CHRB: No Spike in Sudden Equine Deaths

by | 04.11.2013 | 5:26pm
Bo Derek

The California Horse Racing Board said the number of non-musculoskeletal sudden deaths of horses in racing and training at California racetracks has not spiked, contrary to an article published in the Paulick Report Wednesday.

Dr. Rick Arthur, the CHRB's equine medical director, said the number has been relatively constant over the last three years: 20 sudden death in fiscal year 2010-11; 19 in 2011-12; and 17 to date for 2012-13 (the fiscal year ends June 30).

Furthermore, Arthur said sudden deaths “are not rare. In a 1994 scientific paper on the CHRB necropsy program (Johnson et al, EVJ 26:327-330 1994) put the sudden death rate at 9%. The sudden death fatality rate over the last few years is roughly the same after several years of lower rates.  An international multi-center jurisdictional study (Lyle et al., EVJ 43:324-331 2011) had the proportion of sudden death fatalities varying from 3.5%-19% in the jurisdictions reporting.”

Paulick Report used statistics from a report prepared by the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System for a February meeting of the CHRB Medication and Track Safety Committee. Those statistics  – four deaths in 2008-09 and six in 2010-11 – were for cardiac failure and did not represent the total number of sudden deaths as we reported.

A February CHRB report did point out an increase in cardiac failure sudden deaths: 11 in 2011-12, up from four in 2008-09 and six in 2010-11. The number of cardiac failure sudden deaths for the current fiscal year is not available.

CHRB commissioner Bo Derek repeated that information at Thursday's board meeting, stating twice: “The number of sudden deaths has not spiked in California.”

Derek also said, “No trainer or trainers have been mentioned in our discussions.”

Paulick Report, and New York Times have reported that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert had seven horses suffer non-musculoskeletal sudden deaths while racing or training in Southern California over the past 18 months. That number is verified through mandated necropsy reports obtained through a public records request by the Paulick Report. Four of the Baffert sudden deaths were during the 2011-12 fiscal year and three during the current 2012-13 fiscal year. They do not include any horses euthanized after suffering catastrophic injuries.

Cause of death for four of the seven Baffert horses was some type of heart or cardiac failure. One was pulmonary edema, one was from equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, and the final one was from a massive abdominal/thoracic cavity hemorrhage.

The latter horse was found in toxicology testing to have trace amounts of diphacinone, an anticoagulant used in rodenticide, or rat poison.

The CHRB said one other horse had trace amounts of a rodenticide. That horse, based on Equibase charts and comments in a necropsy report obtained by the Paulick Report, was the 7-year-old gelding Truism, who collapsed in midstretch of a race at Santa Anita Park on March 2, 2013. Truism was trained by Mike Mitchell.

According to the CHRB necropsy report, Truism also suffered a severe internal hemorrhage, including hemoabdomen, hemothorax, and mesenteric.

The rodenticide detected in the liver of Truism was brodifacoum (also an anticoagulant). “Because of the small amounts detected, the exact amount could not be detected,” the necropsy report states. “It is usually assumed that if an anticoagulant rodenticide is detected on a post-mortem specimen (as in this case), it needs to be associated with an apparent coagulopathy for which no other cause is found, in order to be  considered significant. In this case, there was hemorrhage of no other apparent cause, and a coagulopathy is suspected, although not confirmed. These findings are therefore strongly suggestive, but not conclusive of brodifacoum intoxication.”

The CHRB said the rodenticides discovered in trace amounts of the two horses were not the type used for pest control at the Southern California racetracks where the horses died.

  • Billy the Kid

    If the CHRB is anything like the New Mexico Racing Commission you can’t believe anything they tell you. Usually powerful trainers, owners and track owners are closely affiliated with the board and have a huge hand in every decision good or bad.

    • That crowd (CHRB) jumped on this report in a Flash… Why can’t they jump that fast on Cheaters/Race Fixers…Bo Hoo???…She’s just another face in the crowd…Period…

      • Roisin

        The relationships at most of tracks and the commissions are incestuous and therefore there will never be full and unbiased investigations. We will never know the truth. What a shame. One more reason for a national commission

        • If the Fed put a Ban on Interstate Wagering because of Cheating/Fixing of Races not to mention the Animal Abuse “The Game” could not function…Don’t think for a NY second that the FBI/DEA don’t have a bead on IT…”The Game” better clean its act up real QUICK…I believe they are in the process of doing just that…I damn sure hope so…

  • Matt

    Cicle them thar wagons!

  • Jay

    “The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.”

  • Knowitall

    “And Bob’s Lawyer looks like he just dropped in at the quarter pole….! Oh, oh, The Lawmakers has gone terribly wrong at the 1/8 pole, the and all others are nowhere to be found…”

    • kyle

      They’d have to sprout ethics……

  • Richard C

    It’s like the classic album cover art to the 1975 Supertramp album — “Crisis? What Crisis?”.

  • jttf

    are any of these owners going to switch trainers ?

    • Owners may be more of the problem since they hold the purse strings and may be even less aware of the horse and its limitations.

      • Red Rider

        Huh? What areas do you consider yourself to be an expert in unawareness?

        • Sorry Charles, Arthur, Red Rider or whoever ~ I was try to be brief. Since the owner pays the bills and may be after the spotlight, then they may insist that the trainer employ unsafe methods to enhance the horse’s performance and then a mistake is made. Obviously this is more likely with smaller outfits. The knowledge of the owners is not often a matter of public knowledge but it is assumed that a trainer knows what they are doing.

          • circusticket

            “Obviously this is more likely with smaller outfits.” Why? Don’t you think that obviously, the bigger outfits have the money to pay for bigger vet bills?

          • Smaller outfits would have a narrower list of clients and then could be at the mercy of the owner’s orders ($$s). Though, I would hope that trainers make clear the ethic of their training programs before accepting clients.

    • Red Rider

      No, but several horses have decided to do so before they lose their health insurance.

      • Carol Kaye


  • RIGHT. I think Jay down there said it right…”the lady doth protest to, me thinks” too. What a crock; and I sure hope that this is not swept under the rug for the sake of the horses.

  • Wow…guess that’s just business as usual on CA tracks?!?!?!

  • Lexington 3

    2010-11: 20
    2011-12: 19
    2012-13 (the fiscal year ends June 30): 17

    So who broke this amazing story?

    • Well gee . . . Isn’t the number rather high for all three years? My take on the whole story is that there is a curious fact of heart related deaths within those numbers which is quite unusual and that a disproportionate number is from one “barn.” HUMMmmmm . . . Could it also be that the “numbers” and the CHRB membership, employees, interest, actions or lack thereof and investigations over the years would make for interesting reading? Great topic for investigative reporting!

  • Greg Jones

    Status quo, business as usual people, healthy young horses dropping dead, nothing out of the ordinary here, what a sad and complete joke! Amazing what a few phone calls can accomplish less then 24 hours after the “golden boy” of horse racing was all over the news for the deaths of horses under his care. And people wonder why this once great sport is becoming less and less relevant?
    Finally, Bo Derek, thought you actually gave a s__t about these horses? Sad…

    • Greg Jones

      This was swept under the rug alot quicker then I thought it would be, how sad and pathetic!

      • upstarthere

        Oh it’s going under the rug just like Cibelli.
        Golden boy in the Golden State with the Golden apologists. I don’t like it when it’s all hauled to NY for the Belmont.

        Still waiting for the report on Tweebster Bo. Could you get on that for us?
        Also regarding today’s NYT article, (coming from 5 generations of trainers who have never had this happen to one of our horses), Gary Contessa was quoted as saying “maybe one in 38 years training in NY”. [Backing up Tinky’s comment…7 in one barn ??!!]
        Oh, also Bo, your Cali man Dr. Uzal is quoted in that same NYT article as saying “researchers are stymied in their search for answers because of the lack of information [oh I don’t know…drugs??…my comment] from trainers and their vets.”
        Ray would never misrepresent the facts.

  • Hey CHRB ~ Listen UP!!! When you mix apples, oranges you get fruit salad. Add a few nuts and it is Waldorf salad! I don’t believe Paulick reported anything other than the correct numbers. What he MAY have pulled out of the numbers is the different causes involved in those deaths and have added a name or two. B U T ~ WAS he wrong?????? How about addressing the issue apples to apples and oranges to oranges . . . leave the nuts out.

  • Tinky

    Nothing changes the fact that seven in 18 months IN ONE BARN is shocking, and far from normal.

    • Lexington3

      Hey Tinky,

      You realize that this means that the numbers for all other trainers are actually DOWN, right?

      So, you guys can keep speculating about this one trainer since I guess that is the whole story now. What is your speculation about him, Tinky?

      • Tinky

        My speculation is that he and his vets have been “pushing the envelope”, as they have in the past, and whatever they were using has had unintended consequences.

        Your first point is ridiculous. I’ve been around very large stables over many years, and ONE death of this kind would be notable over an 18 month span, let alone SEVEN.

        • Lexington 3

          Hey Tinky, the first point is that if the TOTAL numbers are constant over the last 3 years (20, 19, 17), and one trainer is responsible for a disproportionate number this year that means that for EVERYONE ELSE (all other trainers) the numbers are actually DOWN. (Unless this same trainer was also responsible for the same disproportionate percentage in the prior two years, as well.)


          BTW- I agree with you on your last sentence.

        • Carol Kaye

          I absolutely agree. Seven instantaneous deaths in a relatively short time period is not normal. If I were the trainer having to deal with that statistic I would be scared to get up in the morning, worrying about which horse would drop dead on me.

  • Martha Winsten

    The mentioning of the rodenticide found in Truism once again brings to mind the article I just read in the Associated Humane Societies (New Jersey) newsletter regarding the rodenticde that is on the market for which there is no antidote. Apparently it is hard to identify in critically ill pets. Sounds awful and worth looking into. It shouldn’t be on the market.

  • Roisin

    This one more reason why there needs o be a national commission. This will be covered up. Outrageous !!

    • I maintain that a national INDUSTRY driven commission would be great but NOT a Federal government entity. Never forget that all these states have government divisions that are involved in the slowness of change. The Feds are NO better and may even be worse. The fastest clean up and change for the good will come internally from GOOD & CARING people.

      • Lou Baranello, Former Steward

        Ann, I believe your posted comment in its entirety. Moving the regulation of the industry from politically appointed people to GOOD & Caring people would be a panacea for for all concerned, but the politicians will not give up the power and money for any reason short of masses of people marching in the streets. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the stakeholders in this business are capable of presenting such a united front for this cause or any other. It would be great to hear a sensible plan, from someone smarter than I am, on how to accomplish this goal.

      • Roisin

        ,Yes,I agree, but the “clean up” needs to be on a national level. Horses, trainers etc cross state lines all the time and that is another reason for uniformity through a national commission. This so called “investigation ” in CA will go nowhere, just like in Tampa.

        Also, as far as I see the age of good investigative reporting is about dead.

  • There are a LOT of pants on fire in California Horse Racing. But then again, we no longer live in a country or society where the truth matters.

  • Gary Woodward

    Hay CHRB knock it off with the facts. We have our opinions carved in stone and ain’t you or anybody going to change em.

  • Terry Dunlavy

    Was interested in horses of Bafferts that died from rat poisen,and is this correct.

    • caroline


  • Scott Ramsay

    All this in California reminds me of SHIP OF FOOLS.

    A boat without a captain, populated by people who are deranged, frivolous, oblivious to the truth, and without even a destination.

    Listening to the internet of their latest meeting today, Bo Derek sounded like she was going to insist on repeating what she said yesterday at the first meeting, even though there’s now new information available, discovered not by her and not by the Equine Medical Director (and he must be a man in denial from the sounds of it), but by trainers, and by people who looked at the actual necropsy reports and data independently.

    In other words, information put forward by people who know what they’re talking about, as opposed to Ms. Derek.

    I’ve been around horses all my life. Anyone who has been knows, and the trainers who are quoted know, that sudden death from unknown causes or “heart attacks” is just extremely rare, and a cluster of these in one training barn in a relatively short period of time should raise every conceivable alarm for people who love horses. Bo Derek is supposed to be one of those people.

    Of course nobody would intentionally cause this. That’s the whole point. The people in charge of those horses were NOT expecting this outcome, from whatever feeding, training, medication, or other practices, are in place in that barn!

    To those poor thoughtless people who quote the general numbers and then say “there was no spike” in unexplained sudden deaths, just look at it this way: if you subtract all those horses in that one barn from the total number, then what would the number for the year have been?? Way, way lower than it is now.

    But whether there was a formal statistical spike or not is absolutely NOT the issue. The issue is that something has been going on in that one barn, and whatever it is, is not right. For the authorities apparently to turn a blind eye to it is a travesty.

    • upstarthere

      “Of course nobody would intentionally cause this.” How many deaths does it take before you change the way things are done in your barn?

    • Lexington 3

      “To those poor thoughtless people who quote the general numbers and then say “there was no spike” in unexplained sudden deaths, just look at it this way: if you subtract all those horses in that one barn from the total number, then what would the number for the year have been?? Way, way lower than it is now.”

      You just explained to yourself why there was no spike. Read what you wrote.

      2010-11: 20
      2011-12: 19
      2012-13 (the fiscal year ends June 30): 17

      Where is the spike? You realize that 17 is less than 19 or 20, right?

      “But whether there was a formal statistical spike or not is absolutely NOT the issue.”

      But it WAS the headline at this site. And it is not true. The headline was misleading.

      Now… the issue of B’s barn. That is a separate question. No doubt there are some serious questions to be asked there. Absolutely.

      • Scott Ramsay

        You are worried about the HEADLINE — what about the important content of the article, and the real issues?!

        That’s one of the troubles with racing: people who are worried about form and appearance of things instead of objective substance.

        This is about horses, and instead CHRB and Bo Derek are responding to superficial and relatively unimportant statistical arguments.

      • Most publications have someone other than the author/reporter that writes the headlines/titles. These are written in order to grab the eye of a reader and cause them to read the article. This is normal practice. My question now is about you . . . Are you interested mainly in numbers and analyzing in order to handicap the horses? If so is there a level of medicating and/or “boosting” influence factored in for handicapping?

  • MightveBen

    The CHRB, their lackey stewards and their “investigators” are an comically tragic joke. Vets, tracks, and trainers “recommend” stewards and other racing officials. Their proceedings and hearings are a farce; when they actually bother to hold them.

    • Lou Baranello, Former Steward

      Ben, Please read my response to Ann Mitchell Adam.

  • quitcovering4them

    This stinks to high heaven! There is something going on and it is a bad time of year to bring any of it to the attention of the public.
    I remember long ago when there were horses dropping like flies and low and behold, the trainer’s didn’t have their elephant juice recipe perfected.

  • Lost In The Fog

    The headline of the original Paulick Report article on this subject was titled “Sudden Equine Fatalities Spike In California, Baffert Barn.” The CHRB says there was no spike at all and that the number has essentially been consistent over the last three years. CHRB commissioner Bo Derek is quoted as saying at today’s meeting that “The number of sudden deaths has not spiked in California” and that “No trainer or trainers have been mentioned in our discussions.” Furthermore Dr. Rick Arthur, the CHRB’s equine medical director, provided the following statistics: 20 sudden deaths in fiscal year 2010-11; 19 in 2011-12; and 17 to date for 2012-13 (the fiscal year ends June 30).

    It’s a separate discussion entirely as to whether those numbers are acceptable, whether they are out of line with other racing jurisdictions and whether they represent a problem that needs to be tackled by California specifically and/or the racing industry at large.

    As a former journalist and regular reader of the Paulick Report I’m not at all happy with Ray’s reporting on this subject. Either Bo Derek and Rick Arthur are lying or Ray is responsible for an inaccurate, misleading and incendiary headline and article that is not supported by the facts. It’s one or the other. It’s time for Ray to either challenge Derek’s and Arthur’s statements with contrary facts or write a “mea culpa” for shoddy and incomplete reporting that led his readers to inaccurate conclusions.

    • Lexington 3

      The headline should have read, “Sudden Equine Fatalities Down for Every Trainer in California Except Maybe This One Guy.”

      This site should just stick with creating links to articles on other sites and not try to break any stories.

      • circusticket

        What makes the other sites so special?

    • An interested observer

      I agree. I would be very interested in Mr. Paulick’s analytical response. There are enough important problems in racing without people sensationalizing situations.

    • Noelle

      My impression from the headline was that the spike in California deaths had occurred in the Baffert barn. Nothing I’ve read contradicts that. CHRB claims there’s no overall spike in California, but says nothing about the Baffert barn specifically. As to the rest of the story, I agree with you. Where’s the truth in all this?

      • Red Rider

        The truth is whatever Bo and the CHRB say it is. You are confusing acknowledging what occurred and truth as defined by those dispensing (with) it.

    • Dobeplayer

      I am a working journalist – have been for more than 30 years – and my hat’s off to Ray for exemplary reporting. I think describing his work on this topic as shoddy and incomplete reporting is wrong and does him a disservice. The CHRB may not care to see the elephant in the room for whatever reason, but kudos to Ray for bringing it to light. Mr. Baffert had an opportunity to put his own spin on the facts, but chose not to. And that just sets my reporter’s antennae to quivering.

      • Roisin

        Thank you for your comments. I agree, and I say thank you Ray Paulick for your reporting. Whatever way the stats. are presented, 7 sudden deaths in young horses in one barn over an 18 mth period should not be ignored or dismissed. We all know stats. can be presented in a way that will, on facevalue, advance or support an agenda as well as mislead. It behooves people to look behind the stats. and at the ” real numbers”, especially in this case.

      • Lost In The Fog

        My comments were in response to the original headline and content of the first article Ray published on this topic. Both that headline and story have since been changed. I wonder how many of those commenting here actually read the original before it was cleaned up?

        In my opinion no serious journalist would stand by the original headline of “Sudden Equine Fatalities Spike In California, Baffert Barn” in light of statistics that don’t support the headline. Unless Ray has information to refute the statistics cited by Bo Derek and Rick Arthur about the fairly consistent rate of sudden equine fatalities over the last three years (rather than his assertion of a spike in those numbers) both the original article and headline were misleading and factually incorrect.

        The story here is not a spike in sudden equine deaths in “California” (which isn’t apparently the case) but rather what’s happening in Baffert’s barn. That’s a story worth pursuing with veracity but it was incorrect, incendiary and misleading to imply that there was a spike that applied to California racing in general.

    • Red Rider

      Seems to me that Arthur backed off his original position implying something was amiss. He is just another lackey for the CHRB. I’ll take Ray and “yellow journalism” over Bo, Bob, Mike, Rick and the “yellow brotherhood”.

      This site and others should continue to expose bad industry practices; intended or unintended. HRTV had one of the lackey stewards, Chaney, on yesterday. Not one question about racing fatalities of any kind. Betfair (and often) or be square.

  • amgm1431

    I’d have blood tests done on the still living horses to see whether this substance got into the feed. Also, this is a little similar to a couple of major instances in the saddlebred world where someone, presumed to be a rival, poisoned horses in a major barn.

    • free reign

      Rats empty their cheeks of poison under feed tubs where they refill them with more tasty horse feed, dropped when the horse was eating. I have seen it myself and was told why they do that.

      • JTLundy

        Sorry Charlie, but rats do no such thing. If you “have seen it myself”, then you were hallucinating. Rats do not have cheek pouches and cannot regurgitate. Try another “accidental poisoning” theory. How about this one?….”A trainer passing by a stall on his way to join a rat poisoning session with the SoCal Pest Control Society accidentally has pellets fall from a pocket in his Gucci rat-hunting vest. Several pellets fall into the feed bucketS (plural) of horses in his care. Only later does the trainer/rat hunter discover the Gucci vest has FATAL design flaw.” Personally, I like the accidental blow to the cannon story better, however.

        • free reign

          lol I am not reffering to possible culpability of the trainer, but there are safer traps now. It was even in a bag of cracked corn, I purchased for my chickens.I am not an rat expert, but I have seen those green pellets under the tubs. I doubt many trainers even look under the tubs. The pest control man would pour the pellets down in the holes, and rats do carry food back to their nests.

          • ray’s ghost

            Amazing, isn’t it, that Baffert’s barn has so many more poisonous rats than Van Berg, Shirreffs, Drysdale, etc. Pure coincidence I’m sure.

  • Greg Jones

    CHRB = Inbreeding at it’s finest people.


    MMMM, Now it’s starting to come together. If all those years of watching Kojac has served me in anyway I believe that it goes Crime,Cover Up and then the Truth. It appears that we are in the 2nd phase of that order. advert your attention ladies and gentlemen there is nothing to see here it just so happens that one guy had 7 healthy horses drop dead. no coincidence.

  • Bad actress. Shameful

    • Red Rider

      If Dudley Moore were alive, he would roll over in his grave.

      • circusticket

        Ha ha. If Dudley Moore were alive he wouldn’t be in his grave to be able to roll over!

        • Red Riderm

          Terribly astute observation. Dudley would be impressed and relieved.

  • Red Rider

    Bo Derek’s level of knowledge and credibility make her the ideal spokesperson for the CHRB.

  • MSD

    This is why the buisness is taking a wrong turn. Things like this….it’s so sad that the people at the top don’t understand that. They’re ruining the sport of horse racing and it’s just really sad. It makes me angry.
    So much for what’s best for the horses…..because they are the ones that give us EVERYTHING. Everything that people that work in the buisness have is because of the horses.
    Just terrible, terrible, terrible.

  • This has to make you laugh. An anticoagulant when given to a horse makes the blood thinner. When you then give the horse any drug that you dont want detected you give the drug followed several hours later by a dosage of lasix all goes down the drain the horse runs like hell and nothing is ever detected. Problem is when a horse is given hay which contains alot of vitamin k now you accelerate the hemorrhagic effect in the end you have a dead horse. if you guys think this is not being done intentional i would love to sell you a bridge in brooklyn

    • Thank you Danny! The sequence of which you write makes succinct sense!!! I personally have to take a diuretic. I also take CoQ10 & Red Yeast Rice, both which combat plaque build up. When I eat Kiwi fruit (Vit. K) I often experience bruising from broken capillaries. I am now sure that this “dosing” is an effort to create more oxygen in the blood and to get the blood circulating faster to provide that energy to run faster. All of this information is used by personal trainers for human beings, nutritionists and researchers of metabolism and human development. Many human supplements and meds are tested by veterinarians, institutionally and practicing in the public venue, before they are cleared for human use.

      • buckpasser

        Vitamin K is a coagulant. Rat poison an anti-coagulant.
        Vit K is the antidote for rat poison. It does not accelerate hemorrhage, but slows it down as it is a clotting agent.
        Vit K decreases bruising, and applied topically can speed up the healing process of bruises.
        The vit k in your kiwi is not causing or contributing to your bruising. That would be mostly likely caused by your diuretic
        I’m not sure where the idea that rat poison thinning the blood would thereby increase oxygen supply started, because the blood isn’t actually thinner, it’s doesn’t clot. blood begins to clot as soon as it leaves the vein, giving it a thick appearance which thickens the longer it’s exposed. Since the blood isn’t clotting, it has a thin appearance which is misleading, it’s not thin, it’s clotting very slowly, and depending on the amount of anti-coagulant, incompletely.
        This in no way increases oxygen supply. There are still the same number of red blood cells, carrying the same amount of oxygen. They aren’t going anywhere faster or more efficiently. Platelets aren’t attaching to each other and clotting, or sticking to things.

        • Buckpasser, you are absolutely correct about Vit. K. It was my mistake to not include that it helps the liver to form the blood clotting proteins and thus my daily diuretic and other supplements (including Omega 3) I take work in an ongoing manner while eating Vit. K rich foods takes longer to counteract the blood thinning.

          • Buckpasser

            I’m just hoping the guy that started this particular thought was being sarcastic. Lasix does indeed mask and evacuate a great many things but hematologic agents will never be as Lasix works via the kidneys, and hematologic agents have to via the liver.
            And his scenario is not how things work.

        • Casey Phillips

          Actually Vit K1 is the antidote for rodenticide poisoning.

    • circusticket

      Wouldn’t a blood thinner make it more likely that the horse could bleed? Isn’t a side effect of using Bute internal hemorrhage? If so, and we keep giving the horses bute, then we give them more lasix because now they’ve become bleeders, then we give them . . . and so on.

      And we do nothing to stop this. And we do nothing to stop gun violence. We do nothing to stop bank fraud. We do nothing when people die because they can’t afford health insurance. I am not optimistic that anything can be done to clean up horse racing because we have a terrible track record as a country.

    • Roisin

      I thought vit K was an antidote to warfarin/coumadin in which case it would help to avert the bleeding ?

    • Hopefieldstables


    • OneOar

      Wow. Do you own a bridge in Brooklyn?

  • caroline

    I assume sudden death rate is 9% of total fatality rate not horse population? Today at the meeting approximate number of all racehorse fatalities in racing and training was put at 250 ish in the last couple of years I think and expected to be lower this year. I see people worrying that 9% of all horses in race training are experiencing sudden death…

    • Hopefieldstables

      According to CHRB annual report 2011/2012 there were 278 total deaths (for all breeds)

      If the sudden death rate is approximately 9% the last few years as suggested above that is about 25 horses per year (all breeds)

      According to the same report there were 48,688 starters (all breeds)

      That gives a sudden death rate of 0.51 per 1,000 starts.

      Brian Stewart reported 0.18 per 1,000 starts for Hong Kong over the last 5 years. That would make the California rate near 3 times higher.

      • caroline

        Thanks. Though per starter or starts stats is a bit misleading as it suggests this is happening during live races. Nonetheless, the international comparison holds up as long as the Steward stats are the number of horses compared to the number of starts, and that is a separate issue which, if valid, should be addressed.

        • Hopefieldstables

          Apologies, it is intended (above) that “starts” and “starters” mean the same thing : (total horses x number of starts each).

  • @ Scott Ramsay ~ Great comment & analysis of Paulick’s report. Keep up the good work. The more information and discussion we can keep out there on the electronic social media, the quicker we can open the windows on and air out those questionable involved in thoroughbred racing. BTW, my moniker is the same for FaceBook too.

  • Sysonby

    Today’s article is not saying there is no problem. Ray Paulick used a reliable source but the information was more specific than originally reported. While sudden deaths are not up, cardiac-related deaths are and disproportionately so in one barn. I’ve seen a number of theories in the comments ranging from overuse or inappropriate use of clenbuterol to some form of blood doping, either EPO or transfusions. Hopefully, the investigators are alive to the various possibilities out there and will be looking into these. I think it’s telling that the trace elements from rodenticide discovered in two of the horses are not consistent with rodenticide used at the tracks in question. It makes it a lot less likely that this was simply an accident.

  • In my opinion this is a cover up by the CHRB including Dr. Arthur and Bo Derek and especially David Israel. Ray is not wrong. Listen to the archived show and then tell me whether or not
    Bo wrote was she was reading. They prep for the meetings and I’m sure someone else wrote what she read. The meeting was a disgrace from the get go. It’s a simple matter of knowing right from wrong!

    Listen to the archived meeting

  • Carol Kaye

    Does Bo Derek not think that seven sudden deaths in one barn is maybe even a little bit out of the norm?
    We are given their reasons for the death of 4 but there are still 3 sudden deaths to be accounted for. Even that number would bother me in a racing barn.

  • medication and track safety committee meeting –
    California Horse …
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
    Medication and Track Safety Committee. February
    20, 2013. Dr. Uzal from the University of California, Davis is prepared
    to give the rumual update on the …

    From Page Agenda 1 page 17.

    Diagnosis Total I
    Cardiac failure 11
    Cecal infarction 2
    Major vessel rupture 2
    Exsanguination 1

    Total 16

    Inthis period there were 11 cases of sudden death due to cardiac failure.This represents
    an increase from four horses with this diagnosis during 2008-2009 and six with the same diagnosis in 2010-2011.

  • MaryToo

    Maybe the total number of deaths did not increase – but those from cardiac arrest did? Those trained by a particular trainer did? CHRB needs to address those 2 issues (at least) to be taken seriously. I mean – it’s not like Joe Drape has it out for the CHRB. He didn’t have it out for the NMRC. He’s just a staunch supporter of training/racing undrugged.

  • Noelle

    This is like listening to members of Congress. Each side in the argument cherry-picks his facts and claims his cherry-picked “facts” prove whatever point he is making on the day. Trying to figure out where the truth lies, with nothing but conflicting “facts” to go on, is difficult.

    Why not compare the number of non-musculoskeletal sudden deaths California to numbers in another market. England, maybe. How many of these sorts of fatalities occur there? Or compare fatalities in Baffert’s barn to those of other trainers with similar sized stables in Europe or Australia, where Lasix etc. are not permitted, as well as to similar-sized US barns.

    • MightveBen

      Why not compare the distance from LA to St. Louis and the difference between an orange. Which is taller, a tree?

      • Noelle

        Not sure what your point is. Aside from being a jerk, of course.

        • MightveBen

          My point is that your suggestion is nonsense. What is the point of comparison? Young, properly conditioned, horses that experience heart attacks and internal bleeding, and ALSO test positive for a lethal poison that are an anomaly that does not require comparison. What is required is investigation, not statistical analysis.

          Regarding your assessment of my personality, your comment demonstrates a depth of mature thought consistent with your initial comments.

          • Noelle

            For heaven’s sake. I never said I opposed an investigation. Of course there should be an investigation into the particular circumstances of these deaths. But the CHRB made very specific statements about “sudden deaths” being “not rare” and I want to know what evidence they or others can offer in support of their statements.

          • MightveBen

            Acknowledging and responding to an incredulous, distracting proposition only gives it credence. The statistical argument is a red herring.


  • forestwildcat

    Bo Derek – gimme a break

  • Doesn’t is strike anyone as funny that some Trainers get once in a lifetime
    Horses every four months? There’s no cherry picking here and why
    can’t Baffert give an interview and answer some tough questions? Did
    Doug O’Neill duck any interviews last year? Apparently some people think that Bob Baffert is bigger than the game and are treating him accordingly.

  • DonW

    I was at Clockers Corner at Santa Anita yesterday morning to see a workout. At a side table stood Bob Baffert and Bo Derek, engaged in amiable discussion. This went on for a half hour. Then they went their separate ways, upstairs to the meeting.

    • MightveBen

      Surprise, surprise. Who would have thought that the racing officials in CA are in bed with certain trainers, vets, and owners? Don’t forget to change the sheets!

  • Sue M. Chapman

    Let’s look at this another way.
    Perhaps all these deaths are related to Withdrawal from Clenbuteral. If anyone knows of studies done on the subject, I’d love to read the results. The drug positively causes changes in the heart when used chronically. Watching horses detox after months/years of twice daily doses was a real eye opener.

  • Look at he paragraph with warning.

  • dcurtis

    It was said rat poison was found in 2 , has anyone considered the feed? I would be having my feed analyzed..

  • Barbara Wood

    This is awful! Healthy horses, if trained properly and managed carefully, don’t just drop dead, one after the other. We are breeding an ever-more fragile animal that is required to run faster and faster. Doesn’t anyone foresee that we cannot expect good outcomes? I guess they think, “Breed more and more, and maybe the people won’t notice.”
    I’m trying to think of something p[ositive here. The ONLY thing I can think of is that these poor horses didn’t end up in the slaught pipeline,as so many are acrelessly thrown away.

  • Pinky T

    Baffert and Pegram went nuts when they saw what Ray wrote and the CHRB quickly went into CYA mode.

    This is why the game will never be cleaned up. The guys that need to be watched are the ones that in reality run the racing commissions in most states. Its why handle in the US is below much smaller countries like HK, Japan and France. Why would someone bet a game if they knew they weren’t getting a fair shake.

  • Red Rider

    If a trainer died of internal bleeding and/or cardiac arrest, and rat poison was found in his body would the CHRB have considered the situation worthy of serious investigation? Would the horses be personally troubled?

  • LOL! The reason for my post. ;-}

    A group organized to accomplish something like the Formula 1 group. Whether one agrees with Bernie Ecclestone’s machinations or not, the races are ALL run under the same rules. ?? Doesn’t The Jockey Club’s by-laws put them in place to accomplish this? Couldn’t their existence since 1894 give them validity?

  • turnafoot

    I never comment but this topic has compelled me to bring up a couple of points. First, I’m not surprised by what’s going on in Southern California with regards to sudden-death deaths in racehorses. It’s a shame but I’m not surprised. What does surprise me though, is that no one has spoken about this sooner. California racing has always seemed shady to me with Baffert, Drug Oneil, Jeff Mullins, Sadler, and all the other usual suspects training out there. How many coverups do you think take place so that the top 10 trainers keep their strings of horses running throughout the meets? Second, the latest surprise is the emergence of Jerry Hollendorfer, as a trainer who is currently contending for the training title at Santa Anita! I understand he’s a HOF’er and wins titles at Golden Gates but this is insane! His Southern California barn has never enjoyed this much success in all the years I have followed racing. All the other trainers that I’ve mentioned are perennial winners. Most of them are always in the top 5! Hollendorfer is now winning at a 30% clip and has 33 winners from 111 starters which is nearly half of what Baffert, O’neil, or Sadler have. Again, he has never won this many races in Southern California in his life, why all of a sudden now? Either he’s just found the other guys medicine cabinet or something fishy is going on. Can we believe that after all these years of losing he recently found the formula? How come he’s not at 30% at Golden Gates where he runs 200+ horses a meet? I’m pretty sure something is going on! Anyone else find this peculiar?

  • LB

    Wow! I cant believe what I read in article.. There have been other notable and Hall of fame trainers to have horses that have had recent heart attacks. Jack Van Berg, Ron Ellis,and Bruce Headley to name a few.

  • Jeanne

    My question is what does Bo Derek know about clinical medicine? I respect her love for horses. However, what are her qualifications medically & scientifically? Does she have any clinical training with regards to pharmacology, veterinary medicine, or the correct gathering of statistical data with regards to clinical studies? My guess would be no. Therefore she is not qualified to judge any data presented and cannot pronounce guilt or innocence in these circumstances. Also, I have been in the business since 1971. Throughout my journey in this sport, the accumulation of this many sudden deaths in one stable just doesn’t pass the smell test. If Mr Baffert and parties are not involved is something questionable; then there has to be an answer lurking somewhere in that shed row. What should be pursued is an investigation of the help and/ or the stable environment.

    Often there can be an unknown catalyst working in the shadows. There are companies that specialize in unsafe working environments that could be involved. I know it is a bit “CSI”. But preventing further deaths would be worth the extra effort.

  • vineyridge

    The California Racing Board is a joke. They also did nothing when a case of EVH-1 resulting in death occurred at one of their tracks. The vet just said that EVH-1 was common and there was no need for extra sanitary precautions and quarantine.

  • Gene

    This is the worst CHRB California has ever had.

  • JR

    Bo Derek
    Enough said.

  • JR

    Lets see. Seven horses purchased for six figures each. Insured for at least the same. Can’t run up to their value. Lets’ kill them and get the insurance money. Beats dropping them in a claim.

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