooling Baffert publically before commission.

      • Pickaname

        Baffert depends on all the other trainers and their horses, as Sandra pointed out, nobody can have a race meet without enough horses. How much does Baffert care about the survival of California racing? He has stated that when Hollywood Park closes he will move half his string to Churchill instead of training at Los Al or Pomona. When other trainers are forced to do the same, racing here is sunk. With all of our problems in CA now, all we need are horses dropping dead of heart attacks along side the ones breaking legs off. It appears horsemen here don’t know how to preserve their horses or their racing program. TOC and CTT have come up with no solutions. The minimum they could do is to support the researchers’ efforts to solve this current mystery, unless Baffert and others have something to hide, such as using blood thinners (see “internal hemoraging”) or whatever latest harmful substance they may have been trying out.

    • Gaye Goodwin

      Have you ever noticed how many Grade 1 winners that Baffert trained and are sent to stud are rather disappointing sires? yes, yes, now Midnight Lute seems to be a success early on, but I know some horsemen who now avoid sires that he trained at the sales, because of the belief that their success may not have been actual.

      • Not something I’ve noticed, but certainly an interesting point!

  • Greg Jones

    Thanks Ray for keeping this issue in the spotlight, glad someone in the industry is!

    Baffert convincing the TOC, fellow trainers, and racetrack practitioners to support the amendment to CHRB Rule 1846.5? Now that is a joke, sadly…

  • Tinky

    Good work, Ray. You are enhancing your position as the best investigative journalist covering American racing.

    “You would think that owners, trainers and veterinarians would want answers to why…”

    Actually, no I wouldn’t. Many trainers and vets are complicit in using PEDs, or pushing the envelope with unsound horses, and the very last thing that they would want would be authorities gaining insight into the true histories of their runners.

  • Sadly, Ray, after spending over three decades inside the racing world, I don’t believe that the majority [now there are exceptions] of industry participants really and truly care about the horses. To most, the horse is a tool to make money and if it can’t the common mentality is — get rid of it, stop the expenses, and fill the stall with a money winner. I have witnessed, and my horse was a victim of horrendous drug abuse, of which no one cares to investigate or prosecute. Just look through facebook and each week you will find 100s of racehorses owned by kill buyers, thoroughbreds and standardbreds that rescue groups send out pictures and details with a plea to bail the horse from imminent butchering across the border. Horses that just ran, beautifully bred mares, horses with years of life and joy to give. I supported and promoted racing for over 30 years waiting for big purses in New York. In 2012, the reality of “the game” became apparent. The losers are the innocent horses, racing fans and bettors. I used to think this too — “You would think that owners, trainers and veterinarians would want answers to why a horse broke down or died suddenly from heart failure, internal bleeding or some other cause. You would think they would do whatever they could to save other horses from suffering a similar fate in the future.” I learned first-hand it is exactly the opposite — at least in New York.

    • Joy Aten

      AMEN Susan Kanye!!! After walking the shed rows with the first CANTER program in Michigan for close to 10 years, then continuing to assist and rescue injured and non-competitive racing TB’s from all over the nation to this day, I agree that money is the main objective for the majority of those in the industry. This isn’t “new news”…it’s just becoming more difficult for racing to sweep their indifference of the horses’ welfare under the rug.

    • Roisin

      Sad to say, you are so right. Too many in the business care only about winning, the horse is a disposable commidity…plenty more where they came from. Obviously, they are not true horsemen and they actually abuse the horse.

    • And there is the sad truth.

    • ouy of site out of mind(most owners) ALL Trainers

  • Pickaname

    Owners see all of their horses’ vet bills since they pay them. They may not see something the trainer and vet don’t want them to see, but they see all the basic diagnostics like X-rays and joint injections. They are not blameless when they keep horses with trainers who they know are pushing the health and safety of their horses. We don’t buy their blind eyes when their horses drop dead.

    • Stanley inman

      So true;
      Ray is asking trainer and vets to provide paper trail
      To their own convictions.
      Now who would do that voluntarily?
      We need more “regulation”
      of horsemen and tracks
      They jointly act collusively in their own interests- not the sport or horse
      Racing commission knuckleheads
      Rubber-stamp anything this mafia wants.
      (am I getting carried away, again)

      • Rockbarton

        No, you are not getting carried away.You are getting closer to the rot.We are all aware of Lance B. and the west coast crew,thanks to a brave Ray Paulick. But Racing is being destroyed from within on a national level, by some of the ‘organisations’ to which you refer.

    • Red Rider

      Rat poison is rarely billed.

  • WT

    Usually when someone decides to keep their mouth shut and not be forthcoming with information it’s because they have something to hide.

  • pete

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” a well-known quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, refers to the benefits of openness and transparency.

  • This is the same Bo Derek who read a prepared statement (and not very well) that there was no spike. They believe Baffert is bigger than the game and they will continue to divert attention from him. Having said that the story is inching forward.

  • Great reporting, Ray, keep up the good work.

  • Brickyard

    I think one point that everyone is missing is that 5 of the seven horses that died in Baffert’s barn were apparently owned by Kaleem Shah, and that none of them were stabled at his main barn at Santa Anita. Since Shah is by no means Baffert’s biggest owner, why did 70% of the horses that suddenly died belong to him? Another thought…is the security at Hollywood Park when they are not racing there as good as it is at Santa Anita? Just maybe the fact that Baffert is listed as the trainer is a secondary issue here… Just wondering

    • Greg Jones

      Kaleem Shah is part of the equation that people SHOULD think about.

    • If that’s the case then wouldn’t you think that Baffert would have let him go as a someone he trained for?

    • MA

      I thought the Hollywood Park factor was interesting, too. I think their stable security’s better than Santa Anita’s, though.

    • onlythebest

      Also, Kaleem Shah’s father is a TB trainer in India and he grew up around the business. He immigrated here and started a communications business that is wildly successful doing work for the government. As an owner wouldn’t you wonder why so many accident calls from your trainer? Maybe this is “normal” in India. His statement in an interview was he just tells Bob to buy whatever he wants.

  • i appreciate the transparency of golden gate fields’ stewards minutes as they list horses that i have died or been euth’d, cause, date trainer, etc. ALL CA tracks should be required to do this just so the public can see the trends.

    • nu-fan

      I did not know that about GGF but appreciate your mentioning it. I am a fan of that track. They have a very responsive management team and, even, reply to my email inquiries promptly and with courtesy–and, I am just a fan.

  • Richard C

    Those who really know what happened will hardly be willing to share any information — which may lead to a path that can’t be conveniently swept away with twigs and rocks.

  • wantfairracing

    he threatens to leave CA if they do anything to him so they turn a blind eye. Also other trainers with class 2 violations have nothign done. they all have friends on Board. No justice for the cheaters around or those that don’t love their animals.

    • I have no doubt that is true. And I think it’s an idle threat. Where would he go – NY. I don’t see it – he sure wouldn’t like Belmont, or NY winters. And really, let him leave. I don’t think racing fans would be that upset to see him go.

      • nu-fan

        You’re right about that. There are other younger trainers who are starting to make a name for themselves. I just hope that they are not cut from the same cloth as some of the “other” trainers that might not have the welfare of their horses as first and foremost.

  • Kirk S.

    It is becoming more clear that the trainers and owners on the Southern California circuit wield too much influence over how racing is conducted in California. So much so that even the CHRB has allowed itself to become powerless in regulating the sport.

    A simple example can be found in comparing and contrasting official minutes from the stewards in Northern and Southern California. The following link is for the minutes from Golden Gate for January 27, 2013.

    Go to the veterinarian report for the week and you’ll see four different euthanized/died incidents. One on a farm, two from training (including one possible heart failure) and one from racing. In each case the name of the horse and trainer are listed.

    You will never see such information from any steward reports from Southern California. It’s as if the public records come from two different jurisdictions. Both are legal and public records but in allowing two different reporting standards, the CHRB has allowed the records to be compromised.

    If the weekly reports for Southern California were as complete as their counterparts from Northern California, we would know which horses are dying and under whose care it is happening. We wouldn’t need headlines of “horse death’s spike” to draw attention to the problem. We would know which Baffert, or any other trainer’s horse died and the cause of death.

    The CHRB could take a stance and pass the regulations needed to promote more transparency. They could take a leadership role but it appears they would rather follow the lead of minority of trainers and owners.

    As long as the status quo is maintained, where trainers and owners fight to keep information from the public, the sport will continue to suffer and decline.

    • There are too many conflicts of interest at the CHRB and what’s good for one isn’t good for another when it comes to transparency and integrity. Would O’Neill be treated the same way Baffert is now? Not even close.

      • No kidding.

      • nu-fan

        I’m glad you mentioned D. O’Neill. He’s been on my mind while reading about B.Baffert and his “situation”. It is kind of nice to see the spotlight widen to include other trainers and, perhaps, eventually to all trainers. Wasn’t that long ago that O’Neill was getting bashed. I kept wondering why just him? Now, we are seeing that that spotlight was unfairly too narrowly focused on O’Neill.

    • Very interesting and I certainly agree with you.

    • nu-fan

      As a Northern Californian, this disparity doesn’t surprise me. There is a world of difference between the two regions. And, I started off from the Central Coast so have some objectivity in seeing this. The CHRB? From my one experience with them, I found a reluctance to be transparent. I just wanted to find out about the five horses that died within two weeks on the Del Mar track last summer. Did they answer me? Of course not! By the way, I found that U-T San Diego does a fairly good job of reporting about horseracing. They are the ones who put forth that bit of news; didn’t hide it.

  • those who don’t want to cooperate definitely have something to hide…

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    John Adam’s Famous quote still is the best…”Facts are stubborn things”. If facts come to light…no one can refute them. But if they stay hidden through regulation, rulings, or privilege, then they are forever hidden in the darkness, a subject of only conjecture. Looks like privilege will rule over the sunlight at least for the near term.
    I could be wrong, but I think one thing the NY task force did to get a copy of the records more easily is basically grant everyone invovled immunity, saying no prosecution would come on them from the stewards or anyone else if they handed over the records. I think something like this might grease the wheels of progress in getting the information, but will still probably be opposed because of the person invovled…so that he might not face official sanctions, but would be crucified in the court of public opinion and animal welfare…

  • Gary Woodward

    What am I missing here? In a previous article it was stated that the instant death rate for horses in California is 9% or more. If Baffert trains more than 100 horses at a time ( as I believe he does), why is 7 deaths in a year and a half note worthy?

    • Tinky

      Instant death rate at 9%? No chance. I know trainers who have trained THOUSANDS of horses and have had ZERO such incidents.

      Seven in a period of 18 months is an ASTOUNDINGLY high figure, and cannot be explained via natural causes.

    • 9%??? Nine percent is a hair away from 10% – which would mean 10 out of every hundred horses.

    • RayPaulick

      The 9% statement refers to 9% of Thoroughbred deaths in California. If there were 200 Thoroughbreds who died in racing and training and went through post-mortem examination in an average, about 9%, or 18, were sudden death. The spike in recent years was not in the number of sudden deaths but in horses that died of heart attacks or cardiac related causes.

  • Roisin

    Witch hunt !!! how about the truth . These people should not be able to get away with not releasing the records. Are there state laws governing the release of vet. records ? FL law was how I was able to get the records of a horse I have. At first the vet. refused my request.

  • circusticket

    So should we believe anybody who is against transparency (Baffert, DeDomenico, etc) when they argue to keep using lasix on race day for the “good of the horse”? They have no credibility left.

    • Stanley inman

      Bravo circusticket
      You just skewered the bogus claim
      They hide behind.

  • old horse lover

    Are they not paying attention to what Aphis is doing to other breeds?Taking away all the training aides they cruelly are using and making it a FELONY to sore them anymore.40 years of self policing and it didn’t stop so the Federal Government plans to step in and shut it effectivly shut it done.

  • Kim Heath

    Thanks, Ray, for pushing this issue.
    As an owner, I want to know all details and causes of any sickness, injury, or by all means a death. If I had the assistance of the board to turn to, I would FedEx the vet records. It is ridiculous not to make that effort.
    These horses are our family and I speak for the vast majority of owners. By the looks of the voting, I speak for the vast majority of your readers, also.

  • As anybody is able to read, it is not about horses it is about buisiness. Keeps it shady, seems to be the ” Motto”

  • Noelle

    I still remember being shocked when vet records for I Want Revenge were
    published in the NYT (the records had been produced in a legal proceeding). In
    the weeks between the Wood Memorial and his scratch on Derby day, IWR
    continued “working” while shot up with steroids, painkillers,
    tranquilizers and a host of other things – Instead of giving the horse
    time to recover from whatever he’d done to himself in the Wood, they filled him
    with junk and ruined him.

    The vet who testified in the IWR case
    insisted the types and numbers of drugs shot into that horse were
    “typical” for a top flight colt in training.

    Why should anyone in CA fear a witch hunt – unless they’re doing something wicked.

    • i would imagine they were typical. That’s why top class horses start so few times. I think everyone (almost everyone) who visits this forum knows the truth. Racing is a dirty business. We don’t all want it that way, probably the majority don’t, but we all know it’s true.

  • Sue M. Chapman

    Every Owners’s vet bill should suffice. The vet sells a legal drug to a trainer, who decides how it is administered. Trainer Responsibility.

  • They can’t hide if their vet records are exposed. Vets don’t get big paydays if their clients aren’t paying big bucks for their recomendations and treatments. And TOC is ludicrous in its opinion as long as Mr. Baffert is on the board.. It is all about money on both sides. Veterinarians are playing a HUGE part in this mess; it is disgraceful. If there wasn’t any Witches to hunt it wouldn’t be a problem for them would it….but

  • Indulto

    With apologies to Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector:

    Goin’ to the Derby
    And we’re gonna get bu-u-uried
    Goin’ to the Derby
    And we’re gonna get ha-a-arried
    Gee, The press is gonna diss us
    Not a chance they’re gonna miss us
    Goin’ to the Derby of points.

    Bells will ring, the-e-e sun will shine, whoa-oh-oh
    But not for seven horses of mine
    Their sudden deaths aren’t called a crime
    So I’ll stay a TOC director until that time

    … and now I’m

    Goin’ to the Derby
    And we’re gonna get interviewed
    Goin’ to the Derby
    And we’re gonna get boo-oo-oo-ooed
    Gee, the media’s gonna bash us
    And the Times is gonna trash us
    Goin’ to the Derby of points.

    Spring is here, the-e-e sky is blue, whoa-oh-oh
    Bo Peep spoke as if she knew
    Why horses die, the way they do
    And the CHRB still has no clue

    … and so we’re

    Goin’ to the Derby
    Where everyone will have a question
    Goin’ to the Derby
    Expecting plenty of indigestion
    Gee, the Toddster’s gonna’ crush us
    While the reporters flush us
    Goin’ to the Derby of points.

    * * * * *
    Hollywood Park soon will close, whoa-oh-oh
    Where they’ll put horses, nobody knows
    TOC plans to race where no-one goes
    Lack of leadership in California racing really shows

    … but I’m still

    Goin’ to the Derby
    With my fellow TOC director
    Goin’ to the Derby
    Which has different med detectors
    Hope my training superiority
    Transcends increased security
    Goin’ to the Derby of points.

    * * * * *
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
    Goin’ to the Derby of

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
    Goin’ to

  • Thank you Ray for continuing this investigation and reporting same. This is exactly what is needed if thoroughbred racing is to return to health and continue in this country. My hope is that this will give courage to the owners, trainers, veterinarians that care about the horse as well as the sport, to encourage the light to be shone on the many questionable practices existing. It is obvious that TOC and SCEF are huge blocks in the discovery by science for the healthy equine treatment no matter their protests to the opposite. members of these groups should speak out if they disagree with the public stance taken. Medications should be used in connection with the proper physical treatment, not as a way to ignore injury.

    The public; fans, handicappers and players as well as all connections including media can help by backing and publicizing those that always consider the horse with proper rest, healing time and training methods that match the horse. We know who these are but, sad to say, we only “tout” them when they have spectacular horses while giving attention to the numbers of horses in questionable barns and cheering winners with questionable practices.

    I would again caution those that will ask for more governmental control, to remember: CHRB IS governmental control and we have been made aware of how differently things are handled between northern and southern California.So this leads me to ask, “Just who is in charge here?”

  • chartfarm

    It is unacceptable that veterinary records are not made available during a necropsy. An honest vet, trainer,or owner would have no problems with that. The only reason to hide this information is if dishonest, damaging,or illegal decisions are being made that place the horse in danger. What conclusion would an intelligent person come to when they were told that seven horses under the care of one trainer, dropped dead in a year and a half. This business of withholding names has got to stop. Name them all. Vets, trainers, owners, horses. Maybe then we can get some answers..

  • JR

    Status quo for this industry. Big owners dumping horses they no longer want, not spending one dollar to pay for the horses retirement. Big trainers doping horses. Vets giving pre race Bute to sore horses. Stallion owners on the boards. Movie stars on the racing boards. EPO, steroids, snake venom, rat poison. Haven’t we been talking about this for way too many years.

    Anyone ever wonder why racing is on a decline. Not the owners and trainers that will squeeze every last drop out of this sport for their own profit.

    Baffert and O’Neill have the pharmacologists the small trainers don’t have. When caught they threaten the already short fields with leaving the state. They take their 30 days after the big meets.

    My horse used the same muscle builder Baffert endorses and 3 weeks later could not walk as she was tied up for months. I have to wonder what is in that product.

    Nothing will change this industry as long as the sport is based on gambling and winning at any cost without regard for the beautiful animals that try their hearts out for our enjoyment.

    • There are ways to change it, by being creative, but as long as people care more about money and power than true sport and the horses it won’t happen. So you are right. Sadly.

  • ray’sghost

    And let’s be clear–this is CRIMNAL behavior under a variety of state and federal laws. Race fixing is a FELONY and I would love to see these mobsters DO TIME in a federal pen.

    • EXACTLY. So why aren’t the Feds involved?

      • Red Rider

        The politicians and bureaucrats in D.C. are exhausted from their notable accomplishments in other areas.

  • Dantana

    Interesting that all Northern California Stewards minutes list the following on all euthanized
    horses: date, name of horse, trainer, type of injury, type of surface.
    Southern California Stewards only list number of euthanized horses on report.
    There should be investigations on single barn spikes of horses with “sudden death” as well as
    broken bones.

    • I agree. Death is not the only thing that should be tracked. Training injuries tell more than racing injuries.

  • john destefano

    This speaks volumes as to “actions speaking louder then words”.

  • MightveBen

    I have been an owner in CA. Even if I agreed to release vet records I doubt that many vets or trainers would cooperate. Without specific laws requiring them to do so, nothing will happen and the CHRB will hinder, rather than help.

    We will no longer race in the Golden State. If we had a “win and you’re in” we would still not go to SA ever again.

  • Larry Ensor

    I can understand the “Witch Hunt” defense. No disrespect to the PR or other blogs and forums nor the majority of the people that post comments but some topics sure do look and feel like a Witch Hunt. Having grown up in and have made my living in the business I know how things work behind the “gate” at the track and behind the barn at farms. That being said if I were an owner or trainer in CA I would have no problem with Rule 1846.5. Perhaps they should just make it voluntary for now and publish the names of owners, trainers, vets that sign on and the names of those that don’t.

    • ray’sghost

      That you care about the atmosphere of a supposed “witch hunt” more than you do about the DOCUMENTED spiral of heart attacks, drug abuse, handle decline, and obvious incompetence and corruption in regulators is appalling. Really? That’s your biggest concern, a witch hunt that has not produced an iota of meaningful change?

      • Larry Ensor

        I don’t believe that is what I said at all. Considering you took my comment out of context just reinforces what I did say.

  • swiss305

    Everyone on this board who is appalled at the state of things in racing, take time to write to the CHRB demanding change. They apparently need to be reminded once again that there is no racing at all without public support and that, especially in a liberal, animal-sensitive state such as California, the very existence of racing is nearly hanging by a thread. If the public is made aware of glaring, systemic, unregulated abuse of horses and PETA gets onboard, I foresee pressure that shuts the whole thing down. I wrote to CHRB a few years ago about a day in which four horses were euthanized or vanned off at Santa Anita and I received an immediate response and haven’t witnessed a day like that since. They need to hear from all of us in clear, unsanitized language.

    • Maybe they are hearing. After Ray’s tweet about the CHRB ad on Craigslist, which I initially thought was a joke, I checked it out and it is real. That says something. Or I hope it does.

    • Indulto

      Such communications might be more effective if sent to the Governor’s office.

  • Roisin

    Several months ago there were necropsies ordered on 2 horses in NY. One was trained by Linda Rice and I don’t remember the other trainer. Were the vet. records released on those horses ? Plus, to date, I have not seen any report on the findings.

  • Lou Baranello, Former Steward

    The over all values held today by many trainers and owners are the result of a cultural influence which has been on a downhill slide for too many years. Racing’s regulators are not exempt from this force. Many of them also feel the effects of the political system on their appointments. Having a governor appoint racing commissioners, who in turn appoint and approve stewards, does not make for a fair and reasonable atmosphere surrounding many important decisions.

  • Gallop

    Wouldn’t the more effective way to address this be to get vet record requirements in the NTRA Safety Alliance post mortem section? Same goes for the detention barn requirements. Maybe an appendix that has the aspirational, best in class examples for each area. Then over the years, you ratchet it up and best in class slowly becomes the requirement. (maybe faster for hot button issues) You get the graded stakes guys to make accreditation a requirement, etc. Anyway, I have a hard time believing that internet outrage will move these issues and even if they do, the rage will be diminished on the next issue, and then the next. If there’s a roadmap for reform then all efforts can be pushed in the same direction. The RCI, Safety Alliance and RMTC stuff seems to be good enough to get traction. If the documents are allowed to get watered down to the lowest common denominator, then of course it’s useless, but I say use the tools we have. Some have already been shown to be somewhat effective.
    Just my 2 cents.

    • Larry Ensor

      “Anyway, I have a hard time believing that internet outrage will move these issues and even if they do, the rage will be diminished on the next issue, and then the next”.

      Sadly the “names” of the industry still dismiss the power of social media. Shouldn’t be surprising consider how long it took for the majority of the industry to even understand the value let alone “power” of websites. In 2005 not that many years ago the Bloodhorse’s industry guide The Source was 1 ½ inches thick a few years before 3. Now it is gone. It should have been a dinosaur in 2005.

      The “old guard” seem to cling to the old mentality of no comment and it will go away. They said the same about Rock N Roll. Sadly at 57 I guess I am of age to be of old guard membership. But Mick Jagger’s got 10+ years on me and he’s still singing I can’t get no satisfaction. Mr. Paulick spent the majority of his career working within the confines of the “establishment” trades and has touched on from time to time what that was/is about. When he started the PR most likely with his credit card I would like to think he knew full well that it was a risky proposition. I can tell you as a former resident of Lexington and life long resident “fly on the all” the “names” dismissed it. What did they say about Rock N Roll? Well, looking at the names of the PR’s advertisers now… Most of which I have known for years and I am disappointed they can’t be bothered to chime in. Other then Barry Irwin and John Greathouse. Come on guys and gals stand up and be counted. For the greater good and the generation that works for you and hope to make a life with horses as we have.

  • Like I’ve said before PR reports Horse Racing issues others in the industry won’t touch!!!…Change is coming to “The Game” sooner than later thanks in part to this site and the Good People that frequent it…ty…

  • Those Cowboys out West have been know to shot their self in the foot…”The Sheriff” has left town and is headed to NY and that tickles the hell out me…What does that tell you about that crowd???…ty…

    • If you consider what John Shirreffs is giving up – leaving his life in Southern California, which is warm all year, sunny, and really pleasant – to go to New York which is so different and not nearly as nice. That speaks volumes about what is going on unchecked. I lived in MA until I was 40 – and have been to NY more than once, and I did consulting work in Santa Ana, CA. There is no comparison.

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