S P E C I A L R E P O R T
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Written and Researched by
May 1, 2014
Collage of Asmussen, Baffert and Pletcher by Vivian Grant Farrell.
Where better to start than the new poster boy of the Thoroughbred racing world – the unscrupulous Hall-of-Famer Steve Asmussen – Public Enemy number one according to Andrew Beyer.
“He has shamed thoroughbred racing so badly that the chairman of the Jockey Club, Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, declared that there is “a dark cloud hovering over our sport” and that Asmussen ought to stay away from the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks.” 
While the indiscriminate use of therapeutics and performance-enhancing drugs in the horse racing industry is not really news, the undercover recordings made by a PETA investigator at Asmussen’s barn are. For decades these activities have taken place, clandestinely if you will, hidden from public scrutiny by the code of silence.
Exactly what everyone assumed is now out there for public scrutiny.
Over time Asmussen has run up a history of racing violations as have many of the top ranking trainers in the industry.
Probably the most serious violation was a 6-month suspension he served for a filly named No End in Sight who tested positive for mepivacaine, an illegal nerve-blocking agent that suppresses pain and permits horses to run on injured legs.
Despite the fact the No End in Sight tested 750 times over the legal limit, Asmussen claimed he hadn’t a clue as to how the drug got into her system. In fact he suggested that the veterinarians had mistakenly given the horse mepivicaine, a lame excuse by any measure (pardon the pun). Interestingly enough, at the same time, he admitted to using two other illegal drugs on race day – one to increase endurance and the other to reduce bleeding in the lungs (on top of the Lasix shot).
“The vets said this would be impossible. Mepivacaine was injected directly into the joint. The other illegal drugs, which they insisted they hadn’t given, were shot into the jugular. If mepivacaine were injected into the jugular it would bring a horse to its knees.” 
Given the horse’s history together with the fact that he had ordered cortisone shot a week prior to the race for knee problems, speculation has it that the administration of the drug was intentional. If so this is exceptionally reckless behavior as it not only jeopardizes the horse but also those on the racetrack – jockeys and horses alike.
Asmussen had used this tired excuse on several earlier occasions to explain away positive tests for illegal drugs on race day – once for ketorolac a powerful anti-inflammatory and twice for clenbuterol. The ubiquitous clenbuterol — a widely abused bronchodilator medication in the racing industry for respiratory problems regularly used to build muscle by mimicking anabolic steroids even when administered in therapeutic doses.
And that’s not all; there were positives for acepromazine, a powerful sedative and the anesthetic lidocaine among others.
Yet in spite of all these infractions over the years his devoted assistant, now terminated after the PETA scandal, assumed responsibility of Asmussen’s stables so that no horses missed a race – in fact not a penalty at all – business as usual.
As a prime example, when Asmussen was suspended for the mepivacaine in 2006, Blasi assumed the responsibility of “trainer” and Asmussen walked away with over 14 million dollars in earnings. 
Criminal – simply criminal.
Moving on to Bob Baffert.
To start, in 2013 Bob Baffert was number three on the list of top trainers by earnings with the most medication violations – a total of 20 violations resulting in 545 starts per medication violation. 
This list itself changes from year-to-year however Baffert always manages to make it into one of the top positions.
For example in 2010 Baffert (465 starts per violation) maintained that bronze medal position just edging out John Sadler (478 starts per violation) who had to settle for fourth that year.  Both consistent repeat offenders near the top of the list.
The most recent scandal associated with Baffert is the rash of mysterious “sudden deaths” due to cardiovascular/pulmonary failures of seven race horses over the course of several months (November 4, 2011 through March 14, 2013). 
What is particularly disturbing about these deaths is that by all accounts sudden death failures are a relatively rare occurrence, together with the fact that of the total number of “sudden deaths” over the same time period roughly 20% were stabled with Baffert.
As expected, Baffert was cleared in the sudden deaths of the seven horses by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). An extensive investigation concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing yet the CHRB could find no specific reason for the abnormal number of deaths in one stable – inconclusive at best – Dr. Rick Arthur to the rescue of course.
The question remains as to whether the results were inconclusive or intentionally covered up? One will never know, however it is well recognized that the CHRB and the members of the TOC (Thoroughbred Owners of California) are chronically corrupt – no one it seems has the power to enforce rules and disband the manipulators even after all these years of lies and deceit.
There are several theories of what may have gone wrong in the sudden deaths of Baffert’s horses. One is linked to the finding of a rodenticide in one of the horses, an anti-coagulant that thins the blood. But why would anyone administer an anticoagulant to a horse, particularly since it is a highly toxic compound in EPA Toxicity Class I?
EPO has been widely used as a performance-enhancing drug despite being an illicit drug in horse racing. EPO increases the number of red cells circulating in the blood which increases its viscosity but also increasing its oxygen carrying capacity and hence endurance. From a doping perspective the administration of an anticoagulant such as Diphacinone will counterbalance the effect of thicken blood. Conjecture, well yes but . . .
Then there is the administration of Thyro-L (levothyroxine) to “all” of his horses regardless of their thyroid function wherein Baffert was using it as a supplement rather than medication.
Thyro-L is a thyroid hormone (T4) used to treat hypothyroidism, a condition where the body fails to produce a sufficient amount of thyroxine which revs up the metabolism. In doing so Baffert was clearly doping.
The fact that a drug is administered when there is no apparent underlying condition present is simply seeking to achieve a surrogate benefit; in this case enhanced performance (speed) due to weight loss. Of course Baffert (and Asmussen) gave it to all of his horses. He was legally cheating to win.
Don’t forget Baffert’s past either and the disappointing decision made by the CHRB.
Initially the CHRB suspended Baffert for 60 days after the horse Nautical Look tested positive for morphine after finishing first in the 7th race at Hollywood Park on May 3, 2000.
Baffert however appealed the decision using the pretext that the morphine positive was pharmacologically insignificant and likely resulted from environmental contamination – from poppy seed bagels consumed by stable employees (poppy seeds contain opium alkaloids one of which is morphine).
If administering morphine to enhance a horse’s performance isn’t bad enough, Baffert had the audacity to coerce a groom in his employ to lie to investigators. Baffert testified that the positive finding was a result of “unintentional contamination” from a food source containing poppy seeds (poppy seeds contain opiate alkaloids one of which is morphine).
While it is true that poppy seeds can generate false positive drug tests, Baffert went a step further. When notified of the positive result he repeatedly contacted his groom and encouraged him to admit to eating bakery products while in close proximity to the horse Nautical Look.
If that doesn’t reek of guilt, what does?
In any case, the CHRB dismissed the case after 5 years despite the fact that there was lax security in the barn the evening before with no night watchman. Moreover Baffert’s attorney argued that Nautical Look’s blood sample was part of a batch randomly discarded as a cost-cutting measure so there was no blood to test to support the results of the urine sample. What wasn’t mentioned is that a separate split sample was available for 45 days following the race yet Baffert did not request a test of that sample. 
You be the judge.
Keep in mind that Baffert hails from California and has close ties to all those instrumental in running the CHRB – all the important people like Chuck Winner, Bo Derek, Dr. Rick Arthur for example, and other prominent influencers such as Zayat Racing Stables. Rumor has it that Zayat is under investigation for placing large bets allegedly manipulating the outcome of races in conjunction with Baffert.
Asmussen and Baffert are not alone when it comes to a past tainted with drug violations.
Todd Pletcher, the leading graded stakes trainer, has his share of dirty laundry as well.
Probably one of the saddest stories to come out of Pletcher’s drug cabinet was that of Coronado Heights.
One need only recall the fate of this 4-year-old thoroughbred who received a diagnosis of early degenerative joint disease. In the week prior to a race at Aqueduct, ten different drugs were administered, often in multiple doses, to quell his unsoundness, the only reason being that his ethically challenged owner and trainer – Todd Pletcher – could not bear the thought of losing out on the prospect of winning. Sadly Coronado Heights broke down and was euthanized on the track.
 https://tuesdayshorse.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/deadly-to-horses-the-baffert-effect-part-1/ andhttps://tuesdayshorse.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/deadly-to-horses-the-baffert-effect-part-2/