HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, October 19, 2021 – Twitter is, well, twitter, and as such hate and controversy will continue to sell, just like old-school tabloids and televised news programs did and continue to do: If it bleeds it leads.
So, what does that have to do with horse racing?
It’s astonishing to me how so many horseracing tweeps and sports fans have stated they will avoid betting, or even watching, this year’s Breeders’ Cup because Bob Baffert is being allowed to participate.
Isn’t this a lot like saying that since Fox News exists, I’m going to avoid all televised news programming?
As many HRI Faithful know, I’ve been a harsh critic of the Hall of Fame trainer after seven equines died of “sudden death” over a 16-month period from 2012-13. In my view “environmental contamination” does not provide exculpatory relief.
While people like Baffert and the former guy make use of—some might say misuse—the justice system to unfair advantage and delay justice because they can, due process exists to ensure American jurisprudence; a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Litigation allows those who can afford to pay for it to live above the law, at least temporarily. It may take a long time–too long, but the truth will out and justice often will be served.
Last week, Breeders’ Cup issued a public statement, which read in part:
“Based on the totality of the circumstances, Breeders’ Cup has decided to require all horses trained by Mr. Baffert to undergo enhanced out-of-competition, pre- and post-race testing, and other security protocols, at his own expense, in order to participate in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar…
“On top of our industry-leading protocols and standards, additional testing and security requirements for any horse under Mr. Baffert’s care will be administered at his expense under a signed agreement to provide a more targeted layer of accountability.
“These additional measures include increased randomized out-of-competition testing for all prohibited and restricted substances, additional tests administered the week of the World Championships, increased veterinarian and security checks, and in-person 24-hour security surveillance ahead of the horse or horses’ respective events.”
This Breeders’ Cup statement satisfies my personal sense of fairness in this instance. Like it or not, the “Medina Spirit” process is ongoing, and it would be unfair for anyone to be penalized until a final determination has been made.
The kind of pre-race scrutiny Breeders’ Cup is insisting on is unprecedented. The fact that Baffert has agreed to pay before he can play is good on the Breeders’ Cup. They are allowing his horses to participate after instituting unique pre-race testing protocols.
Appropriately, Breeders’ Cup should not have to pay for granting privilege to a horseman whose potential entrants have been barred from competing in events such as the 2022 Kentucky Derby, a race and racetrack whose reputation took a significant hit via the actions of an alleged rules violator.
Racing fans and bettors can do as they wish, of course. But by virtue of the horsemanship exhibited by Baffert and his staff, the horses have earned a right to compete because of demonstrated performance and accomplishment. At issue, obviously, is the methodology.
Horses are innocent of wrongdoing. Horseplayers are invited to root for or against the Baffert runners, to bet on or against them. Because America, at least for the time being, anyway, is still a democratic republic.