In a decision establishing rule of law over rule by rich and famous, Bob Baffert was suspended for two years by Churchill Downs after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s positive finding was confirmed.
Let’s recap from my May 14 column ‘Bob’s Your Uncle’:
“A post-race sample was found to contain 21 picograms of the anti-inflammatory drug — more than twice Kentucky’s allowable threshold…. .
“Betamethasone is a…man-made steroid that resembles cortisol, a natural adrenal gland produced hormone. The drug…suppresses inflammation, and can also suppress immune systems (according to Mayo Clinic).
Betamethasone specifically can be used to “relieve redness, itching, swelling or other discomforts caused by certain skin conditions” (Mayo Clinic). In humans, corticosteroids are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and allergies….
Kentucky Equine Research has found corticosteroid drugs administered into joints can provide relief from discomfort for horses. It’s legal in Kentucky as a therapeutic. But any raceday positive is a violation.”
Boiled down to gravy, Betanethasone can be used during down time but, on raceday, it’s a performance enhancer and illegal. Full. Stop!
After the suspension a former trainer posted on Twitter: “Therapeutic medication brings 2-year suspension. Really? 21 picograms and all!”
Yes. It. Does. It should’ve been five years!
- On raceday, the medication is NOT therapeutic. It provides “relief from discomfort for horses” and, accordingly, is very much a performance enhancer like other “therapeutics” Butazolidin (“Butes”), Lasix and what we, including the former trainer, knew as “Fiery Jack”;
- This was NOT a low-grade claimer at Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs where even Neville Stephenson can be a star. This was cheating in America’s biggest, most prestigious race to become history’s winningest Kentucky Derby trainer. It was an egregious, contemptible middle-finger to horseracing by one of its leading standard bearers;
- The positive test wasn’t Baffert’s first, second or third. In his career, horses trained by him have failed THIRTY-ONE drug tests. In a revealing interview, Baffert’s lawyer told CNN that Bob was a victim of “cancel culture”. Really? Seriously”? After getting away with THIRTY-ONE positives, suddenly, everyone is out to get him?
- Baffert LIED about the circumstances that resulted in the positive. Invoking the Shaggy Defence, he told media categorically “it didn’t come from us”. Days later, when that fairy tale’s incongruity with truth became apparent, he admitted it was used to treat a skin condition. What the granny gungus natty is this? A racehorse with dermatitis needs a performance enhancer to be applied ON RACEDAY in order to look pretty for the Derby crowd? My British friends would say THAT explanation is as bent as a nine-bob note!
Let’s say a word (or ten) on the just concluded Jamaican Guineas.
I told you on May 28:
“Further and Beyond has been the howling 2,000 Guineas favourite since winning the Two-year-old Stakes but his luster was dulled somewhat by a fast finishing Miniature Man on May 8 (Graded Kingston Stakes; 1,500m) when it appeared to most on-lookers that Further and Beyond was narrowly defeated but a dead heat was controversially declared.
Afterwards, outstanding Champion Trainer Anthony “Baba” Nunes seemed a tad ticked-off by the ride given by stable-jock Dane Nelson and revealed Further and Beyond tends to idle in front. This means he needs to be produced as late as possible but THAT isn’t Dane’s style. So this challenge of temperament plus an additional 100m makes it a good shout that Miniature Man can confirm placing as it appeared outside the Judge’s room despite a significant disadvantage at the weights.”
Twitter followers were updated on race day:
“The Terrible Tout’s NAP OF THE DAY is Race 10 #16 Miniature Man who has eclipsed early pick #15 Nuclear Noon by progressing beautifully at exercise the past 2 weeks. Howling favourite #4 Further and Beyond is classy but quirky and will need everything to fall right for him.”
Not one single public tipster agreed. Track and Pools headline tipster, an expert at backing losing odds-on favourites, wrote, under a banner headline “Elementary Weight Swing”:
“Further and Beyond is the textbook handicap horse to beat…. Carrying top weight in his last two races, he had to play leader, pace regulator and closer against lighter rivals, nine pounds and over, who were able to relax and produce late charges the last resulting in a dead heat with Miniature Man…
“Sitting level for the first time since landing the Two-Year-Old Stakes by three lengths in December, Further and Beyond should do exactly as his name suggests, put himself further and beyond the reach of his rivals…”
Yawn. This chap seems unable to distinguish between December and June and appears to believe betting on horse races is like taking a maths exam. A day AFTER the race, he scrambled about in the Gleaner excusing his myopia by relying on reports of Further and Beyond’s exercise workouts being less than desirable. But he failed to mention this before Sunday.
This is just the sort of brainless twaddle that misleads the average punter. After I posted the above on Saturday morning, I got this reply from a Tweep with the handle @HagleyJam sounding like a “textbook handicap” believer.
“Can he beat Further and Beyond sitting level weight??? “
“Why not? I keep explaining weight is overrated at 1,600m or less. 3yos at stages of rapid improvement make a mockery of handicaps all the time. Pace; distance and jockeyship are far more important. And the favourite has quirks. Needs a very patient ride. Will he get it?”
He got the perfect ride but was simply beaten by two three-year-olds at a stage of rapid improvement who hadn’t been as pressured in preps and who simply improved past him. It happens. And until public tipsters learn the basics of how to bet on horseracing instead of lazily tip odds-on favourites ad nauseam we’ll always have unenlightened punters and rich bookies.
Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of track conditions’ effect on official times to arrive at “real/corrected” times); TVs are expressed in fifths of a second; “minus” (-) means a fast track; “plus” (+) a slow track (e.g -2 is fast by 2/5th second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.
JUNE 5, 2021 [TV+0.5per 200m (Round) +4 (str)]
Miniature Man (-1) was the only winner to record a time, on a slow track, faster than the Grade Standard (Race 10; 3yo colts/geldings; Graded Stakes; 1600m; TV+4]. His final time converts to a CT of 1:38.4 which is a second faster than Overnight Allowance Standard. He should progress again when sent around two turns.
The second Nuclear Noon (+1) and third Further and Beyond (+2) also earned CTs better than Overnight Allowance and should also go on to better things.
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
It’s too early for fully informed Royal Ascot (June 16-19) selections especially as English weather is so unpredictable but we press on regardless expecting proper summer ground (fast).
Tuesday features Group 1 St James Palace Stakes over the round mile (3yos; 1620GMT; 10:20 a.m Jamaica time). Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-olds haven’t been at their usually imperious best and favourite St. Mark’s Basilica’sfour wins have all come on soft. He’s swerved in favour of English 2,000 Guineas third Lucky Vega who was running for the first time since September and looks certain to come on for his ½ length 3rd of 14 to Poetic Flare (re-opposes).
The market for Wednesday’s Group 1 Prince of Wales’ Stakes (4yo+; 10f; 1620GMT; 10:20 a.m. Jamaica time) is headed by Aidan O’Brien’s classy filly Love who is dropping down to 10f after winning two 12f fillies races at York/Epsom. This should be a different test altogether so she’s opposed with last year’s winner Lord North who tuned up for this on re-appearance (after 140 days off) with a comfortable Group 1 win at Meydan (bled after) on March 27. Unless he bleeds again (unlikely) he should be the one.
The Festival’s feature (Thursday; Group 1 Gold Cup; 2m4f; 1620GMT; 10:20 a.m. Jamaica time) will see the great Stradivariustry for a remarkable fourth consecutive win. He has won the race on good-to-firm (2018) and soft (2019; 2020) so going means little to him. He prepped on April 28 with a facile win in Ascot’s Group 3 Sagaro Stakes over an inadequate 2 miles. Whatever beats him wins. Rain would make his life even easier. He’s again BANKER OF THE FESTIVAL.
The “Royal Ascot Derby” (Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes; 12f; 1505GMT; 9:05 a.m. Jamaica time) is on for Friday. I confidently expect Mohaafeth to reward his trainer’s superb decision to withdraw him from the Derby (after it rained) by winning with authority here despite a steep rise in grade.
Saturday’s sprint feature (Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes; (6f; 1620GMT; 10:20 a.m. Jamaica time) can see Sir Michael Stoute’s Dream of Dreams outclassing rivals, especially if it rains.